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Thread: Closing night/Tristan & Isolde- The Met: 3/28/08

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    Assistant Administrator Chi_townPhilly's Avatar
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    Default Closing night/Tristan & Isolde- The Met: 3/28/08

    ... and I (and Mrs. Philly) will be there! It's my "Met debut."

    The reviews have been favorable, as well.

    Ben Heppner returns to health to sing Tristan.
    Unclear if Deborah Voigt will recover in time to essay Isolde.
    Michelle DeYoung (she's about as tall as Mrs. Philly!) as Brangäne. I was once thisclose to her at a Wagner Society function. We should've asked her where she shops for clothes!
    Matti Salminen as King Mark. When we reach retirement age, we can bore the next generation by saying we saw him do this role!

    Am I excited? OF COURSE!
    Last edited by Chi_townPhilly; Mar-26-2008 at 23:24. Reason: repaired embedding for link
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    Senior Member opus67's Avatar
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    Nice. Looking at the playlist of a couple of stations I listen to last weekend, I thought you'd be tuned into some station or other for the performance. But this is so much better. "Break a leg" on your "debut."
    Regards,
    Navneeth

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    Assistant Administrator Chi_townPhilly's Avatar
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    Default Tristan & Isolde Part I- the campaign

    I agree with Berger in his book Wagner Without Fear that the experience of taking in a Wagner opera is enhanced with some measure of advance planning. The benefits of such planning are made all the more important when the venue is over 120 km from where one lives. So, with that in mind, planning for this event included the following:

    1) Taking a full vacation day on Friday. This allowed for a leisurely, time-pressure-free commute.
    2) Sleeping in as late as one was able Friday morning. Ideally, it would have been better to rely on the traditional ameliorative of the professional hockey-player, the afternoon nap. However, we needed the afternoon for travel.
    3) Very light dining on Thursday and a small snack on Friday. For similar reasons, fluid was limited, too. The guiding mantra was "drink only when thirsty, and then, only drink a spash of water (at a time)."
    4) Arranging for sleepover accomodations. In this instance, we chose a hotel a slightly more than half-an-hour's rail ride from Penn Station. The extra distrance travelled was well worth it, since we would have paid at least triple the price for a room, had we stayed in Manhattan.

    Happy to report that it worked out pretty much the way it was drawn up. We were able to get to and from "the island" well within schedule. I was well-prepared to take in the performance... which will the the subject of my next post here.

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    Junior Member dukas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chi_town/Philly View Post
    ... and I (and Mrs. Philly) will be there! It's my "Met debut."

    The reviews have been favorable, as well.

    Ben Heppner returns to health to sing Tristan.
    Unclear if Deborah Voigt will recover in time to essay Isolde.
    Michelle DeYoung (she's about as tall as Mrs. Philly!) as Brangäne. I was once thisclose to her at a Wagner Society function. We should've asked her where she shops for clothes!
    Matti Salminen as King Mark. When we reach retirement age, we can bore the next generation by saying we saw him do this role!

    Am I excited? OF COURSE!
    Heppner is superb and hopefully Voigt will be healthy again. Salminen's huge voice is definitely worth hearing before he retires. T&I is beyond beautiful and I can understand why you are excited.

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    Senior Member opus67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chi_town/Philly View Post
    1) Taking a full vacation day on Friday. This allowed for a leisurely, time-pressure-free commute.
    2) Sleeping in as late as one was able Friday morning. Ideally, it would have been better to rely on the traditional ameliorative of the professional hockey-player, the afternoon nap. However, we needed the afternoon for travel.
    3) Very light dining on Thursday and a small snack on Friday. For similar reasons, fluid was limited, too. The guiding mantra was "drink only when thirsty, and then, only drink a spash of water (at a time)."
    4) Arranging for sleepover accomodations. In this instance, we chose a hotel a slightly more than half-an-hour's rail ride from Penn Station. The extra distrance travelled was well worth it, since we would have paid at least triple the price for a room, had we stayed in Manhattan.
    Even astronauts have a more relaxed (less stringent?) preparation before a flight!

    Glad to know you enjoyed the performance.
    Regards,
    Navneeth

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    Assistant Administrator Chi_townPhilly's Avatar
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    Arrow At "The Horseshoe" part IIa- the physical plant

    We arrive in ample time for the performance. Months earlier, a simple analysis was applied for selection of seats. I merely checked (on the web-site), the purchase patterns for other performances, and selected from what appeared to be the next most likely bank of seats to sell out. In this case, I chose dress-circle (the exact middle of the above-ground "layers"). Even though postitioned at extreme right, sight lines of stage are decent. Mrs. Philly has aisle seat, which is to her benefit, since she can pivot her (longer-than-mine) legs towards aisle. Seating seems more comfortable than the seating at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Good- these seats will be our perch for roughly 5 hours.

    Gradient doesn't seem as steep as that of Lyric, either. (About the latter, I remember a former Illinois acquaintance quip about "rappelling down" to one's seats.) However, you don't have to be at the Met to know that it's a big, deep 'house.' Curious ancillary effect of elevation is that vast majority of pit orchestra is visible. Now I know why demand for main floor seats is disproportionately high. In vast sections of Act II, the podium desk-light of Maestro Levine is brightest light in the house. (Quite understandably, the Maestro conducts from desk score for this 4+ hour musical colossus.)

    Read some about 'seat-back' text system for words to the opera. The actual system isn't really "seat-back," but a rail high enough to rise above rear seat of row in front, but low enough to be no impediment to the view beyond. Rail is tastefully upholstered in same color-scheme as seats. There are 4 options: Off/German/English translation/Spanish translation. The claim that one's "text screen" is invisible to seat(s) to the left and right is perfectly accurate. However, text on screens in row immediately in front of you easily visible. This proves to be seredipitous benefit, as I set my screen for German and neighbors in front of me set their screen(s) for English translation, making for easy 'top-and-bottom' view of original and translation. Sampling of the 'local cluster' indicates that text system is a very popular feature.

    "Retractable" chandeliers are raised up, on their own tethers, towards the ceiling. ("Just like in 'Moonstruck,'" says Mrs. Philly.) Announcer materializes in front of curtain, to accompaniment of assorted groans from audience. Many expect to hear that Deborah Voigt remains debilitated with stomach virus. The Man says he brings good news- Ms. Voigt will be performing tonight. Instead, it is Margaret Jane Wray (who was scheduled to platoon for Michelle DeYoung as Brangäne tonight) who will be unavailable. Ms. DeYoung will remain in the line-up. With Ms. Voigt's status confirmed, audience cheers in relief.

    The house darkens further. The Maestro raises his arms. The overture is about to begin!
    Last edited by Chi_townPhilly; Mar-30-2008 at 21:16.

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    I attended a fine performance of Tristan Und Isolde by the Los Angeles Opera conducted by James Conlan a few months ago and a couple of nights later went to a get-together of the Wagner Society of Southern California at a home near the Hollywood sign in the Hollywood Hills. The cast members were presented with psuedo Oscars for their performance by the host. The Met is not the only place to hear great opera and where opera lovers gather.

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    Assistant Administrator Chi_townPhilly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shsherm View Post
    ...went to a get-together of the Wagner Society of Southern California at a home near the Hollywood sign in the Hollywood Hills.
    Well, in light of your involvement in the Wagner Society of Southern California, fraternal greetings from this bit player in the Wagner Society of New York! (Not too subtle, huh?)
    Quote Originally Posted by opus67 View Post
    Even astronauts have a more relaxed (less stringent) preparation before a flight!
    LOL!
    There was one more "check-down," but it wasn't Wagner-specific. I keep at the ready a couple of (unwrapped!) cough drops, in case of unscheduled difficulties with my throat. Like the old 'dial-soap' commercial, "aren't you glad I" do that? "Don't you wish everyone did?!"

    I will return to my personal observations about the event soon. I have to say in advance, though, that no-one should expect anything like an "impartial review." I'm too much of a dilettante, and (which is more)
    too much of a fan to attempt something portentious-sounding like that. [May God grant that I never lose that 'fan perspective.']

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    Assistant Administrator Chi_townPhilly's Avatar
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    Default At "The Horsehoe" Act I

    O.K.: where was I?
    Quote Originally Posted by Chi_town/Philly View Post
    The Maestro raises his arms. The overture is about to begin!
    Ah, that's right!

    And the music starts. And for the next dozen-plus minutes, I'm actually grateful for that clear view of the orchestra pit. Then, about three minutes in, something unexpected happens... tears... on my part. It's surprising. I've heard I don't know how many versions of the Tristan & Isolde Prelude, from an old vinyl introduction from Stokowski and the Symphony of the Air to more modern renderings by Ormandy, Karajan, and Solti. I've NEVER had this happen with THIS passage, though. Donald Runnicles said in December that he considered the Met orchestra the finest opera orchestra in the world. I had attributed it to a typical pre-performance obsequy. Right now, though, it really seems like they're playing like it!

    The curtain rises, and we see our first look at the production values. I want to give them the highest compliment that I can give staging in this century- and that is: I never got the feeling that the production was anything other than in service to Wagner's music and Wagner's drama. Big, big relief, personally.

    Before long, Deborah Voigt's voice is filling the house. Michelle DeYoung's, too. Later, we're introduced to Eike Wilm Schulte's Kurwenal... and I enjoy what I'm hearing. Ben Heppner, too, is singing like he's all that, and near the close of Act I, one of my favorite (apologies to Holman) 'Wagner moments,' the couplet "O Wonne voller Tücke!/O truggeweihtes Glücke!" (this time not unexpectedly) brings the water back to my eyes. In the meantime, the orchestra continues to weave its spell, and the curtain falls for the first time.

    How great is this?!

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    Assistant Administrator Chi_townPhilly's Avatar
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    Default And now, Act II of Tristan und Isolde

    Act II of Tristan und Isolde: one of the Himalayas among operatic acts. Weighing in at an Iapetan one-and-a-half hours, it is, by itself, longer than a complete performance of Leoncavallo's Pagliacci. It can sometimes present a huge challenge to the non-Wagnerian. [squints, :blinks:, glances furtively at spouse, :blinks:, looks again.]

    As in the first act, the opening voices are those of Michelle DeYoung and Deborah Voigt... and Voigt's characterization is, if anything, on the ascendency. Then, after the torch is extinguished to herald the arrival of Tristan (Ben Heppner), it seems that Voigt's sound is penetrating to the corners of the house more thoroughly than Heppner's. This is only temporary, though. Heppner's intensity increases quite quickly. Balances soon sound just right, and I find it easy to lose myself in the moment and give no further thought to the mundane concern of time. Orchestra continues its inspired contribution. The act, of course, winds down with the arrival of Matti Salminen's King Marke, catching the couple in the tasteful operatic equivalent of flagrante delicto. This is a crucial moment- an indifferent rendition of Marke can spoil things quickly. With Salminen, we are in excellent hands. In fact, my wife rated his musicianship as the best of the night. (I understand her point- but like a good Olympic judge, I think one should add a 'degree-of-difficulty' factor to the two title roles.)

    One final word about direction... I noticed that when characters were not presently engaged in peroration, they frequently played the "game of statues" and froze in place while others sung. It was an interesting solution to the issue of the unengaged performers on stage, and yet another occasion to recycle Birgit Nilsson's quip about the importance of "a comfortable pair of shoes" during this span.

    Then, with the sudden outburst of violence from Melot to a Tristan who opts not to defend himself, and another surge of sound from the orchestra, the fastest-seeming hour-and-a-half I ever spent listening to musical performance was over... and I began to consider that we are not just witnessing a fine performance, we are witnessing a rendition of historical importance.
    Last edited by Chi_townPhilly; Apr-04-2008 at 03:49.
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    I saw this...I was at the night where Tristan was an understudy, and then Isolde got sick in the middle of a song and ran off stage.

    It was cool, but I still don't get Wagner.
    Weep not for little Leonie,
    Abducted by a French marquis!
    Though loss of honor was a wrench
    Just think how it's improved her French.

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    Assistant Administrator Chi_townPhilly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Azathoth View Post
    I saw this...I was at the night where Tristan was an understudy, and then Isolde got sick in the middle of a song and ran off stage.
    Ahhh, the excitement of live performance.
    How about that for "degree-of-difficulty:" Female lead comes down with (ahem...) intestinal distress in the central act and the 'cover,' who's never sung at the Met before, gets told YOU'RE ON!!

    There are some musical experiences you just can't get with an MP3 player.

    My understanding is that people had good things to say about Janice Baird and her contributions on 3/14. As for the Tristan, well... opinion was more divided (he wasn't retained).

    Concerning the second part of your post... are you willing to meet me back here to reflect on the matter further?

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    Senior Member opus67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chi_town/Philly View Post
    There are some musical experiences you just can't get with an MP3 player.
    For everything else, there's YouTube.
    Regards,
    Navneeth

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    I will say that I was so distracted during spring break by the live radio performance that I drove 20 miles in the wrong direction one afternoon. . . and my friends won't stop torturing me for it! But it was JAMES LEVINE and the oboe solo was to die for. . . . and who can resist those crunchy german chords?

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    Assistant Administrator Chi_townPhilly's Avatar
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    Thanks for stopping by with that reminiscence, Emilia! (Oh, and a Garden State welcome to TalkClassical, too.) Listening to that broadcast was another part of my "show-prep;" although I only had time to take in Acts II and III of that Saturday afternoon performance. The most interesting between-act discovery for me was Deborah Voigt's interview and observation that since Isolde in Act I is a whirlwind of anger and agitation, one of the challenges of the role is to make sure you don't empty too much of the tank in that act.

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