Top positive review
Indulge in the sheer sound
on June 25, 2004
One of the benefits of DVD with long operas like Tristan is that each DVD holds two CDs worth of music, which makes it cheaper when the CDs are at full price. Then you get video as well!
There would be very few operas where little is gained by seeing it over just hearing, but Tristan is perhaps the prime example of that very phenomenon. Having developed the 'invisible orchestra' Wagner speculated about the idea of an 'invisible stage'. Personally I enjoy this music the most with my eyes closed, so care little whether the production is good or atrocious.
So firstly, then, the music. Levine conducts a spacious, mature reading that swells and subsides and takes your heart with it. The Met orchestra shows just how beautiful a sound it can make.
Eaglens voice as sheer sound envelops the orchestra with faultless, pulsing waves of beauty, yet she can produce edge when necessary for dramatic reasons. Heppner's heldentenor negotiates Tristan's taxing lines with attractive tone. He sings the notes with convulsing fervour in the mad scene of Act 3. Rene Pape has the most beautiful bass voice around today, and makes a haunting and handsome King Marke.
Now, the production. Given what I said before about not caring, if I were to be watching as well as hearing Tristan, this is just the kind of thing I would like. The production is largely still, spare, symbolic, and hauntingly lit, and so it doesn't distract from the music. Normally, I don't like that kind of arty-farty nonsense from directors, and prefer traditional productions. But for a drama that largely takes place in the mind, this seems to me very appropriate.
There is a bonus picture gallery of the history of Tristan and Isolde at the Met, which didn't excite me for very long, but may be of more interest if it brings back memories for you.
Sound is either PCM Stereo or DTS 5.1, so no Dolby Digital 5.1 (surprisingly, since the Fidelio has that option). Picture is 4:3. Subtitles German; English; French; Spanish and Chinese.