Compositions: Tristan und Isolde
Performers: Andreas Schager t, Rachel Nicholls s,
Catalogue Number: C Major 752208 (2DVD)
With its static stretches of music Tristan und Isolde has always responded well to a minimalist approach. Pierre Audi’s Rome Opera staging, filmed here in 2016, harks back to Wieland Wagner’s post-WWII productions with Christof Hetzer’s monolithic sets suggesting rather than depicting. Audi makes the occasional odd choice (why are the potions lumps of rock? And does Kurwenal really need to knife Brangäne?) but while close camerawork misses elements one suspects are crucial to Audi’s vision, it’s well-thought through and meticulously acted, stylistically timeless yet traditional.
In these Wagner singer-scarce days it’s also extremely well cast with a refreshingly thrusting account of the score by the now #MeToo disgraced Daniele Gatti. Andreas Schager’s Tristan is heroically sung, his bright, clean tenor wonderfully caught. As Isolde, Rachel Nicholls pours forth a stream of radiant tone, both implacable and vulnerable. Michelle Breedt’s Brangäne is rich and sympathetic, Brett Polegato is a fierce, virile-toned Kurwenal (for once he’s not a spent force). As King Marke, John Relyea possesses enormous gravitas, both vocally and dramatically.
Gatti’s pacing is superb, full of nuance and dramatic energy. Excitingly fast at times, he nevertheless takes care to shape and shade emotional climaxes. Sound is excellent.