Wonderful opera, good but slightly disappointing production
Tristan Und Isolde is a wonderful opera, the story constantly moves me and the music(the act 1 prelude, act 2 duet between Tristan and Isolde and Liebestod being my favourites) is some of the best of any opera for me.
Of the productions I've seen, my favourite is the Rene Kollo and Johanna Meier performance with Barenboim conducting, and once you get over some awkward sound, picture quality and synchronisation the 1974 Birgit Nilsson and Jon Vickers Tristan is a must see.
This Tristan Und Isolde is not bad, per se, but part of me couldn't help myself feeling a little disappointed.
I will say I found little problem with the production values or the production musically either. The costumes are very good, and the sets while sparse are suited to the opera's tone. The lighting helps to enhance the atmosphere, the picture quality is of great clarity and the video directing is clever.
Wagner's music is masterpiece status, at least to me, hearing some of the harmonies in the act 1 prelude and I find it very hard to retain my emotion, and I thought musically the Met did a fantastic job. The orchestra play with their usual power and the Chorus are beautifully blended. James Levine's conducting is mostly fine, it is musical, suitably spacious and I can really tell he loves doing it, which is a big bonus.
My only problem with Levine is in regards to some of the tempos, the act 1 prelude and Liebestod I had no problem with, any faster the pathos would be lost, any slower it would in regard to Liebestod make Eaglan feel uncomfortable with the breathing. Sometimes though, some of the tempos plod a little too much to almost funeral-march-like, the romantic approach is there, the power and pathos are there, but in places like the act 2 duet between Tristan and Isolde it needed to move a little more.
My other criticisms are in regards to some of the staging and acting. The staging is very basic here, and very bare most of the time. The acting apart from King Marke and Bragnane is very stand-and-deliver quality, Jane Eaglen for me being the main culprit.
In regards to Eaglen as Isolde, she was very good vocally, she does have a beautiful and powerful voice, and her Liebestod evoked emotion. Her acting is very awkward for my liking. I know from his Walther in Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg and Florestan in Fidelio that Ben Heppner can act. And generally he is better than Eaglen at emoting and using the stage, despite his look, and he sings beautifully. Plus he is outstanding in act 3.
What let Heppner's performance down was that he and Eaglen don't seem to have any chemistry together. Much has been said about his and Eaglen's weight, with some not being entirely able to believe in the romance. Although I will not try to be as picky, I can understand where they're coming from, except the believability wasn't my problem. I think because of how they looked on stage, Heppner and Eaglen didn't look as comfortable as I have known them to be. And Eaglen especially doesn't do anything with it in the way Norman and Voight do, I didn't find much grace or presence in her movements.
The support cast fare much better. Kurwehnal is more than adequate and Katarina Dalayman is excellent. The best performance belongs to Rene Pape, it is a very moving performance, he acts wonderfully and he has one of the more beautiful bass voices of recent times which he uses with great skill.
Overall, good but I was slightly disappointed. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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