Daniel Barenboim interviewed by Tagesspiegel on his 65th birthday (excerpts in my translation):
How is it going with Tristan and Isolde [to be premiered at La Scala on December 7th, directed by Patrice Chéreau]?
DB: Oh, very good. I must say that Chéreau is a damned talented director (laughs). You probably did not know that "Tristan" is a kind of symbol of our friendship, because Chéreau should have made it with me in Bayreuth in 1981. But back then, he was honest enough to say: I cannot manage it. For five years he was directing the "Ring" on the Green Hill and then immediately afterwards "Tristan" - then Wagner's tetralogy would have become a Pentalogy! I understood that very well. In the nineties, there was another attempt, which didn´t work out for personal reasons, so we have both now talked of "Tristan" for 26 years. Unbelievable!
Have your views of the piece changed?
DB: Well, of course, now I have a little more experience with the score (laughs). And perhaps it is quite good, having done other thins for a quarter of a century, to get back to the starting point. I am very happy working with this piece. Especially because Chéreau´s analysis of the text is exceptionally accurate and based on this knowledge of the text, each character of the piece, so to speak is "fine-tuned". Because he is a gifted actor, he can also give the singers countless valuable advice. I think I don´t reveal too much by saying that Chéreau has understood that this opera is not just a chamber play. What happens between Isolde and Brangaene, between Kurwenal and Tristan, is only made clear, when the public is also involved, including the area of the choir. In addition,Tristan doesn´t exactly die on a rubber boat in this production.....
Speaking of that , what do you say to the current situation in Bayreuth, to the attempts to find a successor to Wolfgang Wagner?
DB: Actually nothing (laughs). Perhaps just this: Bayreuth is an exceptional place so that the artistic quality of his extraordinary place must remain. It must not happen that the level drops. Then the Richard Wagner Festival will lose its existence.
Can structural squabbles like this influence the artistic quality?
DB: The danger is there, of course. Anywhere. You live in Berlin, I live in Berlin, we know what we are talking about.
You are now 65…
DB: Yes, now I can ride the subway in Berlin at half price!