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  • Wagner;Richard Tristan Und Iso [Import]
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Wagner;Richard Tristan Und Iso [Import]

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Product Details

  • Actors: Nina Stemme, Robert Gambill, Rene Pape
  • Directors: Nikolaus Lehnhoff
  • Writers: R. Wagner
  • Format: Box set, Classical, Color, DTS Surround Sound, DVD-Video, Widescreen, NTSC, Import
  • Language: German
  • Subtitles: German, French, Italian, Spanish
  • Region: All RegionsAll Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 3
  • MPAA Rating: NR
  • Studio: BBC / Opus Arte
  • Release Date: Feb. 26 2008
  • Run Time: 358 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00118DQXI

Product Description

From the Contributor

One of the titles in our catalogue Ilike best is Glyndebourne's production of Tristan und Isolde, because it is so solemnly beautiful, evocative and meditative. Some people might interpret it as 'static' but I love how stage director Nikolaus Lehnhoff approaches Wagner's psycho-erotic masterpiece with a deep emotional and philosophical insight that matches the intense performance of the soloists, and conductor Jirí Belohlavek's remarkable exposure of depths in the score that I have never experienced before.

Their combined efforts and Roland Aeschlimann's universal set design call up classical Greek drama for me, a 'space-time-womb' resembling an amphitheatre. Physical gestures are minimal but not overly stylised, and each movement of a hand, or the turn of a head speaks volumes, as the related emotion floats up from the brilliant orchestra. I think it is a tremendously clever as well as moving achievement, focussing on the deep emotions as pure feelings, and not as predictable bodily or theatrical expressions, which, for me, can quite easily turn into pastiche. Nina Stemme is a beautiful Isolde, in turn fragile and furious, and Robert Gambill's Tristan is superbly lyrical and distant, as if he does not belong in this world. I also love the extra feature in which professor Trimborn gives a personal and direct 'lecture' from the piano on the musicological & philosophical backgrounds of Tristan und Isolde; emphasising the Buddhistic depths and the ideals of 'detachment', explaining why true, untainted earthly love is impossible. All in all, this disc set offers a deeply overwhelming experience every time I watch it.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By captain cuttle on May 15 2008
Format: DVD
Opinions seem to differ as to whether this is dubbed or a live film sans-audience. I see no evidence of lip synching and, regardless, the result is outstanding in every way.

For about two minutes the fact that Johanna Meier visually isn't in the first flush of youth bothered me a little. Then all reservations evaporated before the magnificence of her performance. She and Rene Kollo make as perfect a Tristan and Isolde as we're ever likely to see in the flesh, given the physical and technical heft these roles demand. Both acting and singing leave nothing to be desired and they are more than ably backed by Matti Salminen as Marke, Hermann Becht as Kurwenal and Hanna Schwarz as Brangane. Ponnelle's production is superbly imaginative without being iconoclastic. He produces some breathtaking lighting transformations.

These days, Barenboim's credentials as a Wagnerian are well established and he fully lives up to them here with the Bayreuther Orchester. Other reviewers have pretty well covered all the bases and I can only echo their positive comments. As to Ponnelle's "hallucinatory" interpretation of the last act, now that I've got over the initial shock I actually prefer it to the traditional ending. The arrival of Marke and deaths-all-round finale always seemed like an operatic contrivance too far to me. This solution convinces thoroughly and is brilliantly realized. Even if you have another dvd version you should take a look at this one.
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By Martin Pitchon on Jan. 7 2014
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Bad sound though. The singers are amazing, a pity the sound is not clear enough. If you are not expecting a wonderful sound, i recommend this version. Martin
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 48 reviews
204 of 210 people found the following review helpful
AT LAST -- A MUST BUY July 15 2007
By Archie (Ottawa Canada) - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
"Tristan Und Isolde" is doubtless one of the greatest operas ever written. Unfortunately it has been very badly served by the currently available productions on DVD.

The Nilsson/Vickers from Orange is ruined (as usual from Kultur) by a very poor technical production and design.

The Heppner/Eaglen from the Met has two principals who cannot act convincingly; although Heppner can really sing the part. Eaglen's voice leaves a great deal to be desired and her physical limitations prevent her from much in the way of physical action. Neither of them look even remotely the way I am sure most of us have pictured Tristan and Isolde to have looked.

The West/Meier from Munich is a travesty. The setting is just plain stupid, given what the text calls for; and West not only fails to sing convincingly, but he cannot act and looks even less like Tristan than Heppner. What is so frustrating is the waste of Waltraud Meier who has the acting and singing ability and the looks; and the waste of Kurt Moll who is a superb King Marke.

The Treleaven/Polaski from Barcelona is also spoiled by a silly production and less than stellar singing from the principals. They are the same cast as was used in the Barcelona Kupfer II "Ring", and I truly hated Treleaven and Struckmann there, as well as here.

I am writing this review now, despite not having seen this production for almost a year (since I found out that it would be rereleased as a DVD), because I want to share my great enthusiasm for it. It is based on my recollection of my much cherished Video. I have waited a long time for this rerelease as a DVD, and I am sure that DGG, unlike Kultur, have done their usual great technical transfer. It is a Bayreuth production from the early 1980's.

Jean-Pierre Ponnelle has designed a simple, but effective non-gimmicky set. The first act takes place on the deck of a stylised sailing ship, the second in the woods under a huge full canopied tree, and the third under a dead, split, blasted tree. The direction is tight and, with one notable exception at the end, is true to the text. I will not give it away other than to remark that up to then it was such a straight interpretation that Ponnelle probably could not resist putting at least some personal twist to it. Mind you, considering what was going on with Mathilda Wesendonck at the time, perhaps this is what Wagner might have subconsciously intended.

Under the conducting of Daniel Barenboim, the music is splendidly interpreted. It is clear, layered, and exciting. This certainly came across on my video, and I am sure that in surround sound it will be even better.

And the acting and singing and appearance of all the characters is an unalloyed joy. René Kollo as Tristan, Matti Salminen as King Marke, Hermann Becht as Kurwenal and Hanna Schwartz as Brangane.

However, this is a tour de force by Johanna Meier. She embodies all that I had pictured Isolde to be. She is beautiful, she sings -- my God, she sings -- and she expressively acts with the grace of a dancer. So far as I know, this is the only recording of her. What a loss.

For fear of getting even more carried away, I had better stop here; other than to state that I wish I could give it more than five stars.

But if you want a "Tristan Und Isolde" that is the gesamptkunstwerk I am sure Wagner had in mind (and possibly even with this ending) this is it!!
80 of 82 people found the following review helpful
By Pirooz Aghssa - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
It is so transformative to experience Tristan und Isolde done by a director who understands the mythic dimensions of this piece and who obviously loves the volcanic force this music. There are no directorial banalities here to undermine the music. It is powerful theatre and powerful music.

Johanna Meier is glorious as Isolde. She has power, lyricism, vulnerability, looks, musicality. It is too bad that this great artist's career was undervalued and underappreciated.

Rene Kollo is wonderful and has great chemistry with Meier. The way he listens to King Marke's monologue in Act II is heart breaking. Matti Salminen's Marke is an emotional tour de force and a psychological revelation.

Like the other reviewers here, I endorse this DVD enthusiastically. There is no other version of this opera on DVD that compares to this. AND THAT IS THE TRUTH.
53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
The best Oct. 3 2007
By C. Boerger - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
FINALLY, I'm getting a chance to review this DVD. Having preordered the item before its official release date, which was two months ago, I just received my Tristan und Isolde yesterday. However, I'm not going to shortchange the production itself on account of Amazon's colossal blunder, because this DVD is definitely worth the wait!

Several other reviewers have already made all the important comments regarding this production, so I just want to add my voice to theirs. I own three DVDs of this opera, and this is the best Tristan und Isolde I have seen, based on the understated, lush compatibility, as well as the dreamlike beauty of the production, and on the consistency of the performances. This one comes closest to what I believe were Wagner's intentions(well, except for the ending) and is definitely worth owning. Probably the highest compliment I can pay it is this: I am eagerly looking forward to watching it again, and how many four hour DVDs can you say that about?

Rene Kollo in his prime was probably the Tristan of choice at that time, and watching and listening to this it's easy to see why. His voice has all the qualities one expects from a Tristan, beautiful, lyrical, also stentorian, plus he is physically convincing as a young warrior and lover. His expressive face captures all the right moods, from passion to guilt to madness and finally peace. Johanna Meier's Isolde is captivating from her very first note onward, she has a beautiful voice, singing Wagner instead of screaming it. I must say, however, that her rendition of the liebestod is probably the subtlest, most softspoken(softsung?) I have ever heard. Not that it isn't beautiful...I still had goosebumps...but she is so ethereal she is occasionally overpowered by the orchestra. It's a fine reading, and a lovely alternative, just not your typical liebestod in the forceful, passionate manner of Flagstad or Nilsson, or for that matter Eaglen or Polaski, who sing the role of Isolde on the other DVDs of this opera which I own. People familiar with my reviews know that I am an avid champion of Matti Salminen, and nothing about his performance here alters that opinon. He makes King Marke even more of a sympathetic character than usual, with his wounded, soulful voice and countenance. Daniel Barenboim's conducting is somewhat schizophrenic, very slow at times, then, seemingly at the drop of a hat, revved up to the extreme. I enjoyed the juxtapositions very much. And by the way, the orchestra sounds great, despite the tendency to occasionally drown out the singers. With orchestration this powerful, it's probably difficult to resist that urge for a full four hours. After all, the singers are allowed their time in the sun, why shouldn't the orchestra?

I'd like to conclude with some comments on Jean-Pierre Ponnelle's staging, which is lovely and eerie and dreamlike. Certain effects stand out. For instance, in act two, when Tristan and Isolde act out their long, stirring love duet under a large glimmering tree, the head of the tree is filled with lights that resemble eyes and even faces. I'm not sure if this was intentional, but I personally appreciated the effect, giving the impression that the lovers, even during their moment of supreme bliss, are under constant surveillance. Someone else mentioned how effective it is actually seeing the shepherd as he plays his wounded lament at the opening of act three, and I'd like to second that. Finally, regarding the ending, I found it very effective, at least as a one-time thing. If I were unfamiliar with the opera before watching this, though, I might have assumed Ponnelle's conceit jibes with Wagner's intentions, which it doesn't. I don't want to give too much away, because actually seeing this ending is a breathtaking surprise, I just want to caution first time viewers that this is not concordant with the composer's libretto. It is, however, a lush, fanciful, sad, ultimately beautiful touch, cinematic in fact, even if it does take away from some of the growth we have witnessed in a couple of the key characters, particularly King Marke.

I didn't intend to go on this long since the other reviewers did such a good job of talking this DVD up; like Wagner, I can't help getting carried away sometimes. Elvis had an album called A Thousand Elvis Fans Can't Be Wrong, or something like that. Well, a thousand Tristan und Isolde fans can't be wrong, either. To exercise the very non-Wagnerian practice of being succinct: go for it.
57 of 60 people found the following review helpful
Another wonderful Tristan March 1 2008
By Archie (Ottawa Canada) - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
After getting the video of the Ponnelle/Barenboim/Johanna Meier "Tristan und Isolde" which was delisted many years ago, and while I was waiting for it to come out on DVD cleaned up with a better quality of sound, I bought other versions. For my taste, I found them all substandard (see my review of the aforementioned "Tristan"). Then it was issued as a DVD and judging from the many positive reviews most people found it as excellent a production as I did.

Now there is an embarasse de richesse because another excellent production has been released -- different, but equally excellent. The Ponnelle is more traditional, with a major twist to the ending; whereas the Lehnhoff is more stylised, but faithful to the stated intention of Wagner.

There is but one set for the three acts, a series of circular and semicircular steps which enclose the stage. But the very imaginative lighting profoundly changes the space and moods. At times it seems very confining, at others it is liberating; at times dark and brooding, at others warm and optimistic. But the very spareness of the set keeps the focus on the what and why of this powerful opera. It is very imaginative and works very well for this production.

Opus Arte, as usual, has served up a technically superlative production with first rate addenda.

I am grateful to Mike Birman for his account of the background to the opera and this production. It saves me from writing something very similar. (Since both of our reviews were written, we have had a correspondence in the "comment" section as we straightened out our mutual misunderstandings. That remains for those interested. He has since changed a bit of his opening background paragraph, so I am changing my response to it.) I now fully agree with his facts and tone of his account. He wrote, "Tristan is the quintessential opera about eros and it is natural to wonder to what degree these romantic entanglements influenced its genesis". I certainly agree, and would like to add another possible example.

Since I referred to the twist in the Ponnelle production ending, and since other commentators in reviewing that production have given it away, as it were, as well as adversely criticised it I feel free to describe it here. In that version, Isolde does not come to Tristan at the end -- she is an hallucination, Tristan's unfulfilled desire. As I wrote in response to that criticism: "It may be different, but in light of Wagner's life at the time he wrote it, perhaps it makes sense. His relationship with Mathilda Weisendonck had broken up. Many commentators have written that this explains the yearning so powerfully represented in the music. Perhaps subconsciously he never expected that Isolde would turn up. I can invision Ponnelle in Heaven saying to Wagner, as Brunnhilde said to Wotan, "I might not have done what you commanded, but I did what you wanted".

I also have no hesitation in giving this production the full five stars. Where I differ is in a matter of taste. Mr. Birman says that this is his favourite DVD of this opera. (Well, as they say on the Canadian East Coast, "Some likes an apple and some likes an onion".) My favourite DVD production remains the Ponnelle/Bareboim/Johanna Meier one. This, despite my finding Rene Pape's King Marke by far the best I have seen. Stemme, Gambill and Karneus all sing extremely powerfully and well, and their acting is also first rate; but their interpretations are not as emotionally nuanced as those of Meier, Kollo and Schwarz -- hence my preference.

To repeat, it is a matter of personal taste. This is a wonderful production in all respects, and it is really unfair to make comparisons -- not that that has stopped me. I am glad to have both and, unlike all the others I unfortunately purchased over the years, I will return to them both -- often. I am grateful to Opus Arte and DGG for these wonderful interpretations.


PS August 26 2008 I have just seen the Barenboim/Muller Tristan with Waltraud Meier and Siegfried Jerusalem. As a result, for what it is worth, that is now my second choice and this drops to third. The reason is that I have become increasingly less enchanted by Robert Gambill's singing.
71 of 78 people found the following review helpful
To die in order to live: a brilliant performance of Tristan Feb. 27 2008
By Michael Birman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
By Wagner's own written comments, composition of Tristan und Isolde was inspired by his love affair with Mathilde Wesendonck and the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer. Mathilde had married the silk merchant Otto Wesendonck, who was a great admirer of Wagner's music, and after he and Mathilde met the composer in Zurich in 1852, he placed a large cottage on his estate at Wagner's disposal. By 1857, Wagner had become thoroughly enamored with Mathilde. Wagner wrote voluminously and admitted to returning the many favors Otto had done for him by seeking the romantic favors of his wife. Wagner maintained a relationship with Mathilde for some time while composing Tristan. Tristan was composed between 1857 and 1859, premiering 10 June 1865 under the baton of Hans von Bülow in Munich, despite the fact that Wagner was now having an affair with his wife, Cosima. All three wrote extensively about this strange turn of events. Wagner, of course, was still married to his first wife Minna. Tristan is the quintessential opera about eros and it is natural to wonder to what degree these romantic entanglements influenced its genesis. The complexity of Tristan insured that critical opinion was initially less than favorable. Eduard Hanslick, the most influential 19th Century music critic, said that Tristan "reminded him of the old Italian painting of a martyr whose intestines are slowly unwound from his body on a reel." Opinion quickly changed and Tristan has remained in the repertory ever since. These events, all carefully verified as to their factual nature by musicologists, make up some of the historical background to perhaps the single greatest opera, certainly the most influential, of the 19th century. Tristan is without question a brilliant opera and its importance in musical history is without precedent.

The score of Tristan und Isolde has often been called a landmark in the development of Western music. From its opening chord, the famous 'Tristan Chord' f-b-d#-g# which resolves to another dissonant chord, there is a feeling of ambiguous tonality throughout the opera. Techniques used by Wagner were to prove influential in the gradual movement away from tonality that was the hallmark of the 20th Century. Hans von Bulow, who experienced Tristan's creation at close hand, shows how Wagner's contemporaries were aware of the degree to which the opera was the beginning of modern music. In a letter, he wrote 'Nobody had expected Wagner to write such music. It creates a direct connection to late Beethoven .... The musician who still refuses to believe in progress here has no ears!' Every performance of Tristan carries this accumulated historical baggage to some degree.

The 2003 production by Nikolaus Lehnhoff of Tristan und Isolde represents the first introduction of a Wagner opera into the Glyndebourne repertoire. It confronts the historical baggage directly, reducing Tristan's complex web of symbols and meaning into elemental images. The opening act occurs in front of a geometric spiral that represents the womb, a stark clue to the inner-directed and intimate nature of this production. Light and shadow envelop the stage. Settings for the action: ship, garden, castle, are treated as scenic cyphers and are judged as not requiring scenic representation. According to the producer, the setting of the plot is the soul. "The soul's cosmogony can be experienced even before the realities of time and space are neutralised at the opera's end." Tristan is about the conflict between night and meaning. Imprisoned in the dungeon of the world, the only freedom is death. Death is revealed as savior and as love's only safe harbor, and its symbol or sign is night. What passes for life and for meaning is bound to light and the daytime. Tristan occurs somewhere in the interstices between light and darkness. We infer it from Wagner's comments and directions.

This production is brilliant in its simplicity: acting and singing are appropriate in their intimacy, superb in their execution. There are no weak links. Nina Stemme is a wonderful Isolde. Robert Gambill an excellent Tristan. Bo Skovhus as Kurwenal and Rene Pape as King Marke are exemplary. The London Philharmonic play magnificently under Jiri Belohlavek. From top to bottom, this production exhibits intelligence and taste. The Opus Arte presentation is excellent, as well. Six hours of material is spread across three discs. The recording in both PCM stereo and DTS 5.1 surround sound is warmly natural and lifelike, complimenting the production's warmth and intimacy. The enclosed glossy booklet is informative. There are more than two hours of film extras included.

Now my favorite DVD of Tristan, this is a brilliant production that treats its audience with respect. Lovingly produced, it invites repeated viewing as a method of enticing Tristan's meaning from beneath the shroud of darkness. Glyndebourne's inaugural Wagner entry is a profound success. Most strongly recommended.

Mike Birman