Opera: Tristan und Isolde

Tristan transfixes


I first heard Tristan und Isolde 29 years ago, with Reginald Goodall conducting at the ENO. Those performances set a high bar – they were so all-encompassing that I was unable to listen to music for weeks afterwards and, to this day, I can recall the impact. So it's high praise to say that the current run of performances at the ROH are, by quite a long way, the best I have heard since Goodall's. On this evidence, Antonio Pappano is inspired in Wagner. This was a Tristan that was not merely transcendent and shimmering in its beauty; it had pace, power and impact. And the orchestra was world-class, as ever at the ROH.

Nina Stemme is the Isolde of one's dreams. I have never heard a more purely beautiful Isolde before - she produces sounds that would have thrilled Wagner himself. And what heft! She is also a fine actress, riveting in an almost Bergman-esque way. Stephen Gould's Tristan may be less striking to look at, but his singing is also very fine. And Sarah Connolly's Brangange is as gripping as you would expect from such a wonderful singer.

All in all, this a Tristan that simply has to be seen - and heard.

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