- Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, opera, WWV 96
Though perhaps not the most distinguished recording of Wagner's "Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg" ever released, this live version from the 1968 Bayreuth Festival led by Karl Böhm certainly has its strong points, chief among them Böhm himself. The great Austrian conductor was justly famous in his time for his radiant Mozart and luminous Strauss and particularly for his incandescent "Tristan und Isolde." In this "Meistersinger," Böhm catches both the humor and the humanity of the work in a performance of considerable charm and attractiveness. Böhm skillfully balances the work's many ensembles, and deftly channels the drama's ebb and flow. Hardly less appealing is Theo Adam as a wise and lyrical Sachs, Gwyneth Jones as a soft and sexy Eva, and a large number of the best character-actor singers in Germany as the many merry Meistersingers. Much less appealing, and the principal drawback of this performance, is Waldemar Kmentt as a blustery and sometimes hoarse Walther who only grows more hoarse and less appealing at each entrance. Still, for fans of the opera, the conductor, or the festival, this well-recorded four-disc set will be worth hearing. Those who've never heard the work before, however, are advised to try a different recording, perhaps the digital Sawallisch or Solti or the stereo Karajan or Jochum.