Monday, August 2, 2010

First Reviews of TRISTAN

Saturday night was an exciting night at Seattle Opera: tremendous music-making, an alert and wildly enthusiastic audience, and an innovative new production. Although traffic made getting to the theater an adventure for some, the performance began on time. Anticipation was keen in the air as the opening projection, an image of the first page of Wagner's autograph score, blurred and faded and the orchestra played the famous first phrase, then paused for an inconceivably tense silence. And so the night continued, the audience greeting Maestro Fisch with a thunderous ovation as he stepped to the podium to begin Act Three.

The first reviews came out this morning. In the SEATTLE TIMES, Bernard Jacobson called Tristan "An Opera of the Mind" and wrote of "the overwhelming vocal and orchestral glory this performance achieved under Asher Fisch's masterful baton." He says of the leads, "Annalena Persson unfurled a securely centered tone that could dominate the ensemble with apparent ease. There is an edge to her sound, but an edge that thrills rather than disturbs. And for once we could watch a singer whose slim, tall figure and beauty made a truly credible Isolde. Her worthy partner as Tristan was Clifton Forbis, a tenor with a warm baritonal tinge to his voice, and equally adept in portraying the intermingled torment and ecstasy of his role." Of the production, he says that Peter Kazaras "showed us a extratemporal drama taking place not in the physical world but in the characters’ imaginations, perhaps in that supposed instant of insight that precedes death."

Writing for THE CLASSICAL REVIEW, Melinda Bargreen said "An almost overwhelming volume of sound sweeps out from the stage and into the house...Greer Grimsley made an affecting and resonant Kurwenal. Margaret Jane Wray’s gleaming, powerful soprano gave the handmaiden role of Brangäne unusual impact. Stephen Milling was almost too good as King Marke: a noble, empathetic man whose pain and decency were made so real."

As for R. M. Campbell, in THE GATHERING NOTE he writes that Maestro “Fisch never disappoints in elucidating the music. His palette seems immense, his range of dynamic variation equally large. He has full command of the line, which never seems to end, and produces tremendous beauty of tone. He gets the best of this orchestra." And, speaking of the production, Campbell says "Tristan is long but one is never aware of its length with Kazaras. He keeps the action moving surely and without any silly gestures and useless movement. He listens to the music the way some directors seem not to...Kazaras is not afraid to let the music have its say."

In THE SUNBREAK, Michael van Baker writes that "Clifton Forbis's wounded Tristan suppurates with post-breakup bile, then sinks into a fevered vision of escape. Eaten alive by his need, shame, and self-doubt, he wavers on the edge of oblivion and self-forgiveness." Elsewhere, van Baker details some elements he liked about the production, others he didn't. On Saturday, the audience leaped to their feet at the end (although as Van Baker points out, several noisy patrons booed the production team when they came out for their bows).

There was much interesting (and all positive) discussion at our post-show Q&A, at which Director Peter Kazaras and Designer Robert Israel joined Speight Jenkins. Discussion on FACEBOOK so far has included comments such as "Pure magic at the theater" (Jonathan Caves), "Tristan und Isolde was amazing. The way the stage director used color to illustrate human emotion was genius. GO SEE IT" (Erina Kii), and "Intense, but very enjoyable" (Dan Balliff), and "Thank you for the amazing experience of Tristan. I was mesmerized. Please bring back each one of those incredible artists! I appreciated the incredible effort and thought behind each detail" (Sandra Inoshita Olson).

I look forward to watching the discussion continue over the next few weeks. Production photo by Rozarii Lynch.

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