Switzerland Wagner, Tristan and Isolde: Soloists, Chorus of Zurich Opera, Philharmonia Zurich / Gianandrea Noseda (conductor). Zurich Opera, Zurich. 26.6.2022 (JR)
Director – Claus Guth
Assistant – Sylvie Döring
Sets and costumes – Christian Schmidt
Lighting – Jürgen Hoffmann
Chorus – Ernst Raffelsberger
Choreography – Volker Michl
Dramaturgy – Ronny Dietrich
Isolde – Camilla Nylund
Brangäne – Michelle Breedt
Tristan – Michael Weinius
King Marke – Franz Josef Selig
Kurwenal – Martin Gantner
Melot – Todd Boyce
Shepherd / Sailor – Thomas Erlank
Steersman – Andrew Moore
This was the opening performance of a second revival of a Claus Guth production, first seen here in 2008 with Nina Stemme as Isolde; in the last revival in 2015, Stephen Gould sang the role of Tristan. Michelle Breedt returns for the third time as Brangäne. All the other singers are newcomers to this production.
Tristan and Isolde is closely connected with Zurich, more particularly due to Wagner’s extremely close relationship with his muse for this work, Mathilde von Wesendonck, the wife of his patron. The main protagonists are shown in rooms which might have existed at that time in Zurich’s Villa Wesendonck, in costumes of the period. There are no visible ships (except for some graffiti on the castle on the Breton coast in Act III), no sailors, but that does not harm the production. As the stage revolves, we move from bedroom to winter garden, to the dining room (where Tristan sweeps away the remains of dinner and candelabra to make love to Isolde on the table), to the reception room where the King is entertained at a cocktail party. It is an interesting, intelligent production and the scenes where the crowd on stage freezes adds an entertaining extra theatrical dimension.
Camilla Nylund, a Gianandrea Noseda favourite, is new to the role of Isolde and it suits her voice; her top notes were piercing (as she curses Tristan) and thrilling. The start of her Liebestod (‘Mild und leise’) was most tender. After this impressive debut, she will certainly grow into the role still further. Later this year Nylund will sing the role of Brünnhilde in Zurich Opera’s new Die Walküre.
Michael Weinius is a sturdy Swedish tenor with plenty of stamina, adequate theatrical skills, and the full vocal range. Weinius and Nylund were well matched in every sense. There were some giggles in the audience when both tried somewhat awkwardly to climb onto the Putinesque dining table to consummate their relationship.
The loudest ‘bravi’ were, rightly, for two of the less prominent roles: Franz Josef Selig was in peak form as King Marke, a splendid performance all round: a truly sonorous, regal bass. Martin Gantner (a recent Bayreuth Beckmesser) was a jolly Kurwenal, with the clearest diction, and the cleanest, strong baritone. Michelle Breedt demonstrated once again her experience in the role of Brangäne. Todd Boyce (Melot), Thomas Erlank (as Shepherd and Sailor) and Andrew Moore (Steersman) completed the cast: all with distinction.
In the pit, Noseda once again (after his recent performances of Das Rheingold) showed his empathy with the music of Wagner, extracting the most gorgeous sounds from the orchestra. The orchestra played magnificently for him, balance with the singers was exemplary, dynamics controlled throughout. The offstage hunting horns were a particular glory, as was the shepherd’s cor anglais.
Wagner lovers should seriously consider a trip to Zurich for this very fine Tristan: there are further performances on June 29, July 2, 6 and 9. It can be neatly combined with a very well received modern production of The Marriage of Figaro by Jan Philipp Gloger (performances continue on July 1, 3, 7 and 10).