One page of the Tristan and Isolde score. Remember that I promissed to show you the difference between Wagner score and Bizet score? This almost black page belongs to Wagner. This one is from Carmen.
Conductor's score and baton
This is the "set". That black think in the background is a curtain. It moves from left to right very often. Behind it there are more chairs and tables.
Tristan - Ben Heppner
Isolde - Nina Stemme
Kurwenal - Michael Volle
Brangäne - Sophie Koch
Melot - Richard Berkeley Steele
Sailor - Ji-Min Park
Steersman - Dawid Kimberg§
Shepherd - Ryland Davies
Conductor - Antonio Pappano
Director - Christof Loy
Designs - Johannes Leiacker
Lighting Designer - Olaf Winter
......This was my first Wagner experienced live, from beginning to end. And I was glad there was the chance to see it in London, with some of the best singers, Nina Stemme and Ben Heppner. And it was the 227th performance on the stage of the Royal Opera House.
......This Wagnerian masterpiece "Tristan und Isolde" lasts for 5 hours, with two 30 minute intervals. There are 3 acts, each of them of 80 minutes. It’s long and there are a lot of words involved. I think you have to be prepared for Wagner. It’s not easy to understand the music. It's completely different of what I’ve heard before. It’s beautiful but it never stops. It’s like the sea with waves. Always moving. And Antonio Pappano was magnificent. He managed to get the best of that orchestra, as he always does. Music has to support the voices. And the composer sometimes forgot that there’s somebody singing onstage. The music is normally very loud but the conductor reached that degree of loudness so the voices could be perfectly heard.
......Speaking of voices, I still don’t understand how they can sing so much, how they can remember all the lyrics, they don’t have to get tired. Isolde is on stage 2 whole acts, then takes a break in the 3rd act but comes back on stage and ends the opera with one beautiful aria. Nina Stemme has a great voice. It’s fresh, clear, and powerful. Acting is great too. But for Wagner I guess the sets and acting are not as important as the voice and the music. A singer starts to sing Wagner after having performed a certain number of years and he/she is aware that the voice might suffer in time. The effort is double, the passages are very long, sometimes 10-12 minutes or maybe more. But everything is beautiful as soon as you get the meaning.
......Ben Heppner managed to finish the opera in a good way, despite his voice cracking 3 times. First time it was in the 2nd act. What a singer could think of in that precise moment knowing that it was totally wrong but there are still two more acts to sing? It must be awful. Nina Stemme took over and he had time to concentrate. The other two times were in act 3. But here he was alone on stage. After about 10 minutes of singing, the voice dropped. So sorry. These things happen sometimes. Only that after the first cracking, for the entire length of the opera I was afraid this might happen again. And it did. It creates a sort of discomfort. But I consider these just accidents. What he did on stage is amazing. What they all did was great.
......I won’t comment on sets. It was a modern production, as you can see in the pictures. Chairs, tables and a curtain. The director (Christof Loy) uses these a lot (see the Lucrezia Borgia he did for Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich). The magic comes from the lightning. There’s always this night and day thing all over the opera. They meet in secret and the darkness protects them, then he waits the dawn for her ship to come, and so on. The significance of the lyrics is more profound and can’t get it only by reading the subtitles, which are a shortened version of what they’re saying.
Did I like it? Yes, a lot, because it’s different.
Would I go again? Definitely.
And the great Nina Stemme