Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of their first production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, the State Opera of South Australia presented a “semi-staged” version of Act III of the composer’s later opera The Mastersingers of Nuremberg.
It was a strange choice to celebrate a production of the immense scale of a Ring Cycle with a fraction of another, arguably lesser, of Wagner’s operas. Presumably the simple staging, lighting and costumes were primarily an issue of budgetary constraints rather than a purely artistic decision, but a more visually interesting staging might have made the slow-moving (both musically and narratively) opening scene of Act III more compelling. Starting in the third act also seemed to make it more difficult to become invested in the plight of the characters.
This production featured a strong chorus and cast. Andrew Shore was fantastic in the role of the town clerk Sixtus Beckmesser, as was Kate Ladner as Eva Pogner. Bradley Daley as Walther von Stolzing, Shane Lowrencev as Hans Sachs, and Sam Sakker as David gave solid performances, and the casting of the minor roles was also excellent: it was a shame that the singers in some roles (such as Fiona McArdle as Magdalene, and those playing members of the Mastersingers’ Guild) did not have more material to work with in this act.
Unfortunately, the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra was not up to their usual standard in this performance. They seemed under-rehearsed, with a few intonation issues and some poorly-coordinated entries in chordal passages. There were also balance issues between singers and orchestra, with the orchestra drowning out the vocalists at several point in the performance.
There were some beautiful moments, and the orchestra and chorus produced an impressive, rich sound towards the end of the work.