Monday, 17 April 2017

Richard Wagner, Tristan und Isolde - Bayerische Staatsoper, Nationaltheater

Performance 13th April

After almost two years of absence the wonderful production of Tristan in Munich had a comeback and I have to admit that I was rather excited to see a performance because of the new Isolde they had scheduled. In the past we had legendary Waltraud Meier do it and for the future we were supposed to have the exceptional Christiane Libor do it, but instead (due to a cancellation of Libor) we got Petra Lang. However, not only Lang was rather problematic during this performance, also the rest of the ensemble had a really really bad night. The first problem was the acting of the performance. Knowing the production I am aware of its playful ideas and Peter Konwitschny's view of the work. Unfortunately most acting during this performance was quite mechanic and clearly studied. That led to a pretty unsatisfying and absolutely not exciting performance of the work that ended up feeling like 10 hours instead of the ususal 4 hours. It is a pity that almost noone of the cast was able to really convince with this normally great production.
Musically there were some serious issues as well that should not happen in a house like the Munich State Opera. Simone Young showed a wonderful rendition of the score together with the Bayerisches Staatsorchester and if had been a concert suite it would have been extremely interesting, but strangely the interaction with the singers was a bit uneven and lacked flexibility. Very often the timing of the orchestra and the singers did not really match and so some sloppy moments happened that could have been avoided.
The smaller roles were sung solidly and more or less appropriately. I especially want to mention Dean Power who sang a youthful and charming sailor. Francesco Petrozzi was a rather strained and unflexible Melot, but managed his part without any serious issues.
Iain Paterson was a fine Kurwenal and gave a convincing performance this evening. I have heard him singing this role in Bayreuth were I liked his performance a bit more, but he did not fail to convince in Munich as well with a emotional and very caring portrayal of the role.
Okka von der Damerau gave her long awaited debut as Brangäne and was definitely one of the pleasing performances of the evening. Her warm and strong mezzo voice suited the role wonderfully and she convinced with power and beautifully sung lines. I felt like she did not feel absolutely comfortable in the role yet, but clearly she will be a first-class Brangäne, once she got used to the role.
René Pape probably saved the evening with his flawless performance as King Marke. His voice fills the auditorium with ease and his noble dark voice is simply perfect for the character. He gave an incredibly convincing performance and showed how Wagner could sound if you are actually able to really sing his music appropriately.
Stephen Gould had a very unlucky day and quite obviously struggled a lot with the role this evening. Having heard him in that role in Bayreuth and Berlin I know that he normally has no problem with it, but this night he had serious health issues and probably should not have sung. I do not want to mention anything more about his performance except that it was quite impressive how he managed to finished the performance with dignity and smart disposition of his remaining forces.
In the role of Isolde, as mentioned before, we heard Petra Lang instead of Christiane Libor. I have to admit that it was better than I imagined, but still it was really not satisfying at all. She was scooping her way through the role as if she was not sure which notes to sing. The extreme portamenti of her voice are disastrous and her intonation is absolutely unreliable. I was actually pretty surprised that she has a rather weak lower register (considering that she originally was a mezzo) and even though her high notes are impressive the role is simply not her thing. I cannot imagine that there is no better singer out there at the moment to sing this role!
Alltogether it was a pretty disappointing evening and probably the most irritating performance I have ever seen in Munich. One can only hope that this was a one-time thing and not something that will happen again soon. Unfortunately that means only 7 stars for Tristan und Isolde at the Bayerische Staatsoper München.
Reviewed by Daniel Url

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