Few operas are as mountainous as Wagner’s “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.” The not often carried out work, wealthy with sonic booming and spitty glottal fricatives, has a operating time of just about six hours. It ends with a troubling flared-nostril paean to the purity of German artwork. One among its extra lethal lyrics addresses the shoemaking commerce with the aperçu “Cobbling actually has its share of issues.” Wagner’s solely comedy is, in a phrase, unattainable.
Cue the composer Matthew Aucoin, who just lately attended the Metropolitan Opera’s manufacturing of “Die Meistersinger.” Aucoin’s opera “Eurydice,” a retelling of the Greek fantasy from Eurydice’s perspective, based mostly on a play by Sarah Ruhl, made him, at twenty-nine, the youngest composer to have a Met début because the twenty-seven-year-old Gian Carlo Menotti, in 1938. Aucoin can be the writer of the upcoming guide “The Impossible Art: Adventures in Opera,” a celebration of the style’s inherent challenges and its carnivalesque excesses.
On the Met, a correspondent requested Aucoin to price “Die Meistersinger” on a scale of impossibility. “I’d give it a 9,” Aucoin mentioned. He wore a long-sleeved black T-shirt, black denims, and plenty of stubble. “It’s a feat of stamina, in all probability extra for the string gamers than for anybody else—they nearly by no means cease.” Aucoin is understood for his personal form of endurance coaching: previous to spending 4 years because the Los Angeles Opera’s artist-in-residence and beginning his personal opera firm, he obtained his graduate diploma in music composition at Juilliard whereas working as an assistant conductor on the Met.
As soon as Aucoin had hunkered down in an orchestra seat for “Die Meistersinger” ’s first act, he cautioned, “There’s a form of opium haze that units in with Wagner. If I find yourself keeling over into your shoulder, be warned.” Eighty-five minutes of keelinglessness later, throughout the first intermission, Aucoin mentioned, “One down, two to go. We’re nonetheless on the base of the mountain.” He added, “I’m discovering that one a part of my mind is registering, Effectively, that’s a horrible line. However most of me is form of hooked. It’s that narcotic high quality I discussed. And that’s opera’s ‘factor’: Are you able to overcome the skepticism that continues to be current in a single a part of your mind?”
Aucoin finds impossibility to be a continuing within the historical past of opera. “The artwork type’s first practitioners, in seventeenth-century Italy,” he writes in his guide, “strove to re-create the impact of historical Greek drama, which after all that they had by no means heard, and which nobody may be positive was sung within the first place.” Or take into account the parable of Orpheus and Eurydice, the topic of Aucoin’s personal opera: Orpheus’s singing is so stunning that animals and rocks dance in its presence. No stress, dude.
When the “Die Meistersinger” curtain rose for Act II, revealing 9 medieval half-timber buildings, Aucoin whispered, “This set seems to be like an Introduction calendar.” At some point of the second act, he remained sentient and unslumped; at its conclusion, he reported, “I’m holding up fairly nicely.” He confessed that he and his husband, Clay Zeller-Townson, a bassoonist who focuses on Baroque music, had attended this exact same manufacturing of “Die Meistersinger” two weeks earlier, and, at Zeller-Townson’s urging, had walked out after the primary act. “As quickly as my husband realized that the blond hero is a stand-in for Wagner the rule-breaking innovator, he was, like, ‘I’m sorry, I’m carried out, I can’t watch Wagner carry out this masturbatory act for six hours.’ ”
Aucoin took the chance, throughout the two-hour-long Act III, to whisper premonitory commentary: “Right here comes the uncomfortable German nationalism”; “Right here’s the place it sounds just like the refrain is telling us to fuck off.” (Within the latter case, greater than 2 hundred singers—all in peasant gown, a few of them holding bouquets—encourage the world to get up: Wach auf!) Extra gems of the third act embrace the lyrics “Hungersnot! Hungersnot! ” and the road, in translation, that every one Wagner listeners have secretly longed to utter: “Hear now of the thunder that bespelled me.” Earlier than the ultimate scene of Act III, the curtain got here down, and the orchestra kicked into some interlude music; Aucoin adopted the flat tone of a nineteen-thirties phone operator as he muttered, “Maintain, please.”
When it was over, Aucoin cheered and applauded heartily throughout the curtain calls, however he remained seated till the feminine star, the soprano Lise Davidsen, took a solo bow, whereupon he jumped to his toes. “Not gonna argue with that,” he mentioned. “Additionally, we get to face finally.” ♦