Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Richard Wagner, Tristan und Isolde - Berliner Philharmoniker, Philharmonie Berlin

Performance 3rd April

A very special operatic evening took place last sunday in the prestigious Philharmonie Berlin with a concert of the Berliner Philharmoniker bringing their Tristan from the Baden Baden Easter festival in a concert version into their home concert hall. Sir Simon Rattle gathered an incredible cast with some of the finest singers around together with one of the leading orchestras of the world. Rattle and his orchestra proved that they are such a leading ensemble with an exemplary performance including a great dynamic range and highly musical phrasing. The prelude already showed that there is a reason why the orchestra has such a marvelous reputation. The orchestral performance was ravishing, full of passion and very accurate at the same time. Especially during the second act the orchestra revealed such a high level of musicality and a great sense for the dramatic action. The sheer power of the orchestra during the great dramatic outbreaks was as impressive as the soft chamber music like attitude during the love scene.
The cast was simply wonderful and even the smaller roles were cast very well. Roman Sadnik gave a very solid performance as Melot with a very focussed and plain timbre. His diction was excellent as well and every syllable exemplarily distinct. Thomas Ebenstein sang the role of the sailor and the shepherd. I was genuinely impressed by the youthful beauty of his tenor voice. But not just his pleasant timbre, also the power of his voice were remarkable. This voice is not made for such small roles and I hope to hear him again in a bigger role soon.
Stephen Milling's Marke was very powerful, solemnly and full of despair. His huge daunting bass voice has a remarkable dark timbre and his performance was really dramatic and very touching. Only sometimes I had the feeling that the very top parts of the role was not totally comfortable for him, but he did a great job anyway.
In the role of Kurwenal we heard Michael Nagy who has a very powerful instrument. One would not think that such a lean young man could sing with such power and volume. But it is not just the power, but also the flexibility and warm timbre of Nagy's voice that convinced me. He gave a brilliant performance and a great portrayal of the role.
British mezzo soprano Sarah Connolly sang the role of Brangäne. She was very good in the lower and middle sections of the part but seemed to reach her limits in the upper parts of the role. Nevertheless she gave a wonderful and touching performance. Especially the Brangäne calls during act 2 were sung very beautifully and brought up a very intimate atmosphere.
Stuart Skelton truly was one of the great highlights of the evening singing the role of Tristan. Being able to sing this role is already an achievement, but singing it so easily and powerfully as Skelton did, that is simply high artistry. His voice is very clear and bright in the upper register and has a very dark timbre in the lower register. The sheer power of his voice was exceptional and he was definitely not afraid of high notes. The intensity of his performance during the third act genuinely gave me goosebumps and showed the inexhaustibility of his stamina. This tenor is a voice to remember and will surely be very successful in the future.
The other great highlight of the evening was Eva-Maria Westbroek as Isolde. Originally being scheduled to sing this role in Bayreuth last year, she would have been a better choice than the singer who did it in the end. Her voice is the perfect blend of powerful stamina and beauty of tone. Especially in the middle register her full-bodied voice is simply beautiful. She does have the power, the dramatic musicality and the voice to sing this role and she gave a magnificent performance. Only the very top notes seemed not totally under control. If she manages to solve those tricky parts she will be hard to top in this role currently.
Alltogether I really had a magic night with this marvelous piece of music and an incredible performance by all participants. Therefor I give 9 stars to this lovely evening.
Reviewed by Daniel Url

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