Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg Synopsis

Wagner's 3 Act Comedic Opera

Composer: Richard Wagner

Premiered: June 21, 1868 - Semper Oper, Dresden

Other Popular Opera Synopses:
Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, Mozart's The Magic Flute, Verdi's Rigoletto, & Puccini's Madama Butterfly

Setting of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg:
Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg takes place in mid-16th century Nürnberg.

The Story of Die Meistersinger von Nürnbergn

Die Meistersinger von Nürnbergn, ACT 1

Inside of St. Katherine's Church, the choir has just finished singing a lovely prelude. After Mass ends, the young knight, Walther von Stolzing, engages a beautiful young woman named Eva Pogner. The two shared glances earlier that day and it was love at first sight for both. Walther asks her if she is married. Eva tells him that her father, a goldsmith and meistersinger, has arranged to give her hand in marriage to the winner of a song contest organized by the Meistersingers scheduled to take place the following day. Having heard their conversation, Eva's maid, Magdalena, asks her boyfriend David, who is an apprentice to the cobbler and meistersinger Hans Sachs, to teach Walther the ropes of master singing, hoping that Walther may enter the singing contest and win the hand of his beloved. David beings to instruct Walther, informing him that it takes years of practice to achieve master singing.
Despite all of the complicated rules and techniques, Walther remains confident.

As the meistersingers begin arriving to set up for their meeting, Eva's father, Veit, and the town clerk, Beckmesser, notice Eva and her new friend, Walther. Beckmesser, who believes to have the competition in the bag, is threatened by Walther, especially when Walther enters the contest.

As the meeting commences, Veit reiterates that the winner of the competition will get to marry his daughter. Hans Sachs, mindful of Eva's heart, petitions that Eva should have a say in the matter. Veit agrees and changes the rules - Eva can reject or accept the winner's proposal, but if she rejects, she must marry a meistersinger nonetheless. The new rule is accepted and Walther introduces himself as a natural, self-taught talent. When he begins to sing a striking melody, it is clear he is breaking many rules of composition. Beckmesser is frantically documenting all of Walther's mistakes, while littering Walther's performance with sounds of screeching chalk. Beckmesser stops Walther's song mid-way through and convinces the other meistersingers that it is pointless for Walther to finish - he is clearly not up to par. Hans Sachs tries to advocate for Walther, but Beckmesser snidely tells Sachs to finish making his shoes rather than bending meistersinger policy to admit Walther. Walther storms out of the church, dejected.

Die Meistersinger von Nürnbergn, ACT 2

Later that evening, David tells Magdalena that Walther failed miserably. Worried, she rushes out to tell Eva. Eva and her father arrive outside of Hans Sachs' shoe shop. Sachs is in his doorway preparing the shoes that Beckmesser ridiculed him for not having finished yet. As he works on the shoes, he hums the song that Walther sang earlier that day and calls David into the shop. Eva, concerned with Walther's outcome, seeks Sachs' wisdom on the situation. She tells him that she'd much rather marry him than Beckmesser, since she knows he's the only one who can win the competition. In order to test her true feelings, he tells her that there is no way for him to defeat Beckmesser, and besides, he would be too old for her anyway. Then, when he starts describing Walther's failure, Eva runs out of his shop angry, confirming his suspicions. On her way out, she bumps into Magdalena who has come to tell her that Beckmesser is on his way to serenade her. Eva instructs Magdalena to pose as Eva in the window so that she can go look for Walther. Just as she departs, Walther arrives and tells her the news of his master singers rejection. They make plans to elope instead, and Hans Sachs overhears. He lights his lantern to illuminate the street, knowing that the young lovers will hide in the shadows. Moments later, Beckmesser arrives to serenade Eva. Magdalena takes her place impersonating Eva in front of the window. Beckmesser, none the wiser, begins to sing his song, but Hans Sachs sings his cobblers song even louder. Beckmesser becomes increasingly irritated, but Sachs claims he must finish the shoes Beckmesser has purchased. Finally, they agree that Sachs only drives nails into the shoes when Beckmesser makes a mistake singing. Beckmesser makes so many mistakes that Sachs finishes his shoes. Meanwhile, all the racket has catches Davids attention. David makes his way to the window and sees Beckmesser singing to Magdalena. He rushes out of the shop and attacks Beckmesser, which catches the attention of the other meistersingers who then join in the fight. When Walther and Eva try to escape, Sachs pulls them apart and puts Eva back inside her home and brings Walther into his shop. The crowd quickly departs when the night watchmen makes his rounds through the neighborhood to announce the time.

Die Meistersinger von Nürnbergn, ACT 3

The following morning, the day of the contest, David arrives in the shoe shop after having delivered Beckmesser's shoes. After apologizing for his behavior, he exits into the back room to recite verses from St. John. Sachs contemplates the previous night's madness and is interrupted by Walther who comes in telling him the dream he had the night before. Sachs is convinced he can turn the story into a song and the two begin writing down the verses. After Walther leaves to get ready for the contest, Beckmesser enters and snoops around. Finding the verses penned by Sachs, the greatest meistersinger the town has ever knew, Beckmesser slips it into his pocket. Sachs sees him swipe the lyrics, but lets him take them anyway. He offers it to Beckmesser as a gift, and tells him that he'll take no claim to it. Self-assured of a guaranteed victory, Beckmesser leaves. Eva soon arrives under the guise of getting a shoe repaired. As she speaks to Sachs, Walther returns dressed in his contest attire. He sings the last verse of his song and Eva couldn't be happier. She apologizes to Sachs for manipulating his feelings, but he forgives her by telling her it would be better for her to marry a young man instead of his old, foolish self. When Magdalena arrives and David greets her, Sachs promotes David and they all join in a song of merriment.

Sachs is greatly applauded when he appears at the contest. He responds by giving a moving thank you speech. The contest begins quickly thereafter, with Beckmesser up first. At the start of the song, Beckmesser is quite confident, but it becomes clear several bars in, that he has no idea what he is doing. He can hardly remember the words, and the ones that he can, he cannot get them to fit into his own melody.

Before he can finish, he is laughed off the stage. In a fit of rage, he blurts out that the song wasn't even his own - it belonged to Sachs. The crowd is taken aback. Sachs explains that though he did write the lyrics on paper, they actually belonged to Walther. He convinces them that it is a very good song, but it must be sung by Walther. The crowd, wanting to hear the song, agrees to allow Walther to sing it, despite his lack of experience. When Walther sings the song as it should be, the crowd is overjoyed, and he is awarded the prize of the meistersinger. He starts to decline, but is persuaded by Sachs to accept it. The crowd cheers for the song and their favorite meistersinger, Hans Sachs.