Tristan und Isolde
Stuart Skelton t, Gun-Brit Barkmin s, West Australian Symphony Orchestra, Asher Fisch
ABC CLASSIC 4818518 (3CD)
With Skelton and Barkmin onboard, Asher Fisch finesses a West Australian matter of love and death
Tristan and Parsifal are, for me, the best Wagner operas and the most exhilarating to conduct. I cannot tell you which is better, But they’re the best operas in the repertory. Period. Nothing is better. – Asher Fisch
Asher Fisch has been nurturing and honing the West Australian Symphony Orchestra into a classy ensemble, culminating in this gala event for its 90th anniversary.
Gun-Brit Barkmin offers a formidable Isolde, the Narration capped by a gleaming high B. Her firm lower register easily copes with those taxing low notes, a fine match for Stuart Skelton’s polished mahogany baritonal hue. His Tristan is most remarkable in its range of expression from gentle caress to roaring rage. “Daylight’s” knight of honour all gruff and clipped of manner hiding his true-self behind a shield of duty – the “night-time” lover shaped with the most subtle means. He sings very much “on the words” but doesn’t disturb the line. A towering performance from a great singing actor.
Ekaterina Gubanova is a fine Brangäne, her warning from the tower sending chills down the spine. Boaz Daniel’s Kurwenal is especially fine in Act Three and Ain Anger nobly intones King Marke. The orchestra cover themselves with glory; supple strings, superb winds and solid, well-blended brass. Fisch shapes the whole with a firm grasp of the architecture; a lithe and supple reading. Its refreshingly clear textures illuminate the work from within. ABC Classic has captured the event with remarkably fine engineering – the voices ideally balanced, forward but not too close – the orchestral image startlingly transparent and firm. Warwick Arnold