Saturday, 29 October 2011

DVD: Marthaler Bayreuth Tristan with Theorin and Smith

Tristan and Isolde. DVD. Prod: Marthaler, cond: Peter Schneider. Bayreuth 2009. Cast: Iréne Theorin (Isolde), Robert Dean Smith (Tristan), Michelle Breedt (Brangäne), Jukka Rasilainen (Kurwenal), Robert Holl (Marke).

I reviewed this production in detail when I saw it in Bayreuth (with the same cast) in 2008 and my opinion of both singers and staging essentially remains the same. With the notion, however, that Marthaler wins by the DVD transmittion, while some of the singers lose:
Marthaler´s sets are still drab and nothing you´d really want to look at. But the close-up filming focusing of the faces of various characters tend to shift the attention from the fact that we are inside an Eastern-European nightmare to the characters themselves: Isolde, the archetype of a hausfrau, with the shy though polished smile; Brangäne, the typical 1950´s lady, upholding conventions; Tristan, a man without any passion, who only loves Isolde because he has to. People caught in the conventions of the time, not really capable (or wanting?) of passionate love.This is the kind of staging that Marthaler always does, and it does have it´s merits. Though, it still takes more from Wagners timeless, mythical drama than it gives.

What Marthaler wins on the DVD, Iréne Theorin looses, with audible straining in the middle and occasionally the higher register. But her acting is wonderfully restrained and exactly how one imagines a Eastern-European hausfrau looks. Ditto for Brangäne, but I will never learn to love Michelle Breedt´s shrill voice. Also Rasilainen seemed tired, while Robert Dean Smith is a fine, though passionless Tristan.

While Peter Schneider certainly knows his way with the score, also he lacks passion and the sense of contrapunct essential to release the score.

Certainly a DVD worth watching, but the Tristan DVD competition is becoming rather stiff. With this, I have reviewed 10 Tristan DVDs, and for one-set owners I´d recommend one of Daniel Barenboim´s three magnificent productions. This set will mostly appeal to Tristan or Wagner afficionados.

The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):

Iréne Theorin: 4
Robert Dean Smith: 4
Jukka Rasilainen: 3
Michelle Breedt: 3
Robert Holl: 3

Marthaler: 3
Schneider: 4

Overall impression: 3

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