Tristan has always been my favourite of Wagner's operas, and I love all of them very much. The best Tristan Und Isolde on DVD for me has always been the 1983 Bayreuth performance. This one from 1967, which I do have on a very old VHS, is legendary and a must see. The picture quality could have done with more focus and the sound less fuzzy in places, but everything else is spot on. The costumes and sets don't look fake in any way, often looking very scenic, while the orchestral playing is lush and powerful and of all the conductors who conducted Tristan for me only Bohm, Karajan and Barenboim have been better than Boulez whose conducting is perfectly-judged tempo-wise and suitably enigmatic. The chorus are also splendid, the performances even more so. Wolfgang Windgassen is one of the finest Tristans I know. His voice may be rather lightweight, in comparison to big guttural voices like Jon Vickers, but the whole performance is very sympathetically felt(especially in the notoriously difficult Act 3, where he is very profound) and sung with great musicianship and I think beauty of tone instead to resorting to straining and bellowing. Birgit Nilsson's Isolde is sensational, her big voice is rather steely(I always did find Kirsten Flagstead's voice warmer) but nonetheless thrilling, and her Liebestod is incredibly poignant and quite harrowing also. The chemistry between her and Windgassen is most evident, especially in the erotic and exciting love duet in Act 2. Frans Andersson is a loyal and very well-sung Kurwenal, just as good as Wachter and Berry, and Hertha Topper, in the most interesting supporting role of the opera of Brangane, is suitably firm, if not as creamy as Ludwig's, and again she displays good chemistry with Nilsson. Hans Hotter is not at his best vocally, the voice is still rich and powerful but with a wobble that I didn't find in his magnificent Wotan and Gurnemanz. His acting though is very intense and moving, Hotter didn't just sing/play his roles, with the help of the intellectual command he brings to every one of his interpretations, he lives the role of King Marke with superior musicianship(like Talvela for example under Bohm he makes a potential bore of a character the most sympathetic character of the opera). All in all, legendary. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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