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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Tristan on DVD
Wagner's operas are well represented on DVD. There are three excellent Rings, several superb Meistersingers, Parsifals in all flavours, Lohengrins by the ton, and a couple of good Hollanders. Up until now there has only been one Tristan worth watching - the 1983 Bayreuth production conducted by Barenboim and directed by Ponnelle.

I believe that this 1993...
Published on 31 Jan 2009 by Doug Urquhart

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4 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars overrated
All those who have seen this production on stage know that this "polished" version has never happened on the Bayreuth stage like this, Jerusalem's horrible cracking in act 3 was legendary, and the pressured shrieked fast vibrato of Meier's high notes was almost insupportable in the theater. Of course, both are intelligent artists (Meier more than Jerusalem). Barenboim was...
Published on 2 Aug 2010 by Esclarmonde


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Tristan on DVD, 31 Jan 2009
By 
Doug Urquhart (Southport, CT USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Wagner - Tristan und Isolde (Barenboim) [DVD] [1995] [2008] (DVD)
Wagner's operas are well represented on DVD. There are three excellent Rings, several superb Meistersingers, Parsifals in all flavours, Lohengrins by the ton, and a couple of good Hollanders. Up until now there has only been one Tristan worth watching - the 1983 Bayreuth production conducted by Barenboim and directed by Ponnelle.

I believe that this 1993 Bayreuth production, also conducted by Barenboim, surpasses the earlier recording.

Why? Let's start with the principals.

Meyer and Jerusalem have great stage presence, wonderful voices and, unlike some others I've seen in these roles, are very capable actors. Waltraut Meyer is at her peak - quite frankly, I've never heard her sing as well as she does in this production (and she normally sings very well indeed). Jerusalem sails through the difficult third act, exercising his vocal and acting skills to the full.
Barenboim matches the orchestra to the singers with amazing precision - not once did the opera overpower the voices, and not once was there a sense of holding back to let inadequate voices have their chance. This is particularly tricky in Liebestod, where the orchestra has a lot to say, but mustn't drown Isolde. The combination of Meyer, Barenboim, and of course, Bayreuth produced the most perfect Liebestod I've ever heard.

The supporting roles were well played. Konig Marke was sympathetically portrayed by Mattias Holle. Kurvenal and Brangane were excellent.

I suppose I should mention the slightly Eurodaft staging. Some odd decisions here, although they couldn't detract from the gesamtkunstwerk.
- The strange plexiglass harnesses worn throughout act 1 (which I imagine symbolized inhibition, since they fell off after the love draught)
- The vaguely Chinese costume and scenery (borrowed, I think, by the designer of the Met's current, lacklustre staging)
- The brief flash of red light when Tristan and Isolda succumb to the love draught (another idea borrowed by the Met)
However, unlike the Met, this was not a static, formalized, passionless performance. Tristan can be the most glacially slow of Wagner's operas if played without conviction, but this production conveyed the opera's essential passion.

This is apparently the first release of this performance in any format. It's quite amazing how a gem like this can lie hidden for fifteen years.

Technicalities; wide screen picture, synthesised DTS 5.1 sound; both superb.

Strongly recommended. Almost as good as a trip to Bayreuth.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Loses 1 star due to self indulgent director and unideal sound., 10 Mar 2009
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This review is from: Wagner - Tristan und Isolde (Barenboim) [DVD] [1995] [2008] (DVD)
This opera, Wagner's greatest, has a lot of way out philosophy in the libretto. Being so it lends itself to minimalist staging. The director denies what is clearly in the libretto, namely, the overriding view of Tristan that this world of consciousness, of differentiation, offers no lasting satisfaction only delusion. Therefore he, and by persuasion Isolde, opt for death, the realm of non-consciousness, non-differentiation. That in this realm they can experience the "highest rapture" of total unity in each other is nonsense since death is nothingness in which there are no experiences. Intoxicatingly sensual music falsely promises otherwise.
The director has made too many bad decisions to mention them all. Firstly, draping plastic tubing around the neck and shoulders of the singers. The acting is very accomplished, that of the beautiful Waltraud Meier as Isolde superb. But the presence of a plastic installation so near the face is just an irritating intrusion. Happily, Tristan and Isolde remove theirs after taking the love potion.
In Act 2 rows of breastplates make the stage look like an armour supermarket. Very annoying clutter. Superfluous symbol of the lovers entrapped by the conventions of knightly society. Plastic swords for the fights.
In fairness, the Liebestod is well done, complementing the stunning singing and playing. However, Isolde remains alive!
The singing of all is very satisfying, not far from the best available on DVD. (The pleasant voice of Siegfried Jerusalem as Tristan is rather underpowered set against Meier.) Daniel Barenboim's conducting is magnificent, admirably pacing the drama. The recorded sound is somewhat congested and restricted in dynamic range. Picture quality average for its time (1993).
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4 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars overrated, 2 Aug 2010
This review is from: Wagner - Tristan und Isolde (Barenboim) [DVD] [1995] [2008] (DVD)
All those who have seen this production on stage know that this "polished" version has never happened on the Bayreuth stage like this, Jerusalem's horrible cracking in act 3 was legendary, and the pressured shrieked fast vibrato of Meier's high notes was almost insupportable in the theater. Of course, both are intelligent artists (Meier more than Jerusalem). Barenboim was very loud live and covered the voices often (even with the Bayreuth pit). Of course that was corrected as well on this DVD. The boredom of the production was declared mysticism from the third year of its stage life on by journalists. Waltraud Meier herself said in an interview " I am sure that the next stage production in Bayreuth will be done by my baker".

The memory of the general audience seems to be quite short about great singing , and it's not even necessary to mention the great Tristans and Isoldes from the past- thank god real dramatic sopranos like Nina Stemme or Jennifer Wilson are back on the opera stage, so we don't have to compromise voicewise with "intelligent" singers without the suitable voice for this parts.
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