What's the plus side of having two days of an allegedly 24-hour virus,
a throat the feels like industrial-grade sandpaper, and the dread of
facing a coughing fit during the quietest passage of "Tristan und Isolde"?
If you belong to the stupider, rather than "weaker," sex, the bright
side of this predicament is that tears in your eyes may be interpreted
as sufficiently manly, the result of the struggle to maintain control.
Those watching these developments (surely the entire, well-packed War
Memorial Opera House audience at today's matinee) were kept in the dark,
presumably, about the real source of the wet stuff. It was yet another
miracle from the Opera Orchestra, under Donald Runnicles' baton, the
small town by land's end producing the kind of sound expected in Berlin,
London, and the like.
As on the opening night of this production, the sound from the crowded
pit seemingly came from a single instrument (nothwithstanding the gorgeous
virtuoso woodwind playing), with the color of the rainbow, layer upon
layer of tear-producing beauty. This, as I say, was the same fabulous
orchestral performance as at the Oct. 5 premiere - and yet everything
was quite different. Instead of the red-hot first act two weeks ago,
today's performance was restrained, more subtle, but Runnicles' consistency
made it just as valid and grand as the earlier interpretation.
The second act before was uniformly lyrical; this afternoon brought a
gloriously schizophrenic performance. This time, the act's first half
was breathless, heaven-storming, orgiastic; the second half chamber-music
quiet, whispering, lyrical, understated. (Sandpaper throat prevented
attendance to Act 3.)
Principal singers today also "sang another opera." Both Jane Irwin
(Brangane) and Kristinn Sigmundsson (King Marke) turned in good performances,
but not quite on the level of the opening night.
The Isolde, Christine Brewer, cut back on volume, and floated notes of
shimmering beauty. The more you listen to Brewer, the more you appreciate
her. Thomas Moser, the Tristan, came close to marking at times, but he
never sounded better, enchanting with his bel canto Wagner that recalled
the blessed memory of Gosta Winbergh. Following the orchestra took
priority for this listener, but in the quiet passages of the love duet,
differentiation was no longer possible between the various elements.
There was oneness the text speaks of, a coalescence to which the music
aspires. A three-hankie opera, virus or not.
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