Sunday, January 08, 2006

Tristan und Isolde

Rats! I've gone and gotten curious and am watching the Heppner/Eaglen Tristan und Isolde. It's on an old tape right after Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. You know there's a T&I movie opening this week just as I am flying off to another continent.

Ben Heppner is a very fine singer, but the Heldentenor knife-like edge of his tone is not as sharp as Jon Frederic West's. Ben is not entirely without squillo, but it only cuts a little, I'm afraid. This means he has to work harder, not necessarily a bad thing. His understanding of Wagnerian phrasing is infinitely larger, and that takes work. Jon's voice cuts easily through the mush of sound coming from the orchestra, and he doesn't actually have to work hard any of the time. And doesn't. He should regard this as a barrier to achievement and not an aid. The appropriate Wagnerian line will be hard work no matter what your voice sounds like.

Jane Eaglen isn't nearly as significant an improvement over Meier. Waltraud Meier is giving you a complete performance, and it's very effective, in my opinion. Few if any singers could withstand such a lengthy close-up as she does. She just needs a tenor who shares her gifts. There used to be a hunky German rock singer who sang Siegmund--he would be perfect.

It isn't easy to watch the Ben and Jane show. A CD would be fine. Levine is also a better conductor, brings more character into the playing. However, he doesn't exercise enough control of the loudness of the orchestra and allows them to cover way too often.

It would be truly annoying if I became interested in this opera.


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