Search - Wagner - Tristan und Isolde / Polaski, Treleaven, Halfvarson, Struckmann, Braun, Rauch, Vas, Vier, de Billy, Barcelona Opera on DVD


Wagner - Tristan und Isolde / Polaski, Treleaven, Halfvarson, Struckmann, Braun, Rauch, Vas, Vier, de Billy, Barcelona Opera
Wagner - Tristan und Isolde / Polaski Treleaven Halfvarson Struckmann Braun Rauch Vas Vier de Billy Barcelona Opera
Actors: Deborah Polaski, John Treleaven, Erik Halfvarson, Lioba Braun, Bertrand de Billy
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2005     4hr 17min


     
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Movie Details

Actors: Deborah Polaski, John Treleaven, Erik Halfvarson, Lioba Braun, Bertrand de Billy
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Classical
Studio: BBC / Opus Arte
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen
DVD Release Date: 11/15/2005
Original Release Date: 01/01/2005
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2005
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 4hr 17min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 3
SwapaDVD Credits: 3
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
Edition: Box set,Classical
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: German
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian

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Movie Reviews

This one should be called Isolde and Tristan
C. Boerger | Columbus, OH USA | 02/21/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Tristan und Isolde is a five star opera if there ever was one, but this production is only strong enough to rate four.

Let's start with the singers. The main attraction of this DVD is Deborah Polaski's Isolde, as intense a characterization as you are likely to see: strong, passionate, beautifully sung, as much a warrior as Brunnhilde. Whenever Polaski is onstage, she is impossible to ignore, and her Mild und leise is chilling, transcendent, devastating; my insides were all churned up I was so overcome with emotion. That moment alone was almost enough to make me ignore this production's shortcomings and tack on another star. Almost, but not quite. For you see, Polaski's partner in illicit love isn't quite on the same level. John Treleaven, her Tristan, does not have a beautiful voice by any means, it is very masculine, tremulous, craggy at times, with a low baritonal tessitura, sometimes too baritonal, particularly in the love duet which comprises much of the second act, where a sweetness of timbre, a little bit of a romantic lilt would have added layers of genuineness to this ardent outpouring of love. He fares better in the heroic scenes, where a more stentorian voice is certainly called for, and of course in the bedraggled delirium of the third act. Almost miraculously, his performance seems to pick up steam rather than flag over the course of this arduous role. Overall, though, his singing ranges from painful to listen to to sublime, with most of it inhabiting the spaces in between. Erik Halfvarson makes a heartwrenching King Marke, rivaling the great Matti Salminen in both power and pathos. Lioba Braun is a noble Brangane, loyal and sympathetic, and beautifully sung throughout. Falk Struckman's voice has some rough patches singing the role of Kurwenal, but what he lacks in vocal grace he more than makes up for in passion and gusto.

Bertrand de Billy leads the Symphony Orchestra of the Gran Teatro del Liceu in a good, mostly satisfying performance that only occasionally reaches the heights of Wagnerian splendor. His tempos are a little slow, taking some of the life out of the gorgeous prelude, and much of the urgency out of the rest of the score, that headlong rush of events that seems to swallow the characters against their will and pull them along with it - the urgency that is so essential to a truly brilliant performance. On the other hand, at other points, such as Mild und leise, the slowness is preferred because it stretches out the emotion until it is almost unbearable. When de Billy is able to put together more of these moments, then he might turn into a Wagner conductor to be reckoned with.

Alfred Kirchner's production is gray and fairly straightforward, with the exception of Act II, which seems to take place in some sort of cosmic barn - attractive, but kind of silly. Acts I and III fare much better, with the haunting, shadowy atmosphere emphasizing the darkness of the story and the score.

This is an ambitious Tristan und Isolde, and as such is certain to invite comparisons with the recent Met release. This one has a better Isolde but a weaker Tristan. The conductor(the great James Levine) and orchestra on the Met release give a more nuanced, incisive and full-bodied interpretation of the score. The sound wavers occasionally on this one, particularly in the first act when Polaski hits the high notes(it's possible the microphones weren't able to handle such a dynamic performance). All other things being almost equal, I give the edge to the Met release. On top of everything else, it is much more reasonably priced. Still, if you feel like shelling out the money, this set is certainly worthwhile because Deborah Polaski's Isolde is something modern fans of the composer should experience. Wagner's music requires a force of nature, and Polaski delivers the goods."
Mixed bag
Robert Petersen | Durban, South Africa | 07/01/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)

"This production of Wagner's opera has some great plus's compared to other rival versions. However, the strengths lie not in the 2 principals. Treleavan and Polaski may look ideal compared with Eaglen and Heppner, but the MET duo win hands down with their sheer delux vocalism. Both Polaski and Treleaven are plagued by pitch problems, particularly in Act 2. Polaski also has the habit of attacking her high notes from below and then increasing the amplitude, which renders her efforts flat and/or sharp. The plus's in this production besides the delux sound, unusual staging and picture quality are the supporting principals, who are well cast. The Liceu orchestra and chorus led by Betrand de Billy add to the plus's. If only the 2 principals had ben captured a few years earlier, then we would have had a fine effort!"
A Profoundly Moving Tristan
G P Padillo | Portland, ME United States | 10/09/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"really like the
production and some of the singing. Polaski is FIERCE as Isolde. She's kind of
a hellcat and very physical. Vocally she is frustrating - there are moments
where she's sounding as beautiful as any Isolde I can think of, paying
enormous attention to the text, but then there are moments where (and this
is a VERY odd thing) I cannot recognize the pitch she's singing AT ALL - it's
almost as though it isn't music. Then she "returns" and there is really
gorgeous vocalizing. The upper range is not beautiful when forced and when
she and Treleaven weave through the enormous Act II duet there are
moments they both sound lovely followed by a sort of bark and shrieking at
high notes that is . . . let's just call it unpleasant.

Treleaven looks pretty good through much of this, but I'm afraid I am not a
fan of this type of voice or singing. There is a too-too-soft center to the
sound itself that I find an unattractive quality in any singer. For lack of a
better description, let's call it "unfocused" sound. Also the man spits more
than anyone I've seen on stage outside of a wrestling cage. He's a bit
wooden as an actor though looks like he's trying to break out of something,
and that wins some points in my book.

But Polaski's face, body movements, etc. are wonderful. She's not a small girl,
but she moves with grace and a very fierce, animalistic athleticism giving her
Isolde a tomboyish quality I'm not used to but one I like very much. She's an
exciting Isolde. When she grabs Tristan's face and kisses him it isn't with the
reserved "stage kiss" we usually see, but a match for the intensity of the
music. Also, I've forgotten just what an expressive face she has. There are
several shots of her where I SWORE I was watching Astrid Varnay (at her
curtain call I froze the picture and noticed she has a face that is part Varnay
part von Stade - . . . I know that sounds like a weird observation, but there it
is.)

Overall, the costumes were fantastic, the exception being German WWII
sailors who arrive at the end of the first act when everything else appears
both timeless and ancient. Isolde and Brangane are given Indian style "Salwar
kameez" (those long graceful tunics over pants) with a variety of shawls,
throws, and a glorious royal blue cape for Isolde to meet King Marke. Isolde
has a splendid gown for the final act.

The Liceu orchestra under de Billy is mostly wonderful. There are moments
that feel a bit too languid or lax, but overall it is superb playing and there are
other moments that rival the best performances or recordings I've heard. Of
particular note are the horns in Act II - and the soft "hidden" hunting horn
sounds that usually never get heard later in the duet, here add a measure of
excitement and danger to the lovers' waxing rhapsodic.

The biggest surprise for me has been the Brangane of Lioba Braun. Who IS
Having heard mostly bad reports, I was surprised how much I really liked the
production and most of the singing. Polaski is FIERCE as Isolde. She's kind of
a hellcat and very physical. Vocally she is frustrating - there are moments
where she's sounding as beautiful as any Isolde I can think of, paying
enormous attention to the text, but then there are moments where (and this
is a VERY odd thing) I cannot recognize the pitch she's singing AT ALL -
almost as though it isn't music. Then she "returns" with gorgeous vocalizing.
The upper range is not beautiful when forced and when
she and Treleaven weave through the enormous Act II duet there are
moments they both sound lovely followed by a sort of bark and shrieking at
high notes that is . . . let's just call it unpleasant.

Treleaven looks pretty good through much of this, but I'm afraid I am not a
fan of this type of voice or singing. There is a too-too-soft center to the
sound itself that I find an unattractive quality in any singer. For lack of a
better description, let's call it "unfocused" sound. Also the man spits more
than anyone I've seen on stage outside of a wrestling cage. He's a bit
wooden as an actor though looks like he's trying to break out of something,
and that wins some points in my book.

But Polaski's face, body movements, etc. are wonderful. She's not a small girl,
but she moves with grace and a very fierce, animalistic athleticism giving her
Isolde a tomboyish quality I'm not used to but one I like very much. She's an
exciting Isolde. When she grabs Tristan's face and kisses him it isn't with the
reserved "stage kiss" we usually see, but a match for the intensity of the
music. Also, I've forgotten just what an expressive face she has. There are
several shots of her where I SWORE I was watching Astrid Varnay (at her
curtain call I froze the picture and noticed she has a face that is part Varnay
part von Stade - . . . I know that sounds like a weird observation, but there it
is.)

Overall, the costumes were fantastic, the exception being German WWII
sailors who arrive at the end of the first act when everything else appears
both timeless and ancient. Isolde and Brangane are given Indian style "Salwar
kameez" (those long graceful tunics over pants) with a variety of shawls,
throws, and a glorious royal blue cape for Isolde to meet King Marke. Isolde
has a splendid gown for the final act.

The biggest surprise for me has been the Brangane of Lioba Braun. Who IS
this woman? I have never heard of her and her rich, plumy, juicy and
sometimes throbbing mezzo is ideal for this role and makes me hungry to hear
more of her work. Brangane's "watch" has rarely been more dreamlike and
hazy (in a good way) sounding. I had tears in my eyes and actually replayed
this scene several times. The lovers are lying on a grassy hill, Brangane is
unseen in the tower (a platform high above the stage gotten to by climbing a
tall, shaky ladder!) and . . . it's just perfect. Braun is a small woman with a
sweet face, and her actions in the first act were a bit funny, unintentionally
reminding me of an Avon lady, as she runs about the stage with her "make-up
case" of potions
Nothing in the world could have possibly prepared me for the third act of this
performance, most of all the first two acts. This has possibly been the most
beautifully staged and near perfect third act I've yet seen of this opera.

Treleaven's voice had an almost entirely different sound here, frequently it
was just beautiful. This was true particularly in the lower and softer sections,
but still he let several of Tristan's big moments fling out and they sounded
good. It didn't hurt that for the first time, I felt he was so completely into the
character, almost unaware he was performing. I, too, believed he really was
Tristan.

Okay, Struckmann is a bloody acting genius, his Kurwenal a major player in
this tale. He makes me believe no on in the history of opera has ever felt more comfortable being on stage than he. During the prelude he is given an infinitely touching dumb show as he
watches Tristan sleep. First cowering in a corner he approaches his friend,
bends over and kisses his head, but his lips stay on Tristan for a very long
time creating a portrait of love and loss that is absolutely heartbreaking.
Director Kirchner gives so much detail to every single character in a rare move
that seems to elevate the very power of Wagner's score to an almost
unbearable level of intensity. Struckmann's face, the way he gazes on Tristan,
his face beaming what can only be described as complete love, only intensifies
his actions here.

Another surprise has been Erik Halfvarson's Marke. I've seen
him a number of times, and have always loved his work, but the past few
years there I've noticed a blowsiness, bit of wobble to his sound. Not so
much here where he is absolutely magnificent as Marke - tragic, noble and
heartbreaking.


I have never thought of Tristan and Kurwenal as "in love" before, and certainly
I don't think there is anything hinted at sexually here, but the love shared
between this pair is brought to light as I've never before seen it. When he lays
beside Tristan, even someone not knowing the story would sense that
Kurwenal is going to die alongside Tristan. In a rare veering from Wagner's
libretto, Kirschner has Kurwenal die at his own hand making his line: "Do not
scold me if your faithful friend comes with you!" ring as I've never before
heard it. I lost it again.

The stage is one enormous, barren room, in Tristan's castle, three enormous
windows at stage right have light streaming in, shadows playing against the
walls and the entire act is bathed in ever shifting light. Everything is beautiful,
there is no "weird" directorial conceit to fly in the face of Wagner it is simple,
and allows the drama to unfold as I've never seen it in any production.

Polaski's 3rd act is a performance for the ages. When she arrives, she is
perched in one of the windows, arm extended towards Tristan who extends his
to her and slowly moves towards her . . . but just before their fingers can
touch, he turns, transfixed, his face glowing and we know he sees her - but
somewhere else. Sweetly singing her name, he falls, dead. I was a wreck. At
the end of her monologue, and singing the word "Geliebte!" Isolde falls lifeless
beside Tristan.

Touching Brangane's face, she begins the Liebestod and instead of the now
traditional "stand and sing" finale, Polaski's Isolde is overflowing with emotion,
rises to first to her knees, then stands and moves across the room, bathed in
light, her gestures and face radiating love, and finishing the final phrase, her
face suffused with light and joy, she slowly walks toward the light pouring
from the central window. Her shading of the text, her involvement and
detailed word painting is wedded to her best singing of the night.
It is as beautiful as anything I've ever seen, and the most satisfying ending to
this opera in my experience.

Musically, Bertrand deBilly achieves something I've rarely heard: when the
third act prelude begins, it literally sounds as if we've just entered into a piece
already in progress -almost as though that first bar is in the middle of
something. It was remarkable. Indeed, while there were many moments that
he brought absolute magic to in the earlier acts, his third is one of the most
powerfully dramatic I can think of in modern times. The details he brings out
are nothing short of remarkble, the harps during the final minutes have never
sounded so sweetly or noticeable as here. de Billy wasn't yet 40 when he
conducted this, and I can only imagine what he will bring to this score in the
ensuing years.

I have fallen in love with this DVD, and will look forward to watching it often."