Tristan and Isolde

Tristan and Isolde
By Richard Wagner. Melbourne Opera. Director: Suzanne Chaundy. Musical Director: Anthony Negus. Palais Theatre, St Kilda, February 5 & 7, 2018 and Robert Blackwood Hall, Monash University, Feb 10.

I attended what should have been the second performance of Tristan and Isolde after the first was cancelled due to a virus affecting the lead soprano and several other cast members. Fortunately Lee Abrahmsen seemed to have fully recovered.

Isolde is a mammoth role and she sang with power and beauty. She was well matched by English heldentenor, Neal Cooper. They made a very credible couple.

Sarah Sweeting was a sympathetic Brangäne, Michael Lampard a strong Kurwenal and Steven Gallop a powerful King Marke. The amateur male chorus did well.

The projections worked well. The first act on the ship had the sea become calm after the love potion has been drunk. The cave scene in the second had a waterfall appear later in the scene at a critical point.

But Tristan and Isolde is a long opera!

Though not as long as some of the operas in Wagner’s Ring, there is very little action, so it seemed longer. The big love duet in the second act had the two lovers singing from opposite sides of the stage, which made it difficult for them to portray a convincing couple. Isolde’s Liebestod, beautifully sung, was sung beside his body without a sideways glance.

The modern costumes clashed with the use of swords and spears, but the orchestra, under Anthony Negus, was a highlight.

In the end it was the singing people came to hear, and that was beautiful.

Graham Ford

Photographer: Robin Halls.

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