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This production of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde is very nicely done. However, the sound isn't that great, the pacing is off at times, the camera work was a tad rushed at times and the picture quality is grainy. Complaints aside, the sets and costumes are wondrous, the lighting is effective and the music is a joy to behold. The whole production is worth seeing for just the Prelude to Act 1, the Love Duet and the Liebestod all on their own. Karl Bohm does a fine job conducting as well, I will briefly say that I do prefer Herbert Von Karajan when it comes to Wagner but this was very assuredly conducted by a great conductor. The singing is excellent. Jon Vickers is a revelation as Tristan, he has a really outstanding acting ability here and his whole performance in act 3 was out of this world. Birgit Nilson is a lovely Isolde, looking beautiful and singing and acting a dream, her Liebestod is achingly poignant here. Ruth Hesse acts well as Brangane, whose role is quite significant here, and her singing is decent. She isn't quite Crista Ludwig, but she does well. Walter Berry, a fine bass who will be sorely missed is a fine Kurwenal, and Bengt Rundgren is an imposing King Mark. Overall, nicely done, with problems of course, but I liked it. It is well worth seeing for the music, Vickers and Nilson alone. 8/10 Bethany Cox
Filmed live at the Theater Antique D'Orange, France in the summer of
1974, this Tristan And Isolde is of particular significance to fans of
its lead tenor/soprano pair - Jon Vickers and the late Birgit Nilsson,
who by this time in their career had garnered fame and fans. Just look
at how vast that audience is, seemingly thousands of people are in that
amphitheater, and all of them there to watch this amazing pair! This
opera performance is of particular importance because Birgit Nilsson
died on December 25th, 2005 and this is one of her very few filmed
performances. The other one is her 1980 Elektra. All fans of La Nilsson
will want this one because Isolde was one of her greatest roles.
Vickers and Nilsson give it their all, singing with expressive vocal
technique, dramatic and beautiful tones,Wagnerian musicality and Jon
Vickers is even trying to be somewhat macho and sexy in the "bad boy"
sort of way. Mezzo-soprano Ruth Hesse is perhaps the most satisfying
Brangane ever performed, and this fact is a sad one as she was not
famous in the States or in the world opera scene and was probably a
lesser-known European/German singer herself,maybe even an understudy
for some other great mezzo soprano who might have been indisposed to
sing the role that night. Could it have been Regina Resnik who sang
Brangane opposite Nilsson many times before,even on the Solti studio
recording from 1963 ? Ruth Hesse uses a dramatic voice, and is
beautiful to hear, making her role more active and passionate than
other Branganes who try to be lesser lights to Isolde. This performance
makes Brangane look especially important to the story. After all, it is
she who opted to switch the death potions to love potions which still
resulted in the death of Tristan and Isolde.
As for Jon Vickers, his Tristan has long been hailed as the finest interpretation. Vocal-wise, it's a revelation. Where as Wagnerian tenors before him were bombastic and unsubtle (take Laurence Melchior and Wolfgang Windgassen for example) Vickers manages to sing with a degree of subtlety and nuance. This is a vigorous, very masculine Tristan, but one with a romantic, softer, vulnerable core. His first encounter with Isolde is particularly dramatic and thrilling, the Love Duet is heavenly and his Final scenes, in which he has been wounded and sings of death and reunion with Isolde, is especially powerful. Some, however, may see him as melodramatic. He does appear to be going mad before he dies in Isolde's arms. This can seem inappropriate or downright silly. Its a "death scene" but not a Mad Scene. This is, of course, debatable. But, still, he may have been in better voice in the 60's and around the time of this performance, he has not lost power but he has lost the effective way of singing a "death scene". That is about the only complaint I have of his. As for Birgit Nilsson, she is in her element here. Isolde was her debut role at the Met, at least 12 years earlier. She may have lost the ability to sing with some lyric beauty but she is still a powerful singer, her high register is electrifying, and she maintains excess within control. That final Liebestod is probably the best she ever sang in her career (unless I'm wrong I was never around to hear her sing all of her Isoldes). She is singing with more pianissimi and lyricism than she usually does, toning down the "Valkyrie" power of her voice to sound hauntingly beautiful and "transfigured". I rather like that particular touch because in the closing Liebestod scene, Nilsson appears divinely beautiful and, beneath the glare of stadium lights, sings the aria as if it were some kind of national anthem.The result: it is us, the audience, who are transfigured by hearing her sing. Perhaps the only downside is too much control that she looks too cool and passive, lacking dramatic passion. Compare her to Vickers and you'll note how Vickers sings Tristan far more passionately and Nilsson's Isolde is very tame and lackluster from a dramatic point of view. Therefore such scenes as the finale in which Isolde reunites with the dying Tristan is a disappointment. But even like this, hers is the definitive Isolde too many Wagnerian opera lovers. She identifies with the role because her heritage is Nordic/Aryan, and that was what Wagner's music was all about- the honor and romance of ancient European lore. Her Germanic singing is unbeatable, her technique is supercharged, exciting and she sings a role that is quite frankly the most difficult soprano role in opera so casually that one wonders if she could sing the whole opera in the shower!! All true devotees of La Birgit will want to get this DVD.
I see that no one has commented on this filmed performance of Tristan &
Isolde in Paris 1973, so I thought that I could write something.
I bought the DVD release of this performance not long ago, and it was quite an experience. The picture quality wasn't too good and so was the camera work. But Jon Vickers and Birgit Nilsson were so good in the their roles, it didn't matter about the picture. The sound too wasn't good, which was an annoyance. The whole performance, especially Vickers' act 3 performance, was exceptional. All were good, with a possible exception of Ruth Hesse as Brangane. Her tone wasn't too good several times and nothing compared to the best of era, Christa Ludwig. But she acted very well, so it was a very rewarding experience.
I am used to see Operas, but I really didn't liked this one. *The audio
is terrible, to start.
* Isolde, of the real story is blonde. The lead singer is the opposite.
*They didn't played some of the coolest parts of the story of Tristan and Isolde, and since this opera is so long, time wasn't exactly a problem.
* Where are the changes of scenario? Usually the best Operas has a frequent change of scenarios. This is vital for us, as viewers, to imagine what is happening in each part of the story. A person that is not used to see Operas, or never read the Tristan and Isolde's story, will be a little bit lost.
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