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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
A great performance of the opera cutApril 12 2011
Erik Aleksander Moe
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I am a person who hates cuts and am of an opinion that if you don't want to watch/listen to a Wagner opera without cuts then don't watch/listen to it at all. I tolerate it in old recordings (30's and 40's) from the Met and Covent Garden, but most certainly not of something that is from in this day and age. With this in mind I have to say that this otherwise wonderful performance is cut in the 2nd act. 10 minutes of wonderful music is cut from a performance done in the 21st Century. Incredible, right? I thought that all the singers, especially Stemme and Pape were wonderful. The sound was good but could be better, not being even in the same league as the wonderful Bayreuth performance with Schneider. Stemme is such a wonder as Isolde. She projects both strength and power, in addition to beauty and youth, like no one else nowadays. Gambill was quite good and his acting was good. Pape's Marke too was wonderful, so heartfelt and beautiful, like his performance for Levine (but supported by a much better conductor this time around).
Again I wish to stress the fact why I gave it three stars instead of five. The opera is cut. Knowing myself, I wouldn't have bought the Blu-ray if I knew this fact. I find this a serious offense that it warrants the removal of two stars from the rating. If the performance was done of the uncut opera I would have given it five stars. It seems like we still have to look toward Bayreuth to be guaranteed an uncut performance of a Wagner opera.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
An almost perfect productionMarch 18 2010
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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.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Exquiste Opera -- Technical DisasterFeb. 4 2011
Don A. Mele
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What a disappointment, and a hugely expensive one to purchase at that. This is a Nikolaus Lehnoff production, and as such is absolutely stunning it its presentation. Unfortunately, they must have used a high school student as a sound engineer and you can hardly hear the singers. Lehnoff had the same problem with his Tannhäuser, but solved it admirably with his Lohengrin and Parsifal. I recommend the last two highly, but not this Tristan. Don't get me wrong. The sound of the orchestra here is sublime, but the singing is drowned out and indistinct despite the noblest efforts of the cast. Singers at the back of the stage are virtually mute. It looks as if they are miming in a silent film with loud music. Those at the front are only marginally better off. You certainly can't understand them, unlike the singers in the suberb Deutsche Grammophon Barenboim Bayreuth Tristan (also on DVD). In that production, Siegfried Jerusalem and Waltraud Meier give you goose bumps. The only singers you can hear clearly in this Opus Arte Tristan are those who sing off-stage directly into the mike. What a disservice to the performers! I would have loved to have heard them. Must have been an experience to be in the hall.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Was Tristan influenced by Buddhism?June 20 2011
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Wagner was a difficult and contradictory Man. His endless talking about his work and himself,he admitted did cause him problems. When not composing he would write about everything, which he thought worked off his spleen.So, there are those who attempt to divorce the Man from his music. You cannot. They are both intertwined. But his hard life and suffering,obviously caused by deep psychological problems, did enable him like some shamanic figure to delve deep within, reaching another dimension. For example,Sitting Bull of Custer last stand fame, could go into trances to foretell the future via rituals of suffering. Wagner was able to go into another world, and create music of other worldly quality.His libretto's had a certain logic to them, as did his music which had a sure hand. He could not hold onto money,no matter how much he borrowed. He was a wanderer with a dream, which he succeeded in delivering.Even when settled with Cosima and his family in Bayreuth, he did venture with them to Italy. A German nationalist, who thought he created Germanic Myths for a new Germany. But he admitted to Lizst, that even he ,Wagner, did not really understand what he had written. About Tristan he wrote, I do not know how I wrote it.
In Zurich 1857, he was given a house by Otto Wesendonk, which was next door to him. He had an affair with his wife Mathilde. Wagners wife Minna found out about it, and because of the fuss had to leave.Moving to Venice he continued with Tristan and finished the work in Vienna March 1859.In 1864 in Munich, he came under the wing of his admirer King Ludwig the second. His troubles should have been over. They only begun.The first performance of this work was held at the Munich state opera on the 10th march 1865.
While living in Zurich 1n 1852, when he wrote to Liszt,he mentioned Schopenhauer and his planned Tristan. Schopenhauer was greatly influenced by Buddhism and Hindu Brahmanism.His philosophy is this, "the wills free denial of itself. This entails the denial of representations and of the world as representation:hense, the resultant nothingness is a positive gain compared to the misery of existence prior to the will denying itself. Music he wrote does not copy ideas;it is an expression of the will itself" (D. Hamlyn Routledge 1980 ).In otherwords, the denial of self and renunciation of individuality. Naturally, this is certainly not Wagners life style. However,when his life was at his lowest ebb, he could write the Libretto of the Meistersingers. He could go into another dimension. When he returned, his psychlogical baggage kicked in. This happens when one is distance running. I know, I was a ultra runner for 18 years, running distances over 161 kms.You go into another world of peace and time stands still.
Let us look at the Libretto of Tristan. He sings in the love duet, "Spiteful day. Its idle pomp,its vainglorious show,is derided by the man whose sight has been blessed by night. The illusions of Day renown and reputation, power and profit, so magnificently glittering disperse like barren particles in the sun before the Man who looks with love upon nights death." Tristan and isolde" O sink down upon me, night of love, make me forget I am alive, take me up to your bosom, set me free of the world."(Cochrane 1961). Once one understands that this is not gibberish, but is Wagners attempt to portray the astral planes. The word astral is mentioned in Turnbulls excellent lecture. In do I hear the light, Aeschlimann set designer of the womb like space on the stage, refers to Buddhism. Lehnhoff refers to the setting of the plot as the soul. For the ship, garden and castle do not require scenic representation.The love duet is coloured by a deep cobalt blue. This symbolises the night,the soul. The day is grey,everyday life. The idea is that Tristan and isolde both enter Nirvana. Where there is nothingness,no rebirth, unless like Buddha, you choose to.Gained when there is no desire,nor materialistic values. Possibly, Wagner misunderstood this state, and saw it as eternal love, without the physical lust.
Wagner did write a sketch for die Sieger,based on an incident in Buddhas life while first reading Schopenhauers philosophy. Which he read and reread.He rewrote the ending to Gotterdammerung, when Brunnhilde sings her last aria. He changed it later on. "to the holiest chosen land,free from desire and delusion,the goal of world wandering,redeemed from rebirth,the enlightened one now goes." (Millington 1992 Thames and Hudson pg 298). In Parsival, in the libretto, the word reincarnation is mentioned. So is the rebirths that Kundry has. Millington writes that in a letter to Liszt 7 june 1855,"modern research has shown that Christianity is no more and no less than a branch of that venerable Buddhist religion which following Alexanders Indian campaign, found its way, among other places, to the shores of the mediterranean".An interesting idea. I hope that this article shows Wagners later operas in a different light. That Tristan and Parsival can be understood.
Although, ten minutes of Act two are cut, still I give it five stars.It has attempted to capture the inner and spiritual side of Tristan.It is not just a story about a woman who hated tristan for killing her beloved. Then looks into his eyes when he is wounded in the fight, as she is about to kill him. When well, he arranges for her to marry his King, Marke.She wants to die with Tristan, so she give him a death potion. But Brangaena gives them a love potion.Hense,they immediately have sex. The love duet, if you can call that, is the sexual act put to music. Eventually at the end of Act three they do die. She sees his ghost,because he dies first. Nina Stemme is brilliant as Isolde. Gambill is quite good as Tristan. Not as good as Jerusalem in the same part,who is. Brangane holds her own. Bo Skovius and rene Pape are a credit to the opera. The London Phil conducted by Jiri Belohlavek is one of the reasons why this is such a great performance. Jiri speeds are right for this piece, swift tempi when required. He keeps the piece tight. Another good performance in the five star bracket, is the Tristan staged by Heiner Muller in 1995. Inspired by Mondrians formalism and Rothko's abstractions.Mullers view is, that no one wants to die. The singing of Jerusalem,Meier,as Isolde,Holle, Priew and Struckmann are perfect. The conductor is Barenboim who brings into place his Furtwangler leanings. Very Beautiful. Get both if you can. The traditionalists will find these DVD's to their taste.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Not acceptable BD video qualityJan. 11 2013
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Ordered the BD and sat down to watch it last night.
This is a terrible video encode, very disappointing. Although the low contrast is annoying, what is unforgivable is the weird cross-hatch pattern showing up across the lighter areas of the screen. It is as though the movie was shot thru a patio screen door. NOT acceptable and will be sending it back for a refund.