Sunday, August 29, 2010

WAGNER : TRISTAN UND ISOLDE

Radio New Zealand Concert network 
Sunday 11th of January 2009 at 3 pm
Sunday 29th of August  2010  3.04 - 7 pm
Sunday 12th of July 2015 at 6.03 - 10 pm
Sunday 28th of August 2016 at 6.03 - 10.30 pm
2015. 2016
WAGNER: Tristan & Isolde, an opera in three acts
Isolde................................ Annalena Persson
Tristan.............................. Lars Clevemann
Brangäne.......................... Daveda Karanas
Kurwenal.......................... Bo Skovhus
Marke............................... Runí Brattaberg
Melot................................ Marco Stella
Sailor, Shepherd............... Henry Choo
Helmsman........................ Jarvis Dams
Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus,
Auckland Philharmonia/Eckehard Stier
(recorded in the Auckland Town Hall by RNZ)
This great achievement of the Auckland Orchestra  and Eckehard Stier (another of their unstaged operas) has been broadcast twice.   There are many times in this performance when I wish the singers could be turned off so I could concentrate on the wonders emanating from the orchestra. I have heard that Wagner himself thought that way sometimes.

INTRODUCTION
SYNOPSIS
ORIGINS
LIBRETTO

Sunday 29th of August  2010  3.04 - 7 pm
WAGNER: Tristan und Isolde, an opera in three acts
Tristan........................... Robert Dean Smith
Isolde............................ Violeta Urmana
Brangäne....................... Yvonne Naef
Kurwenal...................... Bo Skovhus
King Marke.................. Franz-Josef Selig
Melot............................ Clemens Unterreiner
Shepherd...................... Peter Jelosits
Steersman..................... Wolfgang Bankl
Sailor............................ Gergely Nemeti
Vienna State Opera Chorus and Orch/Simon Rattle

This is a surprise: Simon Rattle conducting a Wagner opera, and in Vienna, not Berlin or Birmingham.  I have not found a review of this production, but Robert Dean Smith from Kansas is a tenor who sings true. My own musings from previous broadcasts are below.

Sweet Clara Schumann was disgusted with this opera when she saw it; her dear Robert died in 1856 in a state of insanity, and he missed the first performance in Munich in 1865, though Wagner had commenced work on it in 1854, and he completed it in 1859. Although he was the great upholder of German culture, Wagner was in exile from Deutschland all through the period of composition; he began in Zürich (at the home of Otto Wesendonck and his wife, the poet Mathilde who was Wagner's muse and his real-life Isolde), then Venice, finally Lucerne. Vienna was where he made his first attempt to stage it, but it was withdrawn at an advanced stage of rehearsal.

Think of Isolde as being 19 years old.

Radio New Zealand Concert network
Sunday 11th of January 2009 at 3 pm


WAGNER: Tristan und Isolde, an opera in three acts
The tragic tale (from the medieval Celtic romances)
of the love between the Breton knight Tristan
and his Cornish king’s wife, the Irish princess Isolde
Isolde............................ Katarina Dalayman
Tristan........................... Peter Seiffert
Brangäne....................... Michelle DeYoung
Kurwenal...................... Gerd Grochowski
King Marke.................. Kwangchul Youn
Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orch/Daniel Barenboim

Radio New Zealand Concert network
Sunday 20th of April 2008 at 3 pm


REVIEW (Sarah Noble in Sydney)
(Sorry her website is closed)

Conductor: James Levine
Isolde: Deborah Voigt
Brangäne: Michelle DeYoung
Tristan: Robert Dean Smith
Kurwenal: Eike Wilm Schulte
King Marke: Matti Salminen

The video version eventually reached New Zealand in November 2008, and in 2009 the cinemas in this country were offering ten of the twenty-two operas of this season, but not this one, nor any part of the Ring of the Nibelung; in 2010-2011 there are twelve offerings..

With the radio broadcasts we receive the interviews with the principals, but also commentary from Margaret Juntwait and Ira, and the opera quiz (conducted by Thomas Hampson this time).

I suppose the same set will be used, and it will end with Isolde standing over Tristan's body right till the last moment when the curtain closes (not sinking lifeless onto his corpse).

Daniel Barenboim has a very strong affinity with this music-drama (some say this is the greatest of all operas, Renée Fleming told us); he has conducted it in Bayreuth, and has played the Prelude and Liebestod suite in Israel, and with his Palestinian-Israeli orchestra (West-Eastern Divan). They are saying that he has done wonders with this fine New York orchestra in this performance.

Do read Sarah Noble's rant and rave about the 2008 broadcast, which she saw in a Sydney cinema theater. This was her first experience of it. Mine has never happened. A few years ago I did watch a video-tape borrowed from the local library here in Palmerston North; they would have discarded it by now. But back in Sydney in 1953, the big excitement for myself and fellow-Wagnerite Andrew Riemer (both in our matriculation year at Fort Street school) was the appearance of a recording (EMI) with Kirsten Flagstad, and the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Wilhelm Furtwaengler; my pocket money would not stretch to six black discs (but I did invest in the recording of Brünnhilde's immolation, done by the same team). A recorded music club was playing it in a little theatre in Sydney, act by act on Saturday nights; but my mother would not allow me to go, because she knew about musical men and did want me to get corrupted, and she was not thinking about marijuana.

In 1965 EMI brought it out again, on five discs; but I was back to being a university student, in Melbourne, and we were below the poverty line. I sold some books, and when I acquired it at the shop run by the opera critic John Cargher, I also traded some records (including two 10-inch discs of Frank Sinatra's "In the wee small hours"; I eventually got it again, on a 12" disc). (By that time we knew that a few of the high notes were done by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, wife of the artistic director Walter Legge.) That was a very memorable day.

With astonishment and admiration I have been playing it all afternoon. What a beautiful voice Flagstad had. I am sitting in my small office with the door open to the garage, which has facilities for putting a needle into the groove, and where she and the orchestra have ample ambience and a bright acoustic.

But in 1986 it came out on silver disc, four of them in a little compact container. The Parsons bookshop in Wellington had it for NZ $144; when it came down to $80, with 5 cents change, I snapped it up. I did not really need it; several of the libretto's pages are blank.

And now, as an old-age pensioner I look at the heap of Tristans I have in the house: Solti and Birgit Nilsson (1961), from a second-hand shop; Karajan with Dernesch and Vickers on silver disc; Reginald Goodall's long version on black discs; and even slower, Bernstein on compact disc (purchased at a reduced price from Colin Morris: the prelude to Act 3 has surface noise, caused by a thumbprint welded onto the disc); on videotape off the radio I have Boehm with Nilsson and Windgassen, and Placido Domingo's recent valiant attempt. I must mention Maria Callas doing the Liebestod (and Kundry enticing Parsifal).

Daniel Barenboim is the man for the job, these days, and he is a Jewish Wagnerian who conducts at the Bayreuth Festival; big scandal in Israel when he played the prelude in a concert there.

It will be hard listening to Deborah Voigt without being able to look into her eyes, and to marvel at her trimmed shape; but there is a recent glamorous picture of her hiding behind one of the lines of blue print up there in the links.

I know what James Levine looks like; he is still a wonder-child conducting record numbers of performances, but he did not turn up to direct Manon Lescaut two weeks ago; the burning question is whether he will try to beat Lenny Bernstein for the longest time taken to turn each page of the score. Nah, this is not Parsifal; Jimmy will probably get excited. We Yids are a varied lot, you need to know, but so many of us are fatefully (though not fatally) seduced by Klingsor Wagner.

 Obsolete links
COMPOSER
BACKGROUND
UNDERGROUND
PERFORMANCE
CHARACTERS
SYNOPSIS
STORYLINE

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