Tristan and Isolde was composed during a break in the composition of the Ring cycle. Writing the story first as a love poem and then setting the music, Wagner created perhaps the most beautiful love-poem in all opera. This typically lengthy work is almost devoid of action, but the performers need excellent acting skills to convey the emotional and psychological feelings and interactions of the characters. And it goes without saying, that only singers of the highest calibre are capable of handling this most demanding work. For those who lack patience and demand action, this work is not for you - yet. But the listener with a more mature perspective is rewarded with some of the most beautiful music in the operatic repertoire.
A demanding work demands performers of the highest calibre. Nina Stemme as Isolde, and Robert Gambill s Tristan, meet the challenge superbly with brilliant performances that reveal all the psychological subtleties of their characters. And although the cast members are all excellent, Katarina Karnéus as Brangäne must also rate a special mention.
For this production, Stage Director Nikolaus Lehnhoff elected to use a simple but exquisite abstract set by Roland Aeschlimann, with its womb-like feel being well-suited to the work. Complimented by subtle but brilliant lighting design, these factors allow the performers to give full expression to this masterpiece. The London Philharmonic rise above themselves, and combined with the Glyndebourne Chorus, respond to every nuance of conductor, Jirí Belohlávek's highly perceptive interpretation.
I have several versions of the work, and I had to discard the Met production for its contrived camera work. No such problems here. Recorded with High Definition digital cameras, the image is very sharp, and camera work and editing have provided the viewer with an excellent perspective of the performance. Sound is simply brilliant. I first had this version on DVD, but it is so close to perfection, that I had to have it on Blu-ray. The DVD was of the highest technical quality, it forebode a wonderful Blu-ray version, and I was not disappointed. Without doubt, this is my number one version of Tristan and Isolde.
Having seen the review claiming this to be significantly cut caused me recently, to do a search. Other performances, Blu-ray or DVD ALL time at around 100 minutes shorter than this version, Now, although unstated, this timing of almost 360 minutes may include the documentary content as well, but although I haven't timed it, I doubt it runs for 100 minutes. The main documentary ony ran for around 15 min., so I am afraid said reviewer is to be frustrated if he thinks he can obtain a "more complete" version. And another note. Anyone familiar with opera performances, knows that cuts are a standard event. The conductor makes these to marry the production with his interpretation. This can vary from the odd bar here and there, to complete scenes. One PS. There is a performance (DVD only) available in Europe that is a little longer than this; and its under Barenboim, a brilliant Wagnerian. However, I didn't look to see how much "documentary" material is included in the "longer version". At its price, I would guess it's not worth the expenditure.
Technical details: 1080i High Definition 16:9 with the option of 2.0 or 5.0 Dolby True HD audio presenting superb sound and just the right balance between singers and orchestra.