Wagner: Tristan und Isolde
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It must be said that the director, Patrice Chereau, offers interpretations at several moments that will seem outlandish or wrong to purists and traditionalists; this is particularly true of the bleeding head of Isolde in her final monologue. But I would urge skeptics to watch, listen, pay attention to the text and the music, and I believe most would agree that Chereau has not "imposed" anything, but has drawn from the essence of Wagner's work some powerful aesthetic and theatrical effects, making this one of the most emotionally wrenching performances of the opera that I have ever seen. Arguments about the details should not distract from the obvious fact that Chereau has produced a performance that is entirely consistent within itself, and consistent with the spirit of Wagner's work (with, perhaps, a heavy dose of Schopenhauer's worldview included).
The principals are wonderful. Gerd Grochowski plays a youthful and smitten Kurwenal, obviously deeply in love with his master and willing to die for him. Michelle DeYoung, made to look far older than her actual years (quite the opposite of her youthful appearance in the Met production), again performs a sympathetic and nurturing Brangaene, but from a different place on the age spectrum. Both sing very well.
Matti Salminen's Marke is brusque, forceful, almost a King Lear in his initial royal autonomy, but staggered and nearly broken as Tristan's betrayal sinks in.Read more ›
First off, the sets, costumes. It is in neo-realistic style, with big stone walls and forbidding grays, blacks and dark colors. The singers are all dressed, refugee-style, long overcoats, shifts. It's not bad, but it still looks too modern (for me) of a tale that's set in "Legendary" times. To be sure, this is far more human, accessible approach than the abstracted remove of the Glyndebourne production; but a more romantic setting is needed for Act 2 (my opinion) to complement the luxuriant, sensual splendor of the central love duet. My number 1 choice for an overall concept in terms of matching mood to music is Ponnelle's, in the 1983 film from Bayreuth. Once you've seen it, you can't forget Johanna Meier and Rene Kollo under that huge, discreetly-dotted-lighted tree, on their knees, facing each other, with a gentle breeze wafting through. Wih this visual, bathed in that sensual music, it exactly captures that lushly romantic, mystical otherworldliness the music asks for.
What makes this production work so well is the direction of Patrice Chereau. Chereau rejected directing Tristan for years, because, as he put it, it was too much like a "radio play" - best heard, not seen. But having accepted it, he very much creates a moving, unstatic drama where there is action and movements as a consequence of the music and words. Everything has a specificity and purpose, and they're all done with unerring dramatic skill and taste. Best of all, Chereau gets performances out of these artists, and there's a real collaboration where the singers don't suffer in sacrifice to the directorial vision.Read more ›
But now for the complaint. Patrizia Carmine (the tv and video director) allows the cameras to focus on the light that Isolde will extinguish over and over in Act 2. As if we want to see the stupid light for 5 seconds while Isolde is singing! We want to see Isolde's face as she is singing! At one point the red cape-like coat becomes a focus and keeps being intertwined visually with Waltraud Meier's face as she's singing. Carmine decided to juxtapose the cape Meier is wearing with Isolde for some unknown reason. Then, in Act 3 she fades to black over and over. I suppose it is to show how Tristan is fading and about to die and going into the dark, but it is too distracting. It causes us to miss Tristan's emotions. We don't care about Patrizia Carmine's ideas.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
More than most other operas, Tristan und Isolde is placed on a pillar: Either you love it or you hate it. Read morePublished 22 days ago by Dr. John W. Rippon
I liked this production and found it very moving, but feel the need to counteract the Chereau enthusiasm of many contributors. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Giles Penfold
Waltraud Meier's wonderful performance was ruined by Patrizia Carmine's inane editing. I agree completely with earlier reviews by Zach and William Birdsall on that point, and... Read morePublished 11 months ago by ruleman
Wagner reduces the whole story, romance or saga to three acts that are three unified scenes.
The first act is the voyage from Ireland to Cornwall when Tristan is... Read more
Meier is truly at the top of her game here. She is a master, one of the only women in the world stage to exhibit this...can even see it in her countenance. Read morePublished 18 months ago by S. Hsu
This wonderful production of Wagner's masterpiece Tristan Und Isolde is both artistically beautiful and emotionally exhilarating. Read morePublished on October 12, 2013 by tom c.
The singing is ok, but Waltraud Meier has no business singing Isolde. She is a good Kundry, but Isolde requires a larger voice than she possesses. The staging is ugly. Read morePublished on October 8, 2013 by Boz
I don't have much of a problem with any of the audio on this DVD, other than that Gerd Grochowski (Kurwenal's) singing is a little stiff. Read morePublished on December 28, 2012 by Zach
Sadly, this DVD lacks the required musical underpinning to keep it afloat. I wonder how anyone made the required voyages in the opera with such poor sound from the pit - and hence... Read morePublished on August 12, 2012 by Timothy
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