Michael Tanner Reviews: Tristan und Isolde - Grange Park

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday, 7 July 2011 | 8:06:00 pm

As I repeat often, reviews are such subjective things - as is reality according to Schopenhauer of course ("Die Welt ist meine Vorstellung") - but I really am starting to worry about Michael Tanner -  noted Wagnerian he might be - when he defines an entire scene of an opera production to the wrong act (see goblets and skulls) and "shortness of breath"? Indeed, no mention of the excellent Gadd or Fulgoni? (I believe we both attended the same night). Perhaps spending so much time writing for a magazine of which Boris Johnson was editor is damaging the poor chaps memory and  mind? Evil "Spectator", release the poor man at once. I jest of course.

Source: The Spectator

The ultimate challenge
Michael Tanner

Tristan und Isolde is one of the greatest challenges that an opera house can take on, in some ways the greatest of all.

Tristan und Isolde is one of the greatest challenges that an opera house can take on, in some ways the greatest of all. So it is wonderful to be able to report that at Grange Park it has been mounted with a large degree of success, and that most of the things that are wrong with it could easily be righted, though they won’t be. The most remarkable thing about it is the level of singing, almost uniformly high, and certainly with no weak link. Isolde is Alwyn Mellor, Longborough’s Brünnhilde, and also scheduled to sing that role for Opera North and for Seattle. Besides her impressive voice, she has plenty of temperament, and encompasses the whole of Isolde’s emotional range, from the fury and frustration and resulting irony of Act I, to the excited and expectant woman in love of Act II, to the at first distraught and finally transfigured heroine of Act III. The only things that worried me about her singing were a shortness of breath on what should have been sustained high notes, and a tendency to squeeze into notes. How long it is, though, since I saw so complete a realisation of this role, and one which will certainly grow much further.

The Tristan is the veteran Richard Berkeley-Steele, now in his late fifties, but neither looking nor sounding it. He is a rather wooden actor, and did little more than stand around in Act I, apart from an unfortunate attack of what appeared to be vomiting brought on by the love potion, and sit around in Act III. But his voice is pleasant, and at times heroic; and in the most moving passage of all, perhaps, Tristan’s invitation to Isolde to follow him to the ‘Wunderreich der Nacht’ near the end of Act II, he was profound and inward. It is probably the director’s fault rather than the singers’ that chemistry between the lovers was less than ideal.