Monday, 27 February 2017

Richard Wagner, Tristan und Isolde - Aalto-Musiktheater

Performance 25th February

Part two of my Essen journey was one of my absolute favorites and probably one of the most dramatic love stories of all time. The production led by Barrie Kosky has an interesting concept and does not fail to convey a special atmosphere. The Stage (Klaus Grünberg) features a single room that is quite small compared to the full stage and the whole action takes place in this small room. While in act 1 it seemed a bit odd to have only this little bit of space the following two acts showed the idea of this concept. During the famous love duet in act 2 the room was constantly turned several times so that the singers had to walk on the walls and ultimately also the ceiling. This created an atmosphere in which we know that everything is upside down and there is no place in reality for these lovers. While in the first two acts we only saw the room surrounded by a black wall, in act three we were able to see the whole construction surrounded by sheep showing that they are alone on this deserted island. After I while I started to appreciate the production more and more and alltogether it was really well done. The costumes by Alfred Mayerhofer also suited the characters and supported the overal concept very well.
Musically there were some really great performances as well. Frank Beermann conducted a very clear and elegant version of the score with a great balance between passion and control. The Essener Philharmoniker played way better than the other night and really gave a ravishing performance. They sounded lush and the performance was much more intense.
Most of the smaller roles were sung appropriately. Karel Martin Ludvik sang a rather dark Melot which suited the character quite well.
Tijl Faveyts was a solid Marke with an elegant and warm bass voice. His performance could have feature the despair of the king a bit more, but alltogether he gave a solid performance.
As Kurwenal we heard Heiko Trinsinger who has a powerful heroic baritone voice which suited the role very well. The warm timbre combined with a very convincing portrayal of the role made his performance a real treat. Especially during the lengthy final act he helped to keep the level of attention up.
Martina Dike was a wonderful Brangäne with a warm and flexible mezzo voice. The necessary power combined with a highly musical performance showed that this is a great role for her. She sang very beautifully and simply gave a thrilling performance throughout the evening.
Jeffrey Dowd's Tristan was a bit misplaced. Having seen that he already sang this role at the premiere (in 2006) I do believe that he is past his prime. His voice seemed not comfortable with the role at all. He was so busy just to manage the role that it simply did not convince in the end. He lacks the power and stamina that is crucial for the role and his timbre seems not to be fitting as well. Unfortunately he was no match for his Isolde even though he managed to get through the evening without any serious issues.
Dara Hobbs was a wonderful Isolde with a surprisingly youthful timbre. I have to say that at some moment she reminded me of the Isolde recording of Margaret Price. While also having enough power to be heard over the orchestra Hobbs has an impeccable lyric quality in her voice which makes her interpretation very exciting. Her ringing high notes (including two really impressive high c's) and her beautiful legato singing suited the role very well (way better than the usual "over" dramatic sopranos). She had enough stamina to finish the evening with a utterly beautiful rendition of the famous Liebestod.
Alltogether it was a really good performance that started a bit cautious and got better with every minute. So finally I can give 9 stars to this interesting rendition of Tristan und Isolde.
Reviewed by Daniel Url

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