During opening night the nonstop standing ovation lasted almost as long as the opera itself.
The Dallas Opera’s ‘Tristan und Isolde’ continues the tradition of taking on operatic challenges and transcending even ardent opera lovers’ expectations. After budget cutbacks in 2011, an opera was dropped from the Tragic Obsessions season leaving room to expand Richard Wagner’s masterpiece. What emerged is one of the finest artistic productions to date showcasing a brilliant all-star cast and orchestra.
Wagner envisioned his “music dramas” as a total work of art. In keeping with this philosophy, TDO bought in edgy Elaine J. McCarthy (Moby-Dick) who devised towering white minimalist scrims and imaginative projections. The exceptional stage design by Director Christian Räth, lighting design by Alan Burrett and the projections transform the stage into a dramatic museum-like art installation. Far from being cold or elitist, the projections are dreamy moving works of art that wrap around the stars Clifton Forbis (Tristan) and Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet (Isolde). At times breathtaking in its intimacy the lighting and projections bring more focus to the acting, powerful vocals and exquisite music. They also take the audience to the moon, a dark forest, seaside and depict an intense love affair encircled in red light and surrounded by fiery red clouds.
The plot is based on a Celtic legend about a tragic love triangle between Isolde an Irish princess, Tristan a Cornish knight and King Marke of Cornwall. A love potion removes inhibitions and the knight begins a passionate love affair before the princess is presented to the king. Angry and betrayed the king turns on his nephew Tristan and fiancée. Melot, a courtier whom Tristan believed to be a trusted friend, mortally wounds him. The third act finds a delirious Tristan in his homeland on a beach with Kurwenal his servant. In Tristan’s mind King Marke arrives and forgives him blaming the potion instead. A delusional Tristan is reunited with his love Isolde before he dies.
Starring as Isolde, the beautiful and accomplished soprano Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet regularly appears in the top opera houses throughout Europe. She is internationally recognized as a leading force in German and contemporary repertoire for good reason. Her Isolde is believable, passionate, forgiving and willing to die for love. Her tragic portrayal of Isolde embodies philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer’s deeply pessimistic view of the human condition embraced by Wagner.
Tenor Clifton Forbis returns to TDO for his seventh role after performing the title role of Otello in the inaugural performance at the Winspear Opera House. Forbis is sought-after as one of the world’s top Wagnerian singers. He and Charbonnet have a perfect chemistry making all their scenes together magical. Kristinn Sigmundsson’s imposing height and deep bass voice create scene-stealing moments. Mezzo-Soprano Mary Phillips is exceptional as Brangäne, Isolde’s servant, in her role debut along with the powerful Finnish bass-baritone Jukka Rasilainen making his American operatic debut portraying Kurvenal. English Baritone Stephen Gadd as Melot, in his American debut is impressive. His elegant baritone voice and acting abilities enrich this all-star cast.
The Dallas Opera’s Mrs. Eugene McDermott Music Director, Graeme Jenkins, is a beloved conductor deeply appreciated by operagoers. The orchestra is brilliant and the acoustically exceptional Winspear makes the production even stronger. However historically this demanding epic 4-hour long opera apparently takes its toll on all involved. In 1865 the tenor Ludwig Schnoor died after the opera’s world premiere. Tenor George Ander went mad after studying for the role of Tristan. Two 20th century conductors, Felix Mottl and Joseph Keilberth, died while conducting the second act. But all went well during The Dallas Opera’s opening night—so well in fact that the nonstop standing ovation lasted almost as long as the opera itself.
There is one night left to see this groundbreaking critically acclaimed opera.
The Dallas Opera
"Tristan & Isolde "
Winspear Opera House • 2403 Flora Street • Dallas 75201
Saturday, February 25, 2012 at 7:00 p.m.*
Dallas Opera Box Office: 214.443.1000 or purchase online
Single tickets began at $25
Flex subscriptions are still available
Sung in German with English supertitles Approximately 4 hours and 30 minutes (including 2 intermissions)
*Late arrivals will be seated during intermission