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CLASSICAL  May 2007

CLASSICAL May 2007

Subject:

Trivializing a Fine "Tristan"

From:

Janos Gereben <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 3 May 2007 17:39:59 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (58 lines)

[Exactly my take on Viola, from the first LA performances three years ago]

   http://tinyurl.com/2d4uwb
   Financial Times / May 4, 2007 / Arts

   The Tristan Project
   Avery Fisher Hall, New York
   MARTIN BERNHEIMER

   Much ado about pretty much.  "The Tristan Project" -- note that
   it isn't called "Tristan und Isolde" -- has been percolating in
   one form or another for two years on two continents.  On Wednesday,
   it finally arrived in New York, and the Wagner-starved multitudes
   cheered the show.  We do mean show.

   Essentially this was a concert performance, the sort in which
   singers share the stage with the orchestra, flip pages on
   music-stands and sip water between solos.  But -- a big /but/
   -- the orchestra was the fine Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the
   conductor was the firebrand Esa-Pekka Salonen.  Unfortunately,
   the music-makers were dwarfed by a stream of pretty movies created
   by Bill Viola, and fussy directorial embellishments were added
   by Peter Sellars.  It was all oh-so-artsy, oh-so-trendy.

   Sound proved more satisfying than sight.  Salonen provided
   always propulsive if sometimes prosaic leadership, favouring
   tension over introspection.  At least it was good tension.
   Christian Franz, a late replacement for Alan Woodrow, imbued
   Tristan with a touch of poetry, and sustained both stamina and
   incisiveness in the process.  Though officially indisposed,
   Christine Brewer managed enough glorious moments to confirm her
   exalted place among the thin ranks of contemporary Isoldes.
   Anne Sofie von Otter introduced the problematic contrast of a
   lightweight, soft-toned Brangane.  Jukka Rasilainen roared roughly
   as a tough Kurwenal, and John Relyea droned darkly as a youthful
   King Mark.

   Unfortunately, Viola trivialized the monumental score at every turn. He
   illustrated Isolde's narrative and curse with a distracting slow-motion
   strip-tease for the protagonists' videogenic doubles, and called the
   nudity expose a purification ritual. Elsewhere he splashed irrelevant
   water-images across the screen -- endless aquatic ballets and enough
   wavy seascapes to induce mass /mal de mer/. Reinforcing the pretentious
   claptrap, Sellars dabbled in spatial and acoustic gimmickry, making some
   characters pop up in side-loges and banishing the sailors' chorus to the
   top balcony. Most telling, the ageless /enfant terrible/ contributed a
   chatty programme synopsis that included this gem of enlightenment: "King
   Mark was Tristan's first lover." Who would have guessed?

Janos Gereben/SF
www.sfcv.org
[log in to unmask]

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