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This opera - a double triumph for Wagner as composer of both the words and music of his only comedy - has been described as 'the longest single smile in the German language'. But Roland Matthews indicates that violence is not far beneath the surface of this genial portrait of medieval Nuremberg. Arnold Whittall's analysis gives a remarkable bird's-eye view of the elaborate complexity of the score. Timothy McFarland explores the significance of the choice of subject: that nostalgia for a pre-industrial community, which was a symptom of the nationalist movement that finally destroyed the ancient liberties of the German cities. The long text has many subtleties which opera audiences can hardly appreciate without reading it, and the musical themes are numbered to indicate where they occur.
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