10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Superb voices. Pity about the picture and the sound.,
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This review is from: Wagner - Tristan Und Isolde (Bohm, Nilsson, Vickers, Hesse) [DVD] (DVD)
It has been said with some truth about Wagner that he had a corrupt taste in mythology and a bag of orchestral tricks. Tristan weary of the world of consciousness, of impermanence, individuality and delusion is eager to enter the realm of the non-conscious mind, undifferentiation, what he calls the realm of night. But this is Wagnerian opera (his greatest without doubt) so there must be a passionate love affair before everlasting night.
First the stage setting. With such a heavy philosophical underpining it can be abstract if done with restraint. The swords must be retained. (Flick knives on a modern liner just look silly.) In this production the abstract setting together with the lighting effects are non-intrusive. Tristan wears chain mail and carries a knight's sword.
The parts of Tristan and Isolde demand great voices. With Jon Vickers and Birgit Nilsson we get nothing less. In particular, when Nilsson hits the high notes powerfully one does not wince as with most other sopranos who tackle this role. Brangaene sung by Ruth Hesse is very good and the singers of the other parts do not disappoint.
About 7 years previously Karl Bohm had conducted at Bayreuth a performance (available on CD) of ovewhelming intensity also featuring Birgit Nilsson. To be blunt, L'Orchestra National de l'ORTF was not world class in 1973 and Bohm had aged noticeably by that time. Although there is not the same overall drive as at Bayreuth (the overture is too slow and rather mannered) Bohm could still pull out the stops sufficiently as required and his general tempi are not sluggish. In the finale the Liebestod is gently beautiful, inward rather than declamatory, ideally presented with Nilsson in white having taken off her black cloak and supported by the right lighting.
Now to the picture and the sound. In 1973 it was possible to produce much better results with the technology then available. Here picture and sound are no more than acceptable. The picture is fuzzy. The sound level is very low requiring considerable amplification and still scrawny with it. Therefore I can only give an overall rating of 3 stars. Buy it nevertheless for Vickers and Nilsson. Who can match them today?