It’s not often that you get ecstatic cheers and furious boos in the same evening. But that’s what happened when this production of Richard Wagner ’s epic paean to love and death premiered at the Royal Opera House in 2009. The cheers were for Nina Stemme’ s thrilling and heart- breaking performance as Isolde, as well as for Antonio Pappano ’s insightful conducting. Both return for this run, together with American Heldentenor and Wagner specialist Stephen Gould as Tristan. Stemme in particular, whose singing had reviewers reaching for superlatives, is a huge draw.
The boos were for the director Christof Loy and designer Johannes Leiacker. Not for them, Wagnerian ships or castles, flowing robes and lavish scenery; instead, the singers, clad in monochrome, modern-day dress, perform for the most part on a bare stage. There’s just a curtain and a cut-out door to convey the divide between the public and private, the real and metaphysical. Loy, it seems, prefers to let the music speak. “I don’t like superficial distractions”, he has said. Critics, for the most part understood his approach and were far more complimentary, saying the stripped-back production brought to the fore the troubled psyches and the true relationships of the characters.
Tristan und Isolde has been described as a landmark opera in Western classical music, primarily because of its innovative use of harmonic dissonance, which creates heightened drama and tension throughout the three acts. At five hours long, it is undoubtedly a test of stamina for audiences and musicians, but that’s what we expect from Wagner operas. As well as, of course, the sublime, achingly beautiful music.
|What||Tristan und Isolde, Royal Opera House|
|Where||Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
05 Dec 14 – 21 Dec 14, 5:00 PM – 9:55 PM
|Website||Click here to book via Culture Whisper and See Tickets|