Monday, 24 August 2015

Richard Wagner, Tristan und Isolde - Bayreuther Festspiele

Performance 13th August

My second Bayreuth journey started with a performance of the new production of Tristan and Isolde (my third Tristan production within approximately 1 1/2 months). The highly anticipated production was responsible for several small scandals concerning the casting of Isolde.
The production led by Wagner descendant Katharina Wagner was very intersting and featured some details really worth seeing. The stage was made by Frank Philipp Schlößmann and Matthias Lippert and looked really marvelously. Especially the crazy staircase scenery during the first act depicted the hopelessness of the loving pair incredibly well. Also the costumes by Thomas Kaiser looked great and very elegant. Especially Isolde's blue coat was a real eye catcher.
Musically Christian Thielemann, the Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele and the Chor der Bayreuther Festspiele were magnificent. Thielemann made me hear details I never heard before and especially the special Bayreuth acoustics made it sound even more mysterious and mystic. I never heard Tristan and Isolde being played  so dramatically and intensively before.
Most of the singers also sang on a very high niveau and convinced me. Tansel Akzeybek sang both the young sailsman and the sheppard and sounded lovely with his light and beautiful bright tenor voice. So did Kay Stiefermann in the small role of the helmsman.
As Melot Raimund Nolte was a very strong casting choice with a very strong but still clear voice. His diction was exemplary and I thought it was a pity that his part was not longer.
Iain Paterson also gave a strong performance with a very powerful heroic baritone voice. I personally liked the different colors of his voice and he definitely knew how to use it properly. Also his acting was very good and made especially the third act more interesting to me than usually.
Christa Mayer sang Isolde's maid Brangäne with a strong beautiful voice. Her upper register sometimes seems a little bit uncontrolled (only a bit) but her phrasing and the whole interpretation were really enjoyable. If she had a broader lower register it would have been perfect but still it was a luxurious casting choice.
Georg Zeppenfeld once again convinced me, this time as King Marke. His profound dark bass voice is perfect for this role. I loved his acting which depicted Marke not as the poor victim but as an evil heartless tyrant. I wonder if there is a role in which he could not convince me...
Isolde, which was the main subject of this year's scandals in Bayreuth, was now performed by Evelyn Herlitzius (before Eva-Maria Westbroek and Anja Kampe were scheduled to perform it). I really do not like Herlitzius and I was very disappointed when she jumped in. Nevertheless I think we have to be thankfull that she did and she obviously is not disliked by everyone. I still think that she is just loud and her phrasing is horrible. Her first high b during the first act was totally off tune, as well as the first high c during the second act. She always shortens longer notes and teares phrases apart because of that. In my opinion she should stop singing those roles (maybe she can still sing Elektra, which would still work with this voice).
The main highlight for me was Stephen Gould as Tristan. I do not care about the tenors normally, but Gould was just phenomenal in this role. He seemed not to have any problems with the high parts of the role but also the lower parts were strong. I think at the moment there is no better Tristan (except maybe Peter Seiffert) but this was a performance on the highest level.
I personally liked the performance very much and thought that Katharina Wagner did a good job. Of course not everything was perfect but it surely was a solid performance. I give Bayreuth's new Tristan 9 stars.

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