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Relay from the Royal Opera House,
A LIFETIME spent in the study of music, of Wagner, and tho German language, literature, history and people, would be richly worthwhile if the only reward at the end of it were a full enjoyment of The Mastersingers.
Volumes might be written to show how happily the talo is compact of dignity, humour, and tenderness, and how wholly satisfying is the union of text and music to present its splendid drama.
Its central figure is the poet Hans Sachs , the most popular figure in the Guild of Mastersingers. The Prelude to the third Act tells us of his reflections on the morning of the Festival of St. John. When the curtain rises, we see him in his sunny workshop, reading an old book. David, his apprentice comes in, in his holiday garb. They have a merry little scene and then Sachs falls again into meditation, singing his monologue on the Guild, his stately city, and on the two young people, Walther and Eva. Walther, who has been his guest overnight, comes down a little stair from his room, and tells Sachs of a song which came to him in his dreams. Sachs notes down the words, making little critical comments as he does so. They go out together, and Beckmesser, the ' marker' of the Mastersingers, steals into the room. Like Walther, he is an aspirant for the hand of Eva, whom he hopes to win at the song contest that very day. Seeing the song in Sachs' writing on the table, ho jumps to the conclusion .that Sachs is another rival, and carries off the copy. Sachs, returning, notices its absence, and is mischievously willing to let Beckmesscr keep it, knowing that he will certainly make a sorry job of wedding it to music.
There follows a charming duologue between
Sachs and Eva, who comes in on the pretext that one of her shoes for the festival needs his care. The music of this scene contains allusions to Wagner's own Tristan, and Sachs explains that by telling Eva that he is too wise to risk King Mark's ill-fortune. Walther joins the two and then David andMagdalena enter. Sachs, with the traditional box on the ear, promotes his apprentice to journeyman, and the five voices join in a quintet which is among the most beautiful things in the opera, or indeed in the whole realm of music.
The scene changes to the meadow where the Song Contest is to bo held. The merrymaking of young people blends with the arrival of the different Guilds and their banners, and tho music is full of delightful allusions to the different crafts. When the Masters arrive, the merry music makes way for their dignity, and the people join in acclaiming Sachs with a hymn to the words of his own chorale ' Awake, the day draws near.'
Beckmesser, as first competitor, makes a sorry hash of the song he purloined. The parody is a brilliant one, the words being turned to com. plete nonsense, though sounding not unlike the original, while his tune—a good tune of itself, is ludicrously unfitted to the song. It is met with derision, and Beckmesser in wrath tells the people that the song is not by him, but by their beloved Sachs. The real author, Walther, is then led to the competitors' mound, and by his singing of it, Walther wins his admission to the Guild and the hand of Eva.
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