THE overture is a majestic and superb composition. Heavy chords introduce the motiv of The Meistersinger on the full orchestra, and after it is worked up at some length, there follows the expressive and tender theme of Waking Love, on the flute and clarinet. The oboe takes it up, then the flute and clarinet again, and, after fourteen bars, occurs a motiv associated with The Meistersinger, The Banner, a pompous theme on the oboe, clarinets, horns, trumpets, trombones and harps, accompanied by an emphatic run of the strings. The violins then amuse themselves with trills. There are beautiful developments of The Banner and The Meistersinger until the first violins announce a graceful melody, Love Confessed, which will be heard throughout the work, reaching its highest development in Walter’s song in Act III. Wagner calls it “a secretly whispered declaration of love.” A few bars further, they sing Impatient Ardour, also associated with Walter, of which great use will be made towards the end of Act IL All of these motive are wonderfully combined in a superb fugue, full of variety, humour, playfulness, and grace, while beneath all lies the heavy solemnity of the burgher poets.
After several modulations, Impatient Ardour is interrupted by the Meistersinger motiv in a gay mood, upon the wood-wind and horns. The strings enter with a Bach-like figure, full of fire and energy, which some critics have named the Derision motiv and which will be heard in Act III to the words, ” Scheint mir nicht der Rechte.”
The original Meistersinger returns upon the trombones, viola, and ‘cello; and the violins excitedly elaborate it until they sing, with the ‘cello, clarinet, and horn, Love Confessed, while the other instruments insist upon The Meistersinger.
The woven melodies grow broader and louder until the whole orchestra culminates in a magnificent outburst of the Meistersinger, on the last bars of which the curtain rises.
ACT I. The interior of St. Katharine’s Church, Nuremberg, showing the last pews in the nave. The people are singing to the organ, a hymn, ” Da zu dir der Heiland kam,” the Chorale of Baptism, a grave and measured melody, in the style of Bach.
Walter von Stolzing, a young knight (tenor), stands be-hind a pillar, looking in rapture upon Eva Pogner (soprano), seated in the last pew with her nurse Magdalene (mezzo-soprano). He shows his feelings by an expressive gesture, while Waking Love is played by the violoncello. In the next pause of the hymn, Eva replies with a timid glance, to her Waking Love on the clarinet. The oboe proclaims Impatient Ardour, in the next pause, and in the last, Love Confessed.
The hymn being finished, the congregation disperses. Eva, accompanied by Magdalene, advances, but is stopped by Walter. Eva sends Magdalene to look for her kerchief. This enables her to have a conversation with Walter, during which Waking Love, Impatient Ardour, and Love Confessed are heard. He asks if she will accept his hand. Hospitably received in Nuremberg by Pogner, he fell in love with Eva at first sight ; is she free ?
Magdalene returns. Eva sends her to look for a brooch. Magdalene returns, and fortunately she has left her own book in the pew.
Magdalene asks Walter why he has not been to see Pogner lately, and when Walter explains that his love for Eva has kept him away, Magdalene protests against this public avowal. She tries to take away Eva, who begs her to help her to reply to Walter’s question.
For a moment Magdalene is distracted by the entrance of David (tenor), her own sweetheart, who enters from the sacristy to prepare a meeting of the Meistersinger (suggested in the orchestra).
Eva is promised to the successful Meistersinger of to-morrow’s contest, but vows she will have only Walter. Magdalene is shocked. Walter walks about in agitation, and Eva begs Magdalene to help her gain him. She thinks him like David. ” Like David ! ” Magdalene exclaims ; but Eva refers neither to Magdalene’s lover nor to King David, patron of the Meistersinger, who appears on their banner with his harp, but to Dürer’s David.
Magdalene’s David returns with a rule in his belt and a piece of chalk on a string. Hearing his name, he thinks they talk of him. David is now heard on the oboe and clarinet. Magdalene exchanges a few tender words with him, and learns that there is to be a trial meeting of the Meistersinger in a few moments. Magdalene has an idea. The knight might become a candidate ! David can instruct him ! Magdalene promises David a reward from her larder, and refuses Walter’s offer of escort. Walter promises to see Eva this evening, and as she leaves, the love motive assume importance ; all through this scene they have been heard in connection with The Meistersinger and The Banner.
Walter throws himself into the chair, fetched by two Apprentices, and now others, to merry, tripping music, bring in benches and arrange a platform for the ” Marker,” and tease David. As David asks Walter to begin, the “Guild” trills on the strings. He soon finds that his pupil knows nothing, and, amazed, invokes Magdalene. David is a pupil of Hans Sachs in shoemaking and poetry ; and in his musical phrases he shows off his knowledge. The music to his ” hab’ich das Leder glatt geschlagen,” will be used whenever there is a reference to his punishment by Sachs. He enumerates the requirements for the grade of singer, and describes the modes, including the Short, Long, Red, Blue, Green, Fennel, Rosemary, Rainbow, and Nightingale; and laughingly says he is familiar with the Strap mode administered by his master, and the Bread and Water mode, unless Lena takes pity on him. In order to be a Meistersinger, you must be both singer and poet. ” What is a poet ? ” Walter asks.
A poet is able to write words to these rules. When one can compose both poem and music, and invent a new mode, he is pronounced a Meistersinger ! David turns. What are the Apprentices doing ? Everything is wrong. He makes them construct a new curtained platform, upon which they place a chair, desk, a slate, and chalk. They tell David that he knows the ” Whack ” tune and the ” Hunger” mode, and that his master frequently plays the ” Kick ” tune for him.
Walter learns that the “Marker ” sits in this enclosed box and scores the mistakes. Only seven are allowed. Good luck to his singing ! May he win the crown of silken flowers ! Here David sings The Crown. The Apprentices dance in a circle, taking up The Crown, which they hope may fall to the knight. The strings play a fragment of the The Meistersinger, which leads into The Assembly, announced by the violoncello, a pretentious melody, ridiculously descriptive of this Guild. Veit Pogner, goldsmith (bass), and Sixtus Beckmesser, town-clerk (baritone), enter. The Apprentices stand respectfully. Pogner tells Beckmesser that this trial is undertaken especially for him. Beckmesser begs him to plead his cause with Eva ; Pogner will try; and Beckmesser wonders how he could bear disappointment. Walter and Pogner greet ; Walter would like to become a Meistersinger !
Meanwhile others have entered to the pompous Assembly. Pogner speaks to Kunz Vogelgesang, furrier (tenor), and Konrad Nachtigall, buckle-maker (bass), presenting Walter. Beckmesser, aside, informs us of his intention to serenade Eva; then he notices the stranger. Pogner, glad to see Walter, will befriend him ; Beckmesser’s enmity is aroused. The Meistersinger have assembled, Fritz Kothner, baker (bass), Balthazar Zorn, pewterer (tenor), Ulric Eisslinger, grocer (tenor), Augustus Moser, tailor (tenor), Hermann Ortel, soap-boiler (bass), Hans Schwarz, stocking-weaver (bass), and Hans Foltz, copper-smith (bass) ; lastly the famous shoemaker and poet, Hans Sachs (bass), arrives. When Kothner calls the roll, each rises, answering with a joke on his own name. An apprentice replies for Nicholas Vogel, who is ill. Kothner wishes him speedy recovery, which the Meistersinger second. At Sachs’s name, David calls : ” There he is ! ” Sachs reproves him and answers for himself. Beckmesser always sits near Sachs, so that he can ” have a rhyme to flower and wax ! ”
Now the ” Marker ” must be selected ; but first Pogner has something to say (Das Schone Fest, Johannis-Tag). The first violin plays the beautiful Saint John, which the wood-wind takes up, and the other instruments develop into a fugue. Pogner says to-morrow will be Saint John’s Day ; a festival will be held on the meadows, and there will be prizes for songs. For the honour of Art and Germany he offers Eva, his only child, with a dowry. The Meistersinger are delighted. Pogner adds that she may reject any unwelcome suitor, but she must have a Meister-singer. Sachs would like the people to have a voice, but Pogner and others are unwilling. Beckmesser accuses Sachs of always trying to please the common people ; and, aside, says he never could bear the cobbler ! Sachs tells Beckmesser they are both too old to woo Eva, giving fresh offence. The orchestra has been chiefly occupied with The Meistersinger, The Crown, and Saint John ; now, as Pogner presents him, Walter appears on the wood-wind.
Beckmesser, fearing this rival, wishes to adjourn, but the Meistersinger will try him. Pogner offers to be guarantee for Sir Walter von Stolzing, a Franconian knight who has come to settle in Nuremberg. Long ago it was decided, says Sachs, that lord and peasant should be equally welcomed into this brotherhood. Art is liberal ! As Kothner wishes to know Walter’s master, Walter sings to a lovely accompaniment, in which the harp joins, an independent song, composed of two strophes and an envoi, Walter’s Masters (Am stillen Herd in Winterzeit). In winter, shut in the house, he studied poetry in an old book by Walter von der Vogelweide ! ” A good master! ” Sachs interjects ; but Beckmesser thinks he has been too long dead ; he was unable to profit by the rules of the Meistersinger ! Kothner asks if Walter studied in any school. In the next verse Walter tells them that the forest was his music-school. Beckmesser thinks the finch and linnet extraordinary teachers. Vogelgesang remarks that he has really sung two perfectly correct stanzas ! Beckmesser is surprised that Vogelgesang will praise anyone who has learned music from the birds. After discussion, it is decided that Walter shall sing a trial-song. Beckmesser is appointed “Marker.” He reminds the knight that only seven mistakes are permitted, and with a malevolent wish and scornful nod, he disappears behind the curtains. Kothner reads the laws from the ” Leges Tabulature,” Ein jedes Meistersingers Bar, ending each line with a florid passage, which the violins take up and finish with an emphatic trill.
Now Walter must sit in the chair and improvise his song. Aside, he says he will do this for the sake of his loved one. Beckmesser calls out, ” Begin ! ” Then Walter sings his Hymn to Spring, into which are mingled fragments of Impatient Ardour. The harp is conspicuous.
The words describe the wakening of spring and of the heart to love, So rief der Lenz in dem Wald. Meanwhile, Beckmesser has been scratching on his slate; he opens the curtains. Is that song finished ? His slate is used up.
Walter has yet another verse, in praise of his lady.
Beckmesser rushes out to the jerky, Quarrelsome Beckmesser, contesting with Walter, in the orchestra, and accompanied with Impatient Ardour. The song receives adverse criticism.
To Sachs’s Good Nature, on the violins, Sachs claims the privilege for Walter to be heard to the end. Besides, is it quite fair for a rival to judge him ? Beckmesser is furious.
He turns on Sachs. Sachs is even a bad shoemaker !
Pogner tries to restore peace. Walter attempts his second verse; but Beckmesser excitedly exhibits the slate, and the Meistersinger refuse Walter admittance. Walter, rising, criticises them. He will leave these croaking ravens, and goes out in disgust.
Sachs comments on the beauty of the new song and the nature of the man who could make it. The Apprentices dance about the ” Marker’s Box,” singing of the Crown with sarcastic reference to the knight. Beckmesser makes the Meistersinger pronounce the sentence ” rejected and outsung,” and all leave in confusion. Sachs gazes at the empty chair until the Apprentices remove it, then he makes a gesture of disappointment and leaves as the curtain falls.
The orchestra has been weaving the familiar motive, and fourteen bars before the curtain falls, the bassoon ridicules the Meistersinger.
ACT II. A chord on the strings and a trill on the oboe begin the prelude, after which joyful reminiscences of Saint John run through the entire orchestra.
The curtain rises upon a street in Nuremberg, intersected by a narrow winding alley. Opposite to Pogner’s dwelling, with its flight of steps, lime-tree, shrubs, and stone-seat, is Sachs’s shop, shaded by an elder-tree.
David is putting up the shutters ; other Apprentices do likewise at the other houses, singing about Midsummer Day (Johannis Tag ! Johannis Tag!). David, to The Crown, wishes that wreath might be his. Magdalene, entering from Pogner’s with a basket, calls David. David, thinking the Apprentices are calling, is sulky. His companions laugh : it is Johannis Tag and he does n’t see Lena!
When he tells her that the candidate was rejected, she snatches the basket and runs into the house in distress. The Apprentices dance around David and taunt him about his old maid sweetheart. As David retaliates, Sachs comes down the alley. The Apprentices disperse and the second violin, viola, and ‘cello sing Saint Crispin. David begins to explain, but Sachs bids him go into the house. As David asks if he is to have a singing-lesson, the strings recall the Guild. No; as punishment for his behaviour he must put some shoes on the lasts ! The oboe and clarinet revel in his punishment by playing the music of Act I, when David spoke of his acquaintance with Sachs’s strap.
As they enter, Pogner and Eva come down the alley, returning from a stroll. David brings a light to the window and begins to work. Pogner wonders if Sachs is at home; Eva thinks so, for she sees a light. Pogner peeps through the shutters. On second thoughts, he prefers to talk quietly with his daughter; and they go to the stone-seat under the linden-tree. The clarinet plays a little solo. Eva evades her father’s question as to how she feels about to-morrow’s contest. She does not want to remain here, for she is expecting Walter. As Pogner speaks of the people of Nuremberg, before whom Eva will appear, the Patronal motiv of Nuremberg is announced on the violoncello, followed by the viola, then the wood-wind, and, lastly, all the strings.
Eva asks if only a Meistersinger is eligible. Pogner replies that a Meistersinger must be her fate.
Magdalene appears at the door and beckons to Eva. Eva says they must go in to supper. Pogner enters first, and Magdalene tells Eva that David brought bad news of Sir Walter. Perhaps Hans Sachs can tell the details ! Eva resolves to ask him. Magdalene suggests waiting until after supper. There is other news! “From the knight ? ” “No, Beckmesser ! ” Here a reminiscence of the Meistersinger trial the Guildappears. Eva pays no attention, and they enter.
Sachs comes out and tells David to place the work-bench outside and go to bed. Saint Crispin appears on the second violin and viola. David says, aside, that he would like to know what ails Magdalene and why Sachs intends to work at night ! Then he bids his master “good-night.” The viola continues Saint Crispin, the clarinet softly murmurs Impatient ardour, which gradually assumes importance as Sachs talks. He speaks of the fragrance of the elder-tree and tries to work. Again Saint Crispin sounds, but that lovely spring song haunts him ; it was like the birds in May ! Reminiscences of the trial-song occur in the orchestra until it is so vivid in Sachs’s memory that at his words ” Lenzes Gebot,” the sweeping harp introduces Walter’s Masters. Sachs concludes his monologue with Dem Vogel der heut’ sang, a song of but nine bars, introduced by triplets on the horns and ending in a full close, the bird that sang to-day has the right throat; the Masters did not like it, but it pleased Hans Sachs !
Eva now enters. Her motiv, Eva, on the clarinet, will be the principal theme during the following dialogue in which are mingled Saint Crispin, Walter, and Quarrelsome Beckmesser. No, Eva has not come to talk about the shoes Sachs has made for her to wear as a bride to-morrow ; and, resting on the seat under Sachs’s window, she coquettishly speaks of to-morrow’s contest. She learns that Sachs is making shoes for Beckmesser. Eva would prefer a widower to a bachelor ! Sachs tells her he is too old. But Eva reminds him that age has nothing to do with tomorrow’s success. She learns that Sachs loves her, and hears of the afternoon’s contest. Sachs, seeing into Eva’s heart, is somewhat jealous, and takes pleasure in criticising Walter’s song. Eva leaves with hasty words about the stupid Meistersingers, and joins Magdalene, who has been calling her. Sachs closes his door and watches the succeeding events. Eva suggests that Magdalene receives Beckmesser’s serenade in her place. (Here Quarrelsome Beckmesser appears, somewhat changed.) Magdalene, thinking to arouse David’s jealousy, agrees. Pogner calls them, but Walter is now coming, so Eva runs to meet him. As he tells her he has failed, the Meistersinger is heard, and the harp introduces the Hymn to Spring in the orchestra. Eva assures him of her love ; an ox-horn sounds ; Walter quickly seizes his sword ; but Eva, telling him it is only the Night-Watchman, leads him under the linden-tree to hide. Here the violins sing The Peace of the Summer Night.
Magdalene, from the door, calls Eva, who goes in. The Watchman enters. His curfew song is an imitation of a mediæval watchman’s song. Again he sounds his horn and retreats. Immediately Saint Crispin follows on the viola, and Sachs, opening his window, fearing an elope-ment, will prevent it ! Eva comes out in Magdalene’s clothes and suggests to Walter that they elope. The Watchman’s distant horn is heard and Sanit Crispin is continued by the ‘cello. The lovers fly, but Sachs throws a light upon them and they decide to run the other way. But this leads past Sachs. Beckmesser arrives and is tuning his lute.’ Eva and Walter hide under the linden ; Beckmesser begins to play and sing; and Sachs brings his work out of doors and hammers upon his last, while singing his Biblical Song about his Eva’s shoes made by her angel shoemaker (Als Eva aus dem Paradies). Beckmesser wonders why Sachs is at work. Sachs is making those shoes that Beckmesser wants so much ! Walter draws his sword, furious that Beckmesser dares sing to Eva, but as Magdalene appears at the window in Eva’s clothes, he is highly amused.
Sachs interrupts Beckmesser, who finally proposes that Sachs shall be “Marker” and only strike to score a fault. Will he hear the song for to-morrow ? Sachs makes two blows ; Beckmesser testily asks if he is wrong ? Then he begins again. The ritournelle and Serenade “Den Tag sehich erscheinen,” are highly ornamented. Sachs soon asks if he hasn’t finished, because the shoes are done, a happy parody of Beckmesser’s behaviour as ” Marker.” Beckmesser is, furious, and now the lady shows displeasure. The noise has aroused the neighbours. Can’t that braying donkey go into some other street ? David, opening his shutter, sees Magdalene, and, rushing out with a cudgel, beats Beckmesser. This alarms Magdalene, and the neighbours run out, half-dressed, to stop the fight. The Apprentices enter, in-creasing the row and the stage is soon filled with citizens, Meistersinger, and women. It becomes a regular street-brawl. Meanwhile, the orchestra has derived a new motiv, The Beating, from Beckmesser’s Serenade, just as the riot itself grew out of his disturbing presence ; and a fine vocal and instrumental fugue is worked up. Walter, sword in hand, tries to make his way with Eva through the crowd, but Sachs, running out, holds him. Pogner, having already pulled in Magdalene, supposing her to be Eva, sees Eva, and thinking she is Lena, calls her in ; Sachs pushes Eva into Pogner’s house, and, brandishing a strap, kicks David into his shop, and then drags in Walter. Beckmesser, freed, runs down the street.
At the sound of the Watchman’s horn, everybody scatters, leaving the stage empty. The Beating gradually dies away and the Watchman enters, rubbing his eyes. He repeats his song to different words, now accompanied by the flutes which play The Beating. Then he slowly walks away, sounding his horn, and disappears around the corner. The full moon shines serenely upon the quiet village. The flute, pianissimo and staccatissimo, plays The Beating, while the violins sing The Peace of the Summer Night; then the clarinet softly remembers the Serenade, which the bas-soon takes up as if chuckling to itself. On its last note, the orchestra plays a loud chord and the curtain falls rapidly.
ACT III. The prelude opens with the new Sachs’s Profound Emotion, on the violoncello, followed by Sachs’s Chorale, which the people will sing at the festival. Here it is uttered by the four horns and two bassoons, strengthened by the heavy brasses. Next follows Sachs’s Biblical Song. The curtain rises during the last bars, revealing Sachs in his workshop reading a large folio. The sun streams in the back window, on the sill of which stand flowers. David is heard and David runs in from the street. Sachs is too absorbed to notice him. From a basket he lifts out flowers and ribbons, a sausage and a cake. He is about to enjoy these when Sachs noisily turns a leaf. David greets his master. The violoncello continues Sachs’s Profound Emotion ; David says he delivered the shoes to Beckmesser ; but Sachs pays no heed. David fears Sachs is angry and begs forgiveness. If he only knew Lena as David does, he would understand his anger last night ! When the knight was rejected, she took back the basket ; but when he explained why he beat Beckmesser, she sent him all these flowers and ribbons ! The orchestra suggests The Serenade and The Beating.
Sachs shuts his book and wonders how these flowers and ribbons came here. David, astonished at his master’s good-humour, reminds him of the festival. “Is it a marriage ? Perhaps last night was David’s Polterabend I” David replies it is Saint-John’s Day, whereupon Sachs requires him to sing his verses. He begins An Jordan Sankt Johannis stand, but to the tune of Beckmesser’s Serenade. Sachs is amazed. The orchestra quickly follows with The Beating. David begins afresh with his own melody in the style of a folk-song, The Chorale of the Jordan. When Saint John christened all the world on Jordan’s banks, it was discovered that in Nuremberg Johannes is Hans. ” Why, Master ! it is your name-day ! ” David exclaims at its close, and then offers all the contents of his basket to Sachs, who declines them, and bids him go and dress, for he is to be his herald. Here the Meistersinger is heard from the horns. David would rather be his groomsman, certainly Sachs will defeat Beckmesser, and bring home the bride! David kisses Sachs’s hand. His motiv disappears with him.
The ‘cello and the double bass play Sachs’s Profound Emotion, and then it is delivered by the bass trombone in its softest tones. Sachs begins his monologue, Wahn ! Wahn ! Uberall ! Wahn! Reviewing the events of last night, he believes all the world mad. When he mentions Nuremberg, the Patronal motiv of Nuremberg becomes Nuremberg en Fête ; at his words, ” God knows how it all happened ! ” there is a pause, and, to the accompaniment of the harp, the violins sing The Peace of the Summer Night. A Kobold must have been about ! Here clarinets suggest The Serenade, and oboes, pianissimo, The Beating. Perhaps it was the elder-tree’s charm on Midsummer Eve ! Now Johannis-Tag ! and Saint John, richly scored, appears. Waking Love and Nuremberg en Fête are also present. The harp then plays broad arpeggios and Walter enters. Sachs’s Good Nature is heard from the ‘cello ; the book falls, and Sachs greets his guest. Walter has slept well ; he had a wonderful dream ! Sachs would like to hear it. Walter is afraid it will melt away if he tries to describe it ! It is the poet’s art to fix dreams, Sachs replies ; if he turns it into a Meister-song, it may win the prize. No, Walter can gain no inspiration from that Guild ! Sachs begs him to think more kindly of the Meistersinger. Then he instructs W alter in the rules. Sachs explains in Memories of Youth that in the Spring of life song is natural, but when the other seasons come with cares and sorrows, he who sings must be a – Master of the art. Suppose Walter sings his dream according to rule; Sachs will help and write it down. After a pause, the harp introduces Walter’s song, Story of the Dream (Prize-Song), and is conspicuous throughout its accompaniment. In a lovely garden rosy with dawn a maiden led him to the Tree of Life, Morgenlich leuchtend in rosigem Schein. Sachs is delighted and requests a second stanza, which relates that in the evening the Tree of Fame blossomed with golden stars. Sachs requests an after-song.
Walter will sing this another time ! The motive have been Sachs’s Profound Emotion, Nuremberg en Fête, The Patronal Motiv of Nuremberg, and Love Confessed which begins the third strophe of Walter’s Dream. Now they must go and dress ! Nuremberg en Fête appears fortissimo and brilliantly scored. Sachs opens the door for his guest.
Fragments of The Beating, Quarrelsome Beckmesser, and reminiscences of the lute and Saint Crispin lead us to expect the town-clerk. He peeps into the shop, and, seeing no one, enters. He limps. He sits down, but jumps up quickly and rubs his aching limbs. The orchestra is very sympathetic; it cries out for him. He gesticulates with wrath at the house opposite. The wind instruments remember The Beating and The Serenade. Suddenly the horns deliver Sachs’s Profound Emotion and the second violins, muted, a phrase from The Dream. Beckmesser sees Sachs’s manuscript, exclaims it is his trial-song, and pockets it. Sachs, in holiday attire, enters. He greets Beckmesser. Has he come to complain of the shoes ? No, although the soles are thin ! That could n’t be helped, Sachs answers, they were beaten thin in marking Beckmesser’s mistakes ! Beckmesser abuses Sachs for the events of last night and his bruises. He will not believe that Sachs has no intention of competing to-day; he has a proof. Sachs asks if he has taken the song he left here. Bechmesser admits it ; is n’t this Sachs’s writing ? It is, and he may have and use it ! Beckmesser becomes affectionate, then suspicious ; but when Sachs promises that he will not claim it, he thanks him profusely, and joyfully limps away to learn it. The Beating accompanies his exit. Saint Crispin appears as Sachs comments on Beckmesser’s evil nature ; then the Patronal motiv of Nuremberg and Saint John.
Eva enters in her bridal gown to the Eva motiv, and Eva’s Anxiety appears upon the oboe. Her excuse to see ‘Walter is that one shoe is uncomfortable. As she places her foot upon the stool, Saint Crispin joins Eva. Sachs can find nothing wrong with the shoe, but he takes it off, and as Eva stands in this position, with Sachs kneeling before her, Walter enters, handsomely dressed. Eva is delighted, and Sachs occupies himself with the shoe, remarking that ” the cobbler must stick to his last.” Then he asks for a song ; Walter begins the third . stanza of the Prize-Song. Sachs tells Eva as he puts the shoe on her foot that this is a Meistersong. Eva, now understanding the sacrifice that Sachs has made, weeps, and embraces him. Walter grasps his hand; but Sachs, composing himself, moves away, leaving Eva on Walter’s shoulder. Here the Guild appears, and Eva’s Anxiety is also conspicuous. Sachs remarks he has much to do besides shoe-making and verse-making, for instance, helping maidens to become brides ! Now he is troubled about David. Lena has turned him into an ass and a glutton. He must go for David. Eva stops him with her ” Sachs, mein Freund, du theurer Mann !” She expresses her gratitude. If she were free, he should win the prize to-day. In reply, Sachs remembers the story of Tristan and Isolde ; Hans Sachs is clever and would not like to imitate King Mark. At this point are quoted two motive from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde : Desire, on the oboe, and Consternation, on the first violin and also sung by Sachs.
Magdalene enters from the street, and David, from within. Sachs called them both in to a christening. A Meister-lied has been created by Sir Walter. Eva and he are to be sponsors for the new mode. David and Lena must be witnesses. Of course no Apprentice can be a witness, so David must kneel, and he receives the accolade with a box on the ear. Sachs names the new mode ” Die seelige Morgentraumdeut-Weise” (The happy Morning-dream mode). Eva must speak first. She begins the theme of the Quintette of Baptism (The Prophetic Dream), an elaborate ensemble. Sachs, Eva, and Walter hope this song will win the prize, and David and Magdalene, happy at David’s new prospects as Companion, sing of their coming wedded happiness. At its close, Sachs says they must go to the fields. Eva and Magdalene depart, and Sachs bids David close the shop and leaves with Walter. David closes the shutters. The orchestra develops Nuremberg en Fête into a march and the curtain rapidly falls. The orchestra continues Nuremberg en Fête, Saint John and The Guild motive and a joyous fanfare on the horns and trumpets, accompanied by drum-beats. The march grows broader and more brilliant until the curtain rises, revealing an open meadow, with Nuremberg in the distance. Through it winds the Pegnitz.
Gaily-decorated boats arrive and land citizens with their wives and families. People crowd around the tents; merry-making. The Apprentices, gay with ribbons and flowers, receive the new arrivals and conduct them to their places. First come the Shoemakers, the orchestra playing Saint Crispin, and they sing in honour of their patron saint, Sankt Krispin lobet ihn !
Town-pipers with lute and Toy-instrument makers usher in the Tailors, playing the fanfare heard in the orchestra. The comic effect of the toy instruments is obtained by a piccolo, trumpets, muffled and blown loudly, a triangle, cymbals, a Glockenspiel, and the strings played with the stick of the bow. The rest of the orchestra plays chords in syncopation. The Tailors sing a song of a tailor who, when Nuremberg was besieged, dressed in a goat-skin and skipped about on the wall; the enemy, thinking he was the devil, fled. cc Als Nuremberg belagert war ! ” In their refrain, they imitate the bleating of a goat, ” Me-e-e e-e-e-eck ! ” The Bakers quickly follow, joining their song to the Tailors’ ” Hungers-noth ! ” As all three guilds are singing their refrains, the Apprentices call the pipers to play, for a boat is now coming with maidens from Fürth.
The Apprentices help the girls ashore and waltz with them, while the Companions try to capture the girls from the Apprentices. The Glockenspiel lends its silvery chime to this waltz of peculiar rhythmic effect. Although in regular 3/4 time, the waltz consists of a period of seven, instead of the ordinary eight bars. David joins the dance, but stops when the boys say Lena is coming. Learning this is false news, he resumes the dance. The Companions announce the Meistersinger. David leaves his partner with a kiss ; the dancing ceases suddenly. To the Meistersinger, strengthened by trumpets on the stage, the Meistersinger enter, followed by The Banner. Kothner carries it, and Pogner leads Eva, followed by Magdalene and maidens. The Meistersinger take their places on the raised platform to the right, where Kothner plants the banner. The people receive them with cheers and wave their hats. The Apprentices cry ” Silentium ! ” As Sachs rises, all salute him and sing the Chorale of Sachs,” Wach’ auf, es nahet gen den Tag,2 the theme of which was announced in the prelude to this Act. Then they sing, ” Hail to Sachs.”
The ‘cello describes Sachs Profound Emotion in the long silence that follows, when Sachs stands motionless. Then he bows to the people and thanks them for their esteem. He also formally presents Eva as the prize of the contest. Afterwards he shakes Pogner’s hand. Pogner is deeply moved. (Sachs Profound Emotion, Saint John, Nuremberg en Féte, and Meistersinger.)
Meanwhile the Apprentices have heaped up a grassy mound for the singer; and Kothner calls upon Beckmesser to begin. Beckmesser leaves the platform, and, as he clambers awkwardly upon the hillock, the people laugh at the ridiculous suitor, saying, ” Scheint mir nicht der Rechte.” (He does n’t seem the right one.) The viola and ‘cello immediately take up the Bach-like figure of the overture (Derision). The other instruments follow. Beckmesser attempts Walter’s words, Morgen ich leuchte in rosigem Schein, but to the time of his Serenade changed in time. He forgets his words, peeps at the manuscript, begins afresh, and sings silly jargon, at which the people laugh and the orchestra with them. Beckmesser, abusing Sachs, says he gave him this song, and takes refuge in flight. The Meistersinger ask an explanation. Sachs picks up the poem Beckmesser dropped. It is a beautiful song; Beckmesser could not sing it ! Is there anyone here who can ? Walter steps forward to the Walter motiv. The flutes and clarinets, and after them the first violin and viola play Walter’s Masters and Eva’s Anxiety appears on the horns. The Meistersinger, recognizing him, says Sachs is sly. Sachs bids Walter sing it, and hands Kothner the poem that he may follow. No need to call ” Silentium,” the Apprentices say as Walter mounts the hillock. The harp introduces the Story of the Dream, which here becomes the Prize-Song. In a beautiful garden in the morning-light, the woman he loves, Eva, keeps for him the delights of Paradise; next, he sings of the pure fount to which his Muse from Parnassus guides him ; and lastly of love and poetry, the Muse appears under Eva’s form ; she is his inspiration. The people are delighted; he must have the prize ! The Meistersinger agree, and Pogner thanks Sachs for what he has done. Walter kneels to receive the crown from Eva’s hands; then he leads her to Pogner, before whom they kneel for his blessing. The Meistersinger wish to enroll him among their brotherhood, and Pogner offers him the gold chain bearing three medallions. Walter refuses it. The Meistersinger appeal to Sachs, and Sachs, with a plea for German Masters and German Art, begs him to accept. Eva takes the crown from Walter and places it on Sachs’s brow. The Meistersinger, Nuremberg, Saint John and love motive, which have been mingled ever since Walter finished his song, continue while Eva, Walter, and Pogner do affectionate homage, and the people cry, ” Hail to Sachs ! ” as the curtain falls.