Sunday, 24 April 2016

Richard Wagner, Tristan und Isolde - Staatsoper Hamburg

Performance 22nd April

If the union ver.di strikes against Wagner, it barely seems to be a problem for the Hamburg State Opera. Due to ver.di’s strikes, it was not possible to show the planned production by Ruth Berghaus. So the opera was held as a concert staging. A circumstance which was very well received, judging by the standing ovations and bravo calls, which already commenced after the second act and were repeated at the end of the performance. Seemingly those who didn’t return their tickets were not dissapointed.
Kent Nagano conducted the Philharmonische Staatsorchester Hamburg with clear as well as precise movements. Depending on the musical situtation his conduction was soft and graceful or full energy and determination. The cues for the singers were given meticulously so that the contact between Nagano and the singers did’nt break at any time. Nagano conducted with sensitivity towards the accoustics of the house. For example he animated to the musicians to play a bit quieter when Lioba Braun stood behind the orchestra so that she was heard well and clear. The orchestra reacted immediatley to Nagano’s instructions and showed a wide spectrum of tonality. A special shout out to the group of oboes. Especially the solo-parts of the third act played by Thomas Rohde (solo-oboe) and Ralph van Daal (English horn) showed their competence. Similarly convincing was the bass clarinet (Kai Fischer) and the wooden trumpet (Stefan Houy) from behind the scene, as well as the clear sound of the strings. All in all the orchester created a full and together sound, equipped with emotion and dynamics.
The position of the singers in front of the orchestra and the concert staging excellent comprehension of the text conveyed by the singers, so well infact, that subtitles were not necessary. Also the singers – especially Ricarda Merbeth and Stephen Gould – showed an amazing presence on stage interacting with one another as if on a set. The singers weren’t sitting on stage all the time but entered the stage depending on the scene. Stephen Gould sang the title role Tristan. He showed a very present baritone-like sounding middle and depth and also had no problems with the top tones, which were more brightly coloured. At his side: Ricarda Merbeth as Isolde. She had a bright, clear, for the role amazing vibratoless soprano, which was really nice to hear for the audience. She played in a diversified fashion and with passion. Just like Stephan Gould she was able to maintain the same quality and strength of voice all through the performance. Lioba Braun sang the role of Brangäne. Her metallic souding Mezzo fitted perfectly to the sound of the other soloists and at the same time posed a great contrast to Merbeth’s Isolde. She knew how to change the sound and colour of her voice in the right moments. Werner Van Mechelen as Kurwenal, Wilhelm Schwinghammer (König Marke) and Jürgen Sacher in the role of Melot were convincing in the same way. The two members of the opera studio – Daniel Todd (Hirt, Stimme eines jungen Seemanns) and Zak Kariithi (Steuermann) – completed the excellent ensemble of the evening. Only the choir singing from behind a wall, which was built on the stage to block out noise from back-stage, wasn’t heard well. Presumeably this was due to the improvised concert staging.
Before the performance a very good introduction to the plot and the music was given by Volker Wacker.
This evening showed that opera can also work without - the oftentimes disruptive – staging. The music in itself is enough.
10 stars.
Reviewed by Katharina Schiller

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