HomeOperaAssessment: A ‘Tristan und Isolde’ Performs Out in Shadows and Mild

Assessment: A ‘Tristan und Isolde’ Performs Out in Shadows and Mild

SANTA FE, N.M. — The play of sunshine has all the time been a part of the present on the Santa Fe Opera: its majestic, open-sided theater within the foothills making drama out of the darkening of the sky and the brightening of the celebrities, even the flash of a hopefully distant storm.

However in Santa Fe’s admirably understated, lovingly trustworthy new “Tristan und Isolde,” the summer time home’s first Wagner for greater than 30 years and its solely foray up to now into the composer’s dramas past “The Flying Dutchman,” mild strikes middle stage.

Day and night time lie on the coronary heart of “Tristan,” the previous representing the evident, intrusive actuality from which Tristan and Isolde battle to flee of their love, the latter their “wondrous realm,” as Tristan sings of it, of freedom, of ardour and finally of oblivion.

There was a time when that metaphor was handled as a minimum of considerably expendable; in deference to singers’ stamina, Wagner’s longest disquisition on the philosophical metaphor, in Act II, was historically minimize.

However the incompatibility of the worlds of sunshine and darkish are taken as an organizing precept in Santa Fe’s “Tristan,” with delicate projections by Greg Emetaz that construct on good lighting by John Torres. Co-directed by the hotshots Lisenka Heijboer Castañón and Zack Winokur, it contrasts vivid white with pitch black, and infrequently dwells within the shades in between.

The result’s stuffed with placing, poignant photos. We meet Tristan as a towering silhouette, as an illustration, a projection onto which Isolde can repair her grievances; that picture finds its echo hours later, because the shadow of absent Isolde paces the partitions of Tristan’s hallucinating thoughts.

A lot of the primary act takes place in a cramped field of sunshine, as Isolde is entrapped on her voyage to wed King Marke. When she narrates her failure to kill Tristan earlier, to avenge his homicide of Morold, her fiancé, spotlights monitor her as she explores the encroaching murk. Tristan, when he lastly deigns to see her, is already within the shadow of night time. No potion is important for them to fall in love — solely to disclose what they each already know.

These sorts of touches are gently allusive, suggesting extra of an environment than pretending to some grand interpretation. However that’s the purpose. Heijboer Castañón, a Dutch-Peruvian director whose credit embrace helping Pierre Audi on this opera in Amsterdam, and Winokur, gaining renown because the inventive director of the rebel American Fashionable Opera Firm, provide one thing of a welcome to a piece that’s usually handled warily or, sarcastically, or rendered illegible in impenetrable symbolism.

Heijboer Castañón and Winokur provide no drastic interventions within the plot, only a delicate understanding of it as a story of intimacies, pleasant and erotic alike. What few props exist are calmly used. The spare set, from blueprints by the structure and design agency Charlap Hyman & Herrero, consists of 4 angled partitions of mottled grey — cutouts evoking a fort tower, say, however not more than evoking it. Carlos J. Soto’s costumes trace at abstraction, somewhat than declaim distance as a purpose.

There’s a refreshing feeling of belief to all of it, a wise want to not get in the best way of what clearly stays to those younger collaborators a principally human story — and a willingness, maybe above all, to create space for the music.

And why not?

James Gaffigan, usually full of life on the rostrum for what’s his first run of a full Wagner opera, sparked up a feisty depth that equipped the power the staging tended to withstand, pushing the drama onerous however not harshly. His was a tackle the rating each muscular and swift, blessedly so for a present that ended nicely after midnight.

Larger expertise may carry extra deliberate harmonic and thematic route, maybe extra goal to transitions and extra of a willingness to linger, simply as making Wagner a behavior somewhat than an exception right here may, in time, sand down a number of the rougher edges of the orchestra’s enjoying. Both means, the indicators are promising for Gaffigan, who takes cost of the Komische Oper in Berlin subsequent yr.

By no means thoughts the long run in relation to the soprano Tamara Wilson. Famend as a Verdian, she is slated to sing Elsa within the Metropolitan Opera’s “Lohengrin” subsequent spring and Sieglinde in Vienna shortly thereafter; this Isolde, amply highly effective but ideally exact with the textual content, confirmed her as fairly the Wagnerian already.

Cornered, indignant, spiteful, fearful, anxious, excited, enraptured, serene, every in flip — Wilson’s portrayal, like that of Jamie Barton’s magnificent Brangäne, was as authoritatively acted because it was movingly sung, an embodiment of the position in a manufacturing that mounted relentless consideration on its principals.

Simon O’Neill, a ponderous stage presence, suffered from that unsparing focus within the first two acts; in his third he surpassed himself, however the sharp, compressed high quality of his voice nonetheless appeared much less suited to Tristan than to a number of the roles he has taken on in service to Wagner.

The unstinting loudness of Nicholas Brownlee, in any other case a high quality Kurwenal and the Dutchman in a David Alden manufacturing scheduled for subsequent season right here, made O’Neill’s frequent bother slicing by way of the orchestra all of the extra plain; the affecting ease of Eric Owens’s King Marke likewise pointed up the tenor’s stilted, self-conscious supply.

However with Wilson dominating it by pressure of voice and readability of persona, it is a “Tristan” that anyway appears rightly to suggest — for it insists on nothing — that it ought to be “Isolde” to which we shorten the identify of this singular work. And it’s to Isolde that the ultimate coup is reserved; because the music of her transfiguration resolves, the set’s partitions open for Wilson to stride calmly to the again of the theater, and into the night time.

Tristan und Isolde

By Aug. 23 at Santa Fe Opera, New Mexico; santafeopera.org.



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