Richard Wagner’s »Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg« from 1868 is one of the composer’s most popular works. The story takes place in medieval Nuremberg around midsummer, where the widowed cobbler Hans Sachs, the town clerk Sixtus Beckmesser and the young noble adventurer Walther von Stolzing argue about the lovely Eva in song and poetry. Things even get a little physical. Why? Because the goldsmith Pogner, wishing to highlight his veneration of art, has offered his much-coveted daughter as a prize in the annual singing competition. And so »Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg« is a musical masterpiece that forces us to consider the importance of art – here music – in our lives and in society at large. Reason enough for director Jens-Daniel Herzog to relocate this musical-comedic debate about art and life into the present day and, specifically, the world of theatre and opera.
Walther von Stolzing, new in town, is in love with Eva, daughter of goldsmith and master singer Veit Pogner. Her friend Magdalene responds to his question of whether Eva is already engaged by saying that her father has planned for her to marry the winner of the master singing contest to be held the next day. David, apprentice of cobbler and poet Hans Sachs, introduces Stolzing to the complicated rules of master singing. Although Stolzing is not familiar with the contest rules, he wishes to take part for Eva’s sake. The master singers meet. Veit Pogner explains his plan of offering Eva as the prize. His idea is controversially discussed by the masters as is the question of whether they should change their rules. Stolzing is permitted to take part in the trial singing against the will of Beckmesser, the town clerk, who also wants to marry Eva. However, Stolzing is rejected and it is only Hans Sachs who recognises the creative potential of the new arrival and wants to promote this. The meeting ends in chaos.
The apprentices make fun of David because of his relationship with Magdalene and Pogner doubts whether his decision was the right one. Eva searches for Sachs to find out the outcome of the trial singing … Sachs denies his feelings for Eva and his liking of Stolzing’s talent. Eva and Stolzing, long passionately in love with one another, decide to run away together. Sachs knows how to prevent this and so the pair hide. With a nightly serenade, Beckmesser hopes to secure Eva’s approval of his song. However, in disguise for the planned escape, it is Magdalene dressed up as Eva who is standing at the window. Hans Sachs, on the other hand, serenades Eva, who has hidden, to annoy Beckmesser and, with the wild banging, notices the errors in Beckmesser’s song. David, who recognises the serenaded woman at the window as Magdalene, angrily attacks Beckmesser which leads to a mass brawl.
The excess of the previous night has left its mark on everyone. Hans Sachs ponders the world’s madness and sets out to teach Walther von Stolzing the correct way to compose for the contest. Beckmesser finds Stolzing’s composed song, noted down by Sachs, and accuses him of wanting to take part in the contest. Sachs contradicts him and gives him the song as proof of this. Eva visits Sachs. Both are aware that their familiar relationship with the arrival of Stolzing has come to an end. Sachs seeks satisfaction in denial and hands Eva over to Stolzing. The master singers and citizens of the town gather for the contest and Sachs opens the event. Beckmesser fails with his “borrowed” song as the audience scorn and ridicule him. Stolzing, who now confidently masters the rules, triumphs with his poem but rejects the win. Sachs tries in vain to convince him with a hymn of German culture. Eva and Stolzing draw their own conclusions from what they have experienced.