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  • Wagner;Richard Tristan Und Iso [Blu-ray] [Import]
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Wagner;Richard Tristan Und Iso [Blu-ray] [Import]

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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
A Tristan with Limited Visual Appeal Feb. 14 2010
By DDD - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
This DVD represents a first in that Unitel, a company that has released most (if not all) of the DVDs (and VHS) emanating from Bayreuth is not involved in any way. It also appears to be the first time that an opera has been performed in front of a live audience. As I understand it all the previous films were performed at the house one act at a time and in one case it was filmed in a studio. In this way, of course, the singers had the advantage of being able to rest the voice and not run out of gas as it were by the time the last act was being performed. I have no idea what disadvantage filming in front of a live audience at Bayreuth creates but it is exciting to have them perform in this manner.

As to the performance, the cover of the Opus Arte set says it all: "Regiephobes" need not apply. This is clearly a Tristan set in the 20th century, circa the late fifties and early sixties. The set is essentially one, with adjustments made by the use of furniture and other decorations. Act I would appear to be a deck with many chairs, a cruise liner? An attractive woman, Irene Theorin is frumpily dressed. She storms across the set knocking over the chairs with great fury. Act II is an interior set and is evocative of nothing in particular. Theorin is dressed in a yellow suit that could be described as 60's chic, hair reminiscent of Jackie Kennedy. The seating arrangement for the two lovers is what you see on the cover of the DVD. The ceiling is a mass of circular neon lights periodiocally altered. Tristan would appear to be dressed as a cruise director. In Act III all the decorations (such as they are) have been stripped from the wall, and an a slightly elevated platform for a hospital bed surrounded by bars is the focus and where we find Tristan. My main complaint with the concept is that it appears to ignore the mythic element inherent in the Tristan legend--after all we in a world that contains potions of great power. In so doing Marthaler has drained away a great deal of the passion and humanity of the characters. They are more like puppets obeying his instructions. For example during Act II Isolde (white gloved) points her index finger in various directions at seeminly arbitrary times. I have no idea what this is supposed to mean. Our Tristan would appear to have been given no direction. I have read somwwhere that Flagstad had no idea of what the Isolde persona was; Theorin in a bonus film makes the remark that she is ready to go along with the director, but having sung the role a numbeer of times she also has some of her own ideas and is ready to employ them. I would like to hear more of her opinions.

Vocally the performance is on much stronger ground. Theorin's Brunhilde in the Copenhagen Ring is probably one of the best sung in today's list of current Brunhildes. The voice is hardly comparable in size to Flagstad or Nilsson, and if we were in a world that could offer singers of that ilk, she probably would be a leading Sieglinde. But if we want Wagner, Theorin, along with Stimme, probably offer performances that will trump any other contender. Until recently Waltraute Meier has certainly held the Isolde crown and her La Scala performance is superb, high notes not withstanding. She is also a tremendous actress and great beauty. She also had better direction with Patrice Chereau. I understand that Theorin is going to sing Turandot! Althought the role is short it strikes me as an inadvised move. The voice is too soft grained for a role that requires more metal. I would love to hear her in a Tristan that plays to her strenghts and utilizes her potential as an actress.

Of the recent Tristans Robert Dean Smith has the virtue of being the best. He certainly outsings Robert Gambill in the Glyndebourne performance who enjoyed the usual Act II cut. His voice is more inherently beautiful than Ian Storey in the La Scala DVD, but he is so poorly directed here that he simply cannot make the effect that Wagner surely must have intended. After helping the Met out with their Tristan run last year, Smith got the telecast with Voigt. Although I am no fan of the Met's production Smith was excellent, lacking the beauty of Heppner's voice, but much more secure and having the advantage of a slimmer physique.

Robert Holls Marke has the requisite gravitas, but he now sports an inchoate wobble. An indifferent actor (Marthaler, again?) he hardly makes the impact that Pape and Salminen do in their outings in the role.

It is not fair to plays all the CD sets that memorialized the era of geat Wagner singing (I refer to the bootleg performances from Bayreuth during the 50' and early 60')that are now available to us, Varnay in particular, but also Windgassen and Hotter, and then put on any of the DVD's that are currently available. We seem to live in age when singers with big voices simply don't exist; it can be argued that these voice types weren't available to Wagner. When asked as to how he or she was to sing he responded that they should sing his roles as they would in an Italian opera. But orchestras have grown larger and louder (the cowl at Bayreuth does compensate to a degree) and voices seem to be smaller. European houses are smaller and voice friendly. Also great Wagner conducting is hardly in abundance. When Thieleman is cited as the star of the most recent Ring cycle to appear on CD, we know that Wagner singing is in trouble. And Thieleman is doubtless the leading Wagner-Strauss conductor currently working, since Barenboim has departed from Bayreuth. Schneider is a good Wagner conductor; his instincts usually lead him in the right direction. He has been at Bayreuth for some time now and will never be the kind of star conductor that was so prevalent in the years after the reopening of the house.

As to my rating it is essentially the singing and that will draw me to the performance although in truth I am more likely to go to La Scala for a Tristan that is closer to the dramatic truth. New concepts no matter how odd or bizarre they seem can challenge ones opinions and preconceived notions. I welcome them--sometimes with reservations.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Slightly eccentric but memorable Bayreuth production May 10 2011
By Keris Nine - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray
In terms of dramatic representation, there's not really much you can do with Tristan und Isolde, which conversely means that an imaginative director can do just about anything with it. Bayreuth doesn't really seem interested in staging traditional productions of Wagner's operas, but in an opera like Tristan und Isolde, that shouldn't matter in the slightest. It's not a historical opera tied to a specific period, it's a mythological opera about the mysterious forces of love. Christoph Marthaler's 2005 production for the Bayreuth Festival, recorded here in a 2009 performance, finds a good balance between making the drama and the interaction between the characters intriguing to consider, while still being faithful to the opera's themes.

From the costumes and the décor of the ships interior in Act 1, it looks like it is randomly set in the 1930s, but not over-realistically so - the sets there to create a specific environment that ends up working quite well, rising into three tiers for each of the three acts, maintaining a fluidity and consistency in the piece. The main visual theme however - considering its significance in the second act - is that of lights, from the neon ring "stars" in the sky in Act 1, to the light switches of Act 2, and the pulsing rings of Act 3 that could represent love or life, or the two combined in death. Obviously, this is highly conceptual in a manner that those who like a more concrete, literal stagy representation dislike, but it suits the nature of the opera, and certainly suits the nature of Wagner's conceptual themes, without distracting from them or imposing a false reading. The performers fit well into the stage directions laid out for them - looking a little incongruous and a little uncomfortable at times with the eccentric mannerisms, but mostly finding a perfect accommodation between the words, the emotions and dramatic interaction with each other.

Iréne Theorin is fairly magnetic throughout as Isolde, capturing her haughtiness and conflicted feelings for Tristan in Act 1 with a degree of precision, and finding a similar level of emotion in the contradictory impulses of the Liebestod in Act 3. Through much of Act 2 she appears to be in a love-potion-induced trance, acting without volition, almost in a state of madness, which may not be how one would expect Isolde to be played, but her childish, playful eagerness to switch off the lights does capture a perfect sense of complete abandon to her condition to the disregard of any rational sensibility. Her singing is strong, only occasionally faltering, but a fine representation of her character nonetheless. It may take a while to warm to Robert Dean Smith as Tristan, but any doubts should be dispelled by his handling of the incredibly demanding final act soliloquy that he delivers magnificently with such impassioned yearning that you almost fear that he, like Tristan, is going to push himself over the edge. Michelle Breedt is a fine Brangäne, her singing strong, her acting in character throughout, and Jukka Rasilanen as Kurwenal delivers a touching performance, particularly in his sympathy for and fidelity to his master in the final act. If there are any minor irritations with interpretation and staging in the first two acts, all should be redeemed by Act 3, and that is certainly delivered here under the baton of Peter Schneider.

The Opus Arte Blu-ray looks good for the most part in terms of the 16:9 video transfer. There are some problems with the quality of the audio, but they are mainly down to the recording, positioning of the actors and the acoustics of the live performance on the Bayreuth stage. The minimal staging, the positioning of the performers and the surrounding walls give a somewhat echoing quality to the singing in places. In Act II's "Isolde! Geliebte! Tristan! Geliebter!" for example, with Theorin and Dean Smith backed up against the walls, the singing fails to rise above the orchestration. The orchestra isn't ideally clear either and doesn't make a great deal of use of the surrounds, tending to be mainly focussed towards a centre stage. Extras include an optional conductor camera visible in a small box at the bottom of the screen (a pointless feature when Bayreuth productions otherwise do their utmost to keep the orchestra and conductor invisible in line with to the composer's intentions), as well as an illustrated synopsis and a 25 minute making of that looks behind the scenes at the staging of the production at Bayreuth.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
It's All About the Memory March 17 2010
By violajoke - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I saw this production in 2009-I refer to it as "Love in a Communist Bus Station". Nevertheless, I appreciate the opportunity to re-live a bit of Bayreuth and experience the music and drama in comfortable clothes, sitting on a sofa and enjoying this in an environment that's 30+ degrees cooler than it was in the Festspielhaus.

I LIKE this DVD. Smith and Theorin both sang beautifully and being "up close and personal" really diminished the somewhat unorthodox staging. I have the other available DVDs of Tristan & Isolde and have no regrets about adding this to my collection.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A modern Tristan und Isolde June 20 2011
By Ultrarunner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
This is a Tristan for today. Myth for now. I do not think that the traditionalists will like it. For example,the action takes place inside the saloon of a ship. Modern decor which slowly decays through the three acts. It is set in the early 196o's. The sets are about the reality of everyday life. We cannot really envisage, the inner life of Tristan and Isolde.The action is slow. For example in Act three, at the end ,there are no bodies laying around, just singers standing against the wall. When tristan sings in his delirium about the light, lights go on in a subtle way. The acting is superb. In my review for the Bluray Tristan und Isolde with Stemme and Gambill singing, I have gone into the History of this opera and how Wagner was influenced by Schopenhauer. He in turn was influenced by Buddhism and Hindu brahminism. I have shown how this came to be. So, the Day represents everyday life and the night, the astral planes, or another dimension. The love duet is not gibberish,but represents Wagners attempts to explain the Astral planes and Nirvana. It is hard to produce this opera, really as Chereau once said, you should hear it on the radio.

Robert Dean Smith has a distinctive voice and is better then Gambill in the Stemme version.Theorin has a big voice and is good in Acts one and three, but you feel she is attempting not to drown out Smith in Act two. Brangane Michelle Breedt is as good. King marke ,Holl, and kurwenal, Rasilainen are a credit to the opera . This is a live performance. I wondered what the Bayreuth opera house looked like inside ,now I know. The conducting of Peter Schneider is swift. This is how Wagner meant his operas to be conducted. His son Siegfried conducted in this manner, which he learnt from his father when he was still alive. I do not like slow conducted performances,it ruins it.Amazingly,the two Blu rays, and three DVDs I have of this opera, are all well conducted and sung. Well done, Bayreuth. Now what we require is a live Ring from that August establishment.
11 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Big caveat Nov. 22 2009
By Plaza Marcelino - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray
The image of the set's covers as shown on Amazon's website does not say when this production was filmed or recorded, but I attended a performance of it at Bayreuth on 14th August last year (2008) and I can report that in my opinion it is seriuosly flawed. Marthaler's production is set firmly in Germany's current vogue of "Regietheater" but wisely eschews excess, thence its staging concept will be bought by many who right out don't object to novelty. I felt comfortable with it throughout: the stage is divided into three levels (or "floors", to give you a better idea), one for each act. Thus the "vessel" setting for Act 1 is seen throughout the rest of the work as a kind of "ceiling", as the stage is lifted for the 2nd Act to reveal that act's proper setting, and throughout the third act you also see act 2's setting as a kind of "upper floor" below the first's "ceiling" when the stage is raised once more to reveal the 3rd act's setting. This latter act's décor may be contrued as an operating warden or intensive care unit at a hospital where Tristan is put in a bed to recover, which actually makes sense given what happened at the end of the preceeding act.

The orchestra was in good shape in 2008's edition of the Festival (assuming the performance was taped that year, I cannot say for 2009's if it stems from this latter one's) and Schneider's conducting made a lot of sense. Although not especially old nor the kind of conductor that makes noise in the world's marquees, he's one of those solid conductors that seemed to me as steeped in the old austro-german school (he's Austrian), firmly seasoned in opera conducting and tending to singers needs. The problems, and quite significant ones at that, had to do with the principals, the Tristan above all. A joke went the rounds during the intervals, that Wolfgang Wagner had invited Marcel Marceau's foremost pupil to play the role of Tristan ... and the pun was not that much off centre, I must say, for at least on that evening Dean-Smith could often be quite difficult to be heard, and that is a capital sin in this work. The Isolde was no better than run-of-the-mill (if a run-of-the-mill Isolde can exist), in the sense that she did not arise one's admiration in any special way. Correct, but nothing more. Holl was a remarkable King, the best of the lot by far.

So, you have been warned. I am tempted to say that Opus Arte, a house that consistently has published some remarkable rpoducts, missed out this time, and quite big at that. Or maybe I was especially unlucky last year and it happens that the performarce they now publish has Dean-Smith in better shape ... try lo listen to it first, though, or else try some other alternative. The Meier / Jerusalem / Barenboim on DG, also out of Bayreuth, is a very good one, not on Blue-ray yet as far as I know, but with a very decent image.