This review will be short, I'm afraid, largely because this new 'Tristan und Isolde' from the Swedish Royal Opera is not particularly competitive with other 'Tristans' out there. Its primary advantage is its price, but there are historical recordings (Furtw'ängler on EMI, say) that can very nearly match it for price. One cannot find much fault with Leif Segerstam's direction; he is a seasoned Wagnerian and a marvelous musician. His orchestra lets him down, though, particularly in the string section which sounds lightweight. The brasses are magnificent, though. I would have to say that Segerstam's approach is, unusually for him, a little lukewarm, or perhaps cautious is a better word.
As for the soloists, one only wishes Isolde, here sung by mezzo Hedwig Fassbender, had been the soprano who initially sang this role in this new production last year in Stockholm, Nina Stemme. One hears wonderful things about her. Alas, that was not to be. One does wonder why, as the rest of the cast is that of the 2004 production. The Tristan is Wolfgang Millgram and his is a rather colorless interpretation. One senses that he is probably saving his energies for the taxing delirium required in Act III because he does deliver there. The Kurwenal of Gunnar Lundberg is dramatic but not particularly pleasing to the ear. Even more so is the vocal unsteadingess of the Brang'äne, Martina Dike. It doesn't help that the recorded sound puts the voices front and center. Even the Steuermann whose 'Westwä'rts schweift der Blick' opens the opera, and should be heard as from a distance, is front and center. Lennart Fors'én's Kö'nig Marke is forthright and effective, if his voice lacks the depth and ebony shading often heard in the role. The men of the Royal Opera chorus are superb.
The booklet contains no libretto although one can obtain it at www.naxos.com/libretti/tristan.htm for download as a pdf file. There is some advantage in that each of the three acts is contained on a single CD so that the music does not have to be interrupted.