Glyndebourne’s celebrated production of Nikolaus Lehnhoff’s Tristan und Isolde is a supremely intelligent achievement; gravely beautiful, haunting and meditative, it is deeply reflective rather than visceral, fortified by Roland Aeschlimann's stunningly effective set, a womb-like space through which the protagonists move like gods. Conductor Jirí Belohlávek mirrors Lehnhoff's approach in his sophisticated plumbing of the score's depths, with every shift in texture carefully laid bare by an inspired London Philharmonic Orchestra. Nina Stemme's Isolde and Robert Gambill's Tristan, both gloriously lyrical, are matched by superb performances from René Pape as the betrayed and vulnerable King Marke and Bo Skovhus as Kurwenal, deeply touching in his helpless devotion to Tristan. This High Definition recording of a production of uncommon intimacy reveals the opera's music and drama in a new light.
“A performance realised to Glyndebourne's highest standards - the chorus and stage brass are Bayreuth-level, the casting immaculate (they can all really sing these parts) and Belohlávek's conducting balanced with a Goodall-like attention to the filigree detail of Wagner's new-wave scoring.”
“Stemme's fiery Irish princess is even finer than on the Domingo CD… Gambill's burly Tristan projects a darker, more resigned intensity… Pape's black-voiced Marke rightly dominates the stage… Karneus is a passionate, lusciously sung Brangäne. Lehnhoff's Glyndebourne production doesn't outclass Daniel Barenboim's magnificent video... But those looking for a Tristan with warmth and immediacy will find it certainly shares Barenboim's benchmark recommendation.”
“I don’t think that I have ever witnessed a more perfect realisation of a Wagner opera than this superb Tristan und Isolde. …[Jirí Belohlávek] is scrupulous with the score, and takes his time over it: the pauses and silences are immense and there is no factitious attempt to whip up excitement by speeding. …a great and unforgettable occasion”
“The filming of each act begins annoyingly with a Star Wars storyline pan-in on the words 'Tristan und Isolde', 'Act 2' etc, using up the preludes. After that, however, comes a performance realised to Glyndebourne's highest standards – the chorus and stage brass are Bayreuthlevel, the casting immaculate (they can all really sing these parts), and Belohlávek's conducting balanced with a Goodall-like attention to the filigree detail of Wagner's new-wave scoring. Old-style analyses of the music used to talk about the 'glance' motif. Lehnhoff's staging deploys a series of heartbreaking glances: Stemme's Isolde when Karnéus's Brangäne tells her she's taken the love draught, Stemme again when Tristan arrives in Act 2, Pape's Marke as he sees the lovers together and, at BrokebackMountain-level, Skovhus's Kurwenal as he cradles Gambill's Tristan then breaks away, half in fear of his lord's death, half in fear of his feelings for him. In fact, has a Tristan ever been so deeply loved by his lady and squire as here, or felt so wretched at betraying his king? And is Skovhus actually the greatest Kurwenal yet recorded? Roland Aeschlimann provides a geometrically attractive whorl of a standing set, concentric wooden circles telescoping towards a constantly varied horizon: a ship, a spaceship, everywhere, nowhere – perfect. The lighting (Robin Carter and Aeschlimann) has a genuine physical presence and seems to reinvent the colour blue. At the point of Isolde's almost belated arrival in Act 3, a surreal, Ingmar Bergman-like atmosphere permeates events: she arrives from behind on high as a figure of death and wraps him in a black cloak, while Skovhus's poignant Kurwenal gets a non-realistic, Brechtian centre-stage for his fights and death.”
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