"Tristan und Isolde", AGAIN, in Munich

In my last post, I discussed the opera “Fidelio” and what a large amount of time I’ve spent with that opera during my career. No other opera tops it on my calendar. A few come close. “Tristan und Isolde” is one of those frequently performed operas.

I sang in this production in Munich in 2011 and am thrilled to be a part of it again. It is a production that dates back to the late 1990s and requires two great singers in the title roles and a strong ensemble to support them. In Munich, for this run, they have assembled exactly that (and we only rehearsed 3-4 days). The opening performance, last night, was outstanding . We have just one other performance during this short run which is part of the annual Munich Opera Festival at the Bavarian State Opera. I am already looking forward to the next performance and stepping onto the stage to spend the following 6 hours with these wonderful artists. Sunday can’t come quick enough.

The cast is full of committed singing actors. Acting is not just something you do with your body but is so determined with how you use your voice---how you shade and color your sounds to express emotion and ideas. You can do this in many ways--the best way is to simply use the text as a character. Enjoy the words, emphasize meaning, make it all very real---these are attributes to fine acting that were in abundance last night. King Marke’s monologue, sung by Ren
é Pape, may have never been sung so beautifully. Robert Dean Smith sings Tristan as if he was speaking to a good friend across the room--it’s so real! But, most important, there was Isolde.

I can’t remember the first time I sang with Waltraud Meier. I believe it was in the early part of the last decade in performances at The Met. We were in other productions after that but never really worked “together” as our characters just didn’t appear on stage at the same time. In 2008, we were in performances of “Die Walk
üre” together in Barcelona--I even played her Daddy as I was Wotan to her Sieglinde. But, those characters don’t appear together either. In 2011, we finally got to work TOGETHER as Wozzeck and Marie in “Wozzeck” at The Metropolitan Opera. She was stunning. Our rapport onstage was equaled offstage. We had some magical performances. That run will be always be featured in my mental film version of career highlights.

I’m spending more time talking about this great artist in this post as she has decided to retire Isolde after this coming Sunday night’s performance. I don’t believe there are too many singers who have sung the role more often than she. She totally inhabits the role and gives a gripping portrayal. It is an honor to be in these performances of the opera with her. It was thrilling to hear the audience go crazy for her at the curtain calls last night. And, it will be a joy to be with her as she makes her final bow as Wagner’s greatest operatic love. She has blessed us all with so much wonderful singing over the years. Certainly, she has many more years ahead of her as a singer as well (We are discussing another project in the future that we may both be part of). But, during a career, you rarely have an Isolde like this. There might not be many like her in the future. What an honor to be a part of this important run with a VERY important artist. Thank you Waltraud!!!!