Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Richard Wagner, Tristan und Isolde - Oper Graz

Performance 20th November

As second part of my weekend in Graz I saw the new production of Richard Wagner's epic love story between Tristan and Isolde. An opera that never fails to get my attention with its drug-like impact. The production led by Verena Stoiber is showing some interesting ideas, but fails to really make sense in the end. She indicates that Tristan and Isolde do have some sort of failing marriage at from the beginning of the opera. At some moments this idea works quite well, but most of the time it creates plenty of contradictions. Those many contradictions become more and more disturbing during the evening and leave the audience bored and irritated in the end. Even though the modern elegant stage by Sophia Schneider (also responsible for the costumes) and Susanne Gschwender looks really great with its cold, but very chic beachhouse, the production simply fails to promote the plot. However, while the optical charms of the production did not succed to convince me, the musical part managed to do so.
Robin Engelen led the performance with great musicality and dramatic sense. He had full controll over everything and was able to still stay very flexible during the whole evening. Especially during the famous love scene he kept the tempi very adjustable so that he could totally bring out the passion and the excitement of the scene. Only the volume level was sometimes a bit too high which made it difficult for some of the singers at certain moments. The Grazer Philharmonisches Orchester played very passionately with great emotion and impressive accuracy. They managed to created that strange suction which is so typical for Wagner's Tristan. Also the gentlemen of the Chor der Oper Graz did very well during their appearances in the first act.
The small roles of Melot, young sailsman & shepherd and the navigator were sung by Manuel von Senden, Martin Fournier and Dariusz Perczak. All three of them sang very appropriately on a good level, but especially Fournier convinced with a youthful balanced tenor voice.
Markus Butter sang the role of Kurwenal with great passion and full of enthusiastic energy. His virile and heroic baritone voice has a very pleasant timbre and enough flexibility to sing the role excitingly and convincingly. Dshamilja Kaiser also gave a magnificent performance as Brangäne and really impressed me with her singing. Her creamy mezzo voice has a gorgeous warm timbre and also the dramatic weight for a Wagner mezzo role like this. She really gave a flawless performance from the low parts of the role to the shiny top notes. BRAVO!
As King Marke we heard Guido Jentjens who was probably the least pleasing performer of the evening. His voice lacked the authority and the grave dark timbre that is so essential for this role. Even though he sang every note it simply did not convince me in the end.
The Tristan of this performance was performed by Zoltán Nyári who was the biggest surprise for me. I have never heard this name before but his performance was simply incredible. His powerful tenor voice has everything the role calls for: power, flexibility, an easy top and the stamina to keep going until the very last line. Nyári is definitely a name to remember and I am sure that we will hear it more often in the future.
Also the singer of Isolde, Gun-Brit Barkmin, surprised me. Not being impressed by her Chrysothemis last year in Vienna I did not have great expectations, but she definitely proved me wrong. Her youthful focused soprano might not be the biggest, but she sang the role so elegantly and emotionally that I simply had to like it. She has a very easy top and a very flexible voice that is able to do very beautiful phrasing without losing the drama of the role. If she is careful enough with her voice and does not try to sing such roles in houses that are too big she will definitely be a very very successful Isolde during the next few years.
Alltogether musically the performance was enormously pleasing, but when it comes to the production itself it fails to convince. A pity to mix the wonderful musical potential of the performance with such an inadequate staging. Therefor I can only give 8 stars even though the musical part would definitely earn 9.
Reviewed by Daniel Url

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