k r i t i k e n   . .   m u s i k t h e a t e r





Johannes Martin Kränzle as Beckmesser with Michael Volle as Hans Sachs
© 2021 Richard Termine- Met Opera

Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Metropolitan Opera New York 2021
(D: Pappano, I: Schenk)

Financial Times:
… and best of all, Johannes Martin Kränzle as Beckmesser, the cleverest, most amusing account of that part I can recall.

One of the most exciting performances on the evening came from Johannes Martin Kränzle as Beckmesser. Perhaps Wagner’s sole weakness as a dramatist is that he does not hide his contempt for his “villains.” We see this throughout the Ring, particularly with the musical language for Alberich and, especially, Mime. We see this with Klingsor in “Parsifal.” And unfortunately, Beckmesser does not escape this treatment. He’s an arrogant “master” who is later proven to be a fraud. His musical language borders on ridiculous exaggeration and when he butchers the poem in Act three, it’s laughable, nearly to the point of incredulity. He’s such a lousy adversary that it makes Walther’s virtuous victory, as beautiful as it is, somewhat hollow and even didactic.

Unfortunately, this often leads to cartoonish interpretations of the character, some of which is not lost here due to some staging choices. But Kränzle and Pappano have the good sense to eschew some of those cliches to create a more human portrait of a man whose own blindness does him in. When we first saw him in the opening Act, Kränzle played up Beckmesser as a formidable man and leader among the Mastersingers. His voice was potent, fluid, and always present. If you were seeing this opera for the first time, no doubt you might find him to be a true and powerful authority dwarfing those around him. He didn’t play into any cartoonish antics in this Act, neither physically nor vocally (a lot of interpreters start crooning or adding nasal effects to the voice). In fact, his singing aligned quite well aurally with Georg Zeppenfeld and Volle, interpreting Pogner and Hans Sachs, which made him feel like he truly belonged.

This choice allowed Beckmesser’s character to evolve and develop as his cover is progressively blown. In Act two, Kränzle retained his vocal composure, his singing retained its fluidity and he was definitely up to the challenge of facing off against Hans Sachs. We saw his limitations, but we still felt he was formidable.

That allowed for the character’s unraveling in Act three to feel more natural, comic, and even tragic. Kränzle’s movements were far more outlandish as he rushed around the room, fell over a chair, and ogled the poem. Vocally, his singing was more pointed and angular, which aligned quite well with the character’s trajectory. He delivered an impressive, extended vocal shout on a high note as he exited Sachs’ home, but the effect was spot on for the character’s development. It all led to a solid appearance in the song contest where Kränzle’s drier vocal interpretation served the character perfectly.

Last night’s cast of Die Meistersinger at the Met, dominated by the irascible, unbeatable duo Michael Volle and Johannes Martin Kränzle as Sachs and Beckmesser, did much to enliven Otto Schenk’s creaky, nearly 30-year-old production. During their superb interactions, I couldn’t help wondering what it might be like if they traded roles some day?

The New Criterion:
Johannes Martin Kränzle is an unusually good Beckmesser. He is a very, very good Beckmesser. But what is unusual about his portrayal? He makes the character almost endearing. Last night, I almost felt sorry for the bumbling, censorious, self-absorbed old clerk. Mr. Kränzle understands something important: Beckmesser is not ridiculous to himself. I must say, too: Kränzle sings very well—which is not to be overlooked, not in an opera.

Broadway World:
Johannes Martin Kranzle, also a veteran of this production, brought humor and a tinge of sadness to the role of the outwitted Beckmesser. It was entirely believable that he was competing for Eva's hand although we all know from the beginning he was going to lose out.

Oberons Grave:
Johannes Martin Kränzle seemed like a perfect Beckmesser to me when he sang the role here in 2014 And he seemed perfect again today. His singing was full of subtleties of tone and expression, and he deftly managed the 'koloratur" of his Act II serenade. And when power was needed, it was easily summoned: he nailed his "Fanget an!" in Act I. The Kränzle Beckmesser is a masterpiece that I was glad to experience again. In the interim between these two MEISTERSINGERs, Mr. Kränzle showed us another aspect of his artistry with a powerful and thrilling performance as Bartók's Bluebeard with the New York Philharmonic. All afternoon, Mr. Volle and Kränzle kept us under a spell with their marvelous singing.

Bachtrack: Johannes Martin Kränzle avoided hoary stereotypes as Beckmesser while still ac
hieving the role’s comic purposes.

Classical Source:
Kränzle’s vocally excellent portrayal of Beckmesser, the most enigmatic of all the characters, has elements of malice, vindictiveness, and petulance. His comedic timing is perfect in Beckmesser’s refusal to shake Walther’s hand, his antics in the Marker’s booth, his frustration when his serenading of Eva is ‘marked’ by Sachs with hammer blows, and, finally, in his humiliating failure to win the song contest. His surreptitious search of the shoemaker’s shop is a hilarious gem as Beckmesser’s scatters papers and finally discovers Sachs’s handwritten copy of Walther’s song, thereby falling squarely into the cobbler’s clever trap.

New York Times:
Baritone Johannes Martin Krenzle was comically clumsy, but sang with frank seriousness like Beckmesser, the semi-official city clerk competing (at least in his own imagination) for Eve’s hand in marriage.

New York Classical Review:
At least until his slapstick performance in the climactic singing contest, baritone Johannes Martin Kränzle also gave a realistic and even sympathetic spin to the comic foil Beckmesser. One believed he believed that he was saving German art with his piles of arbitrary rules for writing a song, and that he could win the contest and the girl with his off-key, Italianate warbling.

Seen and Heard International:
Johannes Martin Kränzle’s Beckmesser was a delight. As full-voiced as Volle, Kränzle was a bundle of ego and delusion as he seeks to woo Eva.