Tristan und Isolde – Glyndebourne (DVD)

0 of 5 stars

Wagner
Tristan und Isolde – Music-drama in three acts to a libretto by the composer

Tristan – Robert Gambill
Isolde – Nina Stemme
Brangäne – Katarina Karnéus
Kurwenal – Bo Skovhus
King Marke – René Pape
Melot – Stephen Gadd
Young Sailor / Shepherd – Timothy Robinson
Steersman – Richard Mosley-Evans

The Glyndebourne Chorus

London Philharmonic Orchestra
Jiří Bĕlohlávek

Nikolaus Lehnhoff – Stage Director
Thomas Grimm – Television Director

Recorded at Glyndebourne Opera House, Lewes, UK, on 1 & 6 August 2007


Reviewed by: Christian Hoskins

Reviewed: March 2008
CD No: OPUS ARTE
OA 0988 D (3 DVDs)
Duration: 3 hours 58 minutes (opera)
1 hour 44 minutes (documentaries)

This Opus Arte DVD captures Glyndebourne’s 2007 revival of “Tristan und Isolde”, which was the Opera Festival’s first Wagner production when originally staged in 2003. It had been the aim of the festival’s founder, John Christie, to stage Wagner at Glyndebourne, but the musical preferences of Audrey Mildmay, Christie’s wife, and the small size of the original theatre meant that Mozart was preferred when performances commenced in 1934. It wasn’t until the opening of the 1,200-seat theatre in 1994 that Wagner productions became viable, and Nikolaus Lehnhoff was invited to produce ‘Tristan’.

Among other rival DVD versions, Barenboim’s 1983 performance, recorded at Bayreuth without an audience, is very compelling. The production is rather artificial and the picture quality is grainy, but Barenboim’s conducting brings excitement and intensity to the score and his Isolde, Johanna Meier, is outstanding. The performance suffers from a rather underwhelming ‘Liebestod’, but this Bayreuth version brings one much closer to the heart of Wagner’s music than the Glyndebourne production.

The Opus Arts DVD benefits from a clear, wide-screen presentation and a mixture of middle-distance and close-up cameras from television director Thomas Grimm. The orchestra is immediately recorded but has good balance and a sense of space. However, the singers are placed very centrally in the stereo spread, which sounds rather odd, as does the left-channel placement of the hunting horns at the start of Act Two. There is also a surround-sound DTS option, although it adds little to the stereo version.

Opus Arts have provided two significant extras. The first is a film entitled “Do I hear the light?”, which features interviews with Lehnhoff, Bĕlohlávek and the principle singers interspersed with extracts from the performance. The second, “Trimborn on Tristan” is a fascinating technical exploration of the music and text by voice-coach and musicologist Richard Trimborn.

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