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“Rosedale Weekend” Seminars

OPERA 401
“Die Meistersinger”


Die Meistersinger – Act 1

In the 16th century, a time dominated by ecclesiastical and temporal aristocratic rulers, the free city of Nurnberg was governed by bourgeois members of craft guilds. Their respect for, and love of, the arts was demonstrated by their creation of an inter-Guild assembly of poets and composers – a Guild of Master-singers. The purpose of this group was to cherish, celebrate and preserve the city’s heritage of artistic creativity. How could a brash newcomer become a member of this intriguing fraternity? Are the developmental requirements and promotion processes of any profession inviolable? What are the credentials of a true natural artist? How can one recognise extra-ordinary or un-usual talent? What happens when a proponent of “new music” meets “the establishment”?

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Die Meistersinger – Act 2

One of the Guild’s members is the prolific poet Hans Sachs, (a historical figure) whose day-job is that of a shoe-maker. Unlike most of his conservative and traditionalist colleagues, whose musical tastes prefer the “tried and true” in music, he intuitively sees value in innovative, challenging “new music” and seeks to understand and appreciate it.

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Die Meistersinger – Act 3 (part 1)

Hans Sachs teaches the brilliant outsider/newcomer how to compose a Master Song. Such a new song must not only impress the traditionalist conservatives, but also must be recognised by the general public as a worthy addition to the treasure trove of existing artistic masterpieces. The creative starting point is to tune in to emotionally transporting poetry – and the most arresting imagery of this poetry is to be found in the sub-conscious, in dreams. The musical cadences and melodies an art song are then inspired by this evocative poetic text. All great art, including music, is grounded in an understood underlying structure – and constructive innovation ideally respects, rather than rejects, this heritage.

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Die Meistersinger – Act 3 (part 2)

At a mid-summer outdoor celebratory community gathering, the newcomer/outsider artist astonishes all attendees with his novel art song, demonstrating the way in which he has absorbed Hans Sachs’s teachings of earlier that day. He is recognised as a worthy composer-entrant to the Master-singers Guild, but surprises everyone by declining admission to the Conservatory. He is admonished by Sachs, who warns him that he is being petulantly naive. However brilliant he may be as an innovator, all true artists must respect and build upon the achievements of their predecessors. In any profession, Mastery of the Craft encompasses a willingness to honour the traditions of their Guild, simultaneously with showing constructive leadership towards a brighter future. For a composer, both qualities are necessary for the creation of “great Art” and “new music”.

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