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Stolzing, Walther von


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(Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg). Ten. A young Franconian knight who is visiting Nuremberg. He has fallen in love with Pogner's daughter Eva. Walther's first appearance is in church, as he attracts Eva's attention and she gives her nurse, Magdalene, the slip and meets Walther after the service. Magdalene returns in time to hear him asking Eva if she is already engaged to be married, and tells him that Eva has been offered by her father as the prize to the winner of the forthcoming song‐contest. Only members of the Mastersingers’ Guild are allowed to enter the competition, as Pogner is determined his daughter must marry a Master. Magdalene's sweetheart, David, instructs Walther in the art of singing required for the competition. Walther is staggered to hear of all the rules which apply, and cannot imagine how he is going to become a Master and win the contest. As Pogner appears, Walther asks him to allow him to take part in the contest. Pogner agrees (after all, a noble knight as son‐in‐law appeals to him) but insists that Walther must abide by the rules and this involves an audition. To the gathered Masters, Pogner proposes Walther as a possible candidate. Walther explains that he learned how to sing from reading the works of Walther von der Vogelweide, a 12th‐cent. Minnesinger. He sings his song and is laughed at by them all, especially Beckmesser, who acts as ‘marker’ and fills his slate with adverse marks. However, Hans Sachs has realized that for all his lack of experience and ignorance of the rules, Walther's singing has an artistic quality which deserves consideration. That night Walther meets Eva and tells her he has no chance of winning the contest and asks if she is prepared to elope with him, to which plan she agrees. But Sachs has overheard their conversation and knows this would lead to disaster. He keeps an eye on them that evening as Beckmesser comes to serenade Eva and the whole town, disturbed by his noise, starts a riot. Hoping to escape under cover of this noise, Eva and Walther are foiled by Sachs, who pushes her into her father's house and drags Walther into his shop. The next morning, Walther tells Sachs he had a dream and Sachs encourages him to use his dream as the basis for the song he will sing in the contest. Sachs also explains to him how the Masters’ rules are there to uphold tradition and are not to be scoffed at. As Walther sings his song, Sachs gives him hints on the way it should be performed, the key relationships, harmonies, number of verses, etc. Sachs now sends Walther to dress appropriately for the competition and when he emerges Eva has arrived, also adorned for the day in white. She has come to ask the cobbler to adjust her shoes, but she and Walther stare at each other in such a way that it is quite obvious to Sachs that they are deeply in love. Walther demonstrates his song to Eva who is totally overwhelmed by it and grateful to Sachs for helping him. At the song contest, Beckmesser sings first—he has stolen Walther's song but he has no idea how to render it and makes a laughing‐stock of himself. Sachs then invites the Masters to hear Walther sing the same song, and as he does so it is clear that he will be the winner. He is taken to the throne where Eva sits and he kneels before her as she places the victor's wreath on his head. Her father steps forward to put the Masters’ chain of office round Walther's neck, but at this point the young knight rebels and announces that he does not wish to belong to this Guild whose members made things so difficult for him at his audition. Sachs points out to him that he is the winner not because he is of noble birth, but because of his artistic ability—he should not repulse membership of the Guild or mock German Art. Contrite, Walther agrees to accept their honour. Eva takes the victor's wreath from him and places it on Sachs's head. Sachs, in his turn, takes the chain from Pogner and puts it round Walther's neck. Arias: Am stillen Herd in Winterzeit (‘At the quiet hearth in wintertime’); ‘Fanget an!’ (‘ “Begin!”’); ‘Morgenlich leuchtend in rosingen Schein’ (‘ “Shining in the morning's rosy light”’); quintet (with Eva, Sachs, David, and Magdalene): Selig, wie die Sonne (‘As blissfully as the sun’).

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Subjects: Opera.


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