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Thread: Tristan und Isolde in Oslo

          
   
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  1. #1
    Senior Member Veteran Member Aksel's Avatar
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    Tristan und Isolde in Oslo

    Yesterday, I and a friend attended our very first live Tristan. It was given in Oslo, with Jon Helmer Fiore conducting the Orchestra of the Norwegian Opera, Karen Foster as Isolde, John Uhlenhopp as Tristan, Tuija Knihtilä as Brangäne, Ole Jørgen Kristiansen as Kurwenal, Magne Fremmerlid as King Marke, Svein Erik Sagbråten as Melot, Brenden Gunnell as the shepheard and Daniel Johansson as the young sailor.

    Before we get to the actual review, I feel like I should tell you about how we got to the opera. As some of you know, I live rather a long way from Oslo (about 1 1/2 hours by train), and as luck would have it, yesterday they were doing maintenance on the train tracks between here and Oslo, without really notifying anyone, and so I and my friend had to take a bus, risking arriving late to the opera, and not getting to see the first act. Luckily, the bus was quick, and we arrived in Oslo with ten minutes to spare.

    I'm not going to go into very much detail about the production, but I will say that the entire opera was set in the hull of a hospital ship around the first world war or so, the ship 'crumbling apart' as the action progressed. Also, there were naked people (oh, the horror!) said to represent Adam and Eve (which did make sense) and a child said to represent the orphan Tristan as a boy (I didn't really understand it, but I haven't really thought much about it either). Also, there were poppies and lights and stuff.
    All in all, the production was rather successful, although some things were rather heavy handed, and could have been done better. Explaining the child, for instance. That said, I do think it was a good production, with some very beautiful imagery.
    Production photos here.


    Now, onto the singers.:

    Isolde was sung by the American soprano Karen Foster. How on earth is this woman not better known? She has a warm, huge, golden sound, an amazing low register and did an overall magnificent Isolde, especially since this was her first foray into huge Wagner (Elsa is the only Wagner role she has sung before). She almost always managed to sing above the orchestra. The only criticism is that her high register, especially the high C's in the 2nd act duet were rather screamy. Her ch's, as in ich were not too good. But the Liebestod sent shivers down my spine, though, and all was forgiven. Definitely one to watch.

    Tristan, as sung by John Uhlenhopp, was the big, big disappointment of the evening. His Tristan was more shouts than singing, especially the act 3 monologue. He also has a very strained sound and a seemingly uncontrolled vibrato, especially in the higher register, and his strangely thin voice never managed to blend with Foster's fuller, more golden sound. Methinks he should retire the role, lest he do bad things to his voice. He was the only one to get booed during the curtain calls. Well-deservedly, I should add. Also, very shoddy diction. And the hammiest act 3 monologue I have ever seen.

    Tuija Knihtilä Brangäne was, like her mistress, a sight to behold. An impressive voice, large and beautiful, that did some very great things, especially in the first act. She is singing Santuzza here next season, and I can't wait.

    Ole Jørgen Kristiansen was perhaps the male highpoint of the evening. His Kurwenal was very well sung indeed, portraying a passionate and caring friend and servant, but not overly so (yes, I am looking at you, Bo Skovhus). He owned the third act until Karen Foster came on stage.

    Magne Fremmerlid's König Marke was another highpoint of the evening. His act 2 monologue was so incredibly authoritative and generally amazing, I felt a little sad that the role isn't bigger.

    Melot was deliciously hammy, although there was some screaming involved. Shepherd and sailor were OK.


    The orchestra was another disappointment. Conductor Jon Helmer Fiore never managed to completely blow me away with neither the music, nor with just the sheer volume. The dynamics were on the soft side, even during the Vorspiel. I found that rather odd, as I was sitting on the 1st floor balcony, as far right as you possibly could come, right above the orchestra (great seats, by the way).


    Oh well. I had a blast last night, and my friend did too. A good production, with a generally very good cast, save the shouty Tristan, and an OK orchestra.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Involved Member emiellucifuge's Avatar
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    Despite the shoddy tenor, what did the performance do to you?
    I dream of the day I can see this opera.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Veteran Member Aksel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by emiellucifuge View Post
    Despite the shoddy tenor, what did the performance do to you?
    I dream of the day I can see this opera.
    It is truly one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. I don't know how to describe it, but there is something about Wagner, even badly played Wagner, that can lift you out of your seat and into a completely different state of mind. I noticed this as well when I watched the Meistersinger from Glyndebourne last summer, that you don't notice time passing when you're watching or listening to Wagner. It is almost like the music transports you to some alternate dimension where the important thing is the music, and nothing but the music.

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aksel View Post
    It is truly one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. I don't know how to describe it, but there is something about Wagner, even badly played Wagner, that can lift you out of your seat and into a completely different state of mind. I noticed this as well when I watched the Meistersinger from Glyndebourne last summer, that you don't notice time passing when you're watching or listening to Wagner. It is almost like the music transports you to some alternate dimension where the important thing is the music, and nothing but the music.
    Well said. My impression exactly. People say the Ring is long. I say, "long? I didn't notice the time passing."
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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