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I haven't watched Tristan and Isolde before. My library has DVDs of three productions - the 2015 production directed by Katharina Wagner, the production directed by Heiner Muller, and the production conducted by James Levine with Ben Heppner and Jane Eaglen as Isolde. (Pardon my irregular identification of the productions - the library website isn't making it easy to work out when a production's from or who directed it, and my lack of familiarity with opera doesn't help.) Which of these productions do you think would be best as an introduction to Tristan? I hear the Katharina Wagner one cuts the love potion, so I might rule that off first.
 

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If it were me, I would check out the production directed by Heiner Muller. This sounds like the DVD with Siegfried Jerusalem as Tristan, Waltraud Meier as Isolde and Daniel Barenboim conducting. Some might argue that the singing on the Levine disc is also fine, but Jerusalem and Meier seem to me to be more convincing as Tristan and Isolde.
 

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I haven't seen the new Katharina Wagner DVD but she is known for re-inventing the operas in new settings and changing the story around and injecting it with new meaning, and it appears this Tristan is done in the same format. She usually can't help herself from adding silly stage directions and from reading a few reviews it sounds like she's packed in some outrageous nonsense, like King Marke attempting to give Isolde oral sex. I would avoid as a first exposure.


The Levine has a very nice contemporary but traditional setting however the Tristan und Isolde are both morbidly obese. It's a little hard to get caught up in their passion since they seem to have trouble even moving around the stage. I wouldn't care in a live performance so much but on DVDs with close-ups it's a little off-putting. Levine I've always found understated and boring.


I have seen 7-8 of these DVDs and the Heiner Muller is by far my favorite. Not only are the leads Siegfried Jerusalem and Waltraud Meier attractive but they are two of the most accomplished Wagnerian singers of their generation. The clothing and sets are avant-garde (for the mid-90s) but at least not silly and I find at times even strangely complementary. Barenboim is a great conductor, exciting and well-paced.

 

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I really like this one:
Flash photography Gesture Font Poster Movie

Its the one i own, so I guess I'm a little biased, however I do really think it is a fantastic performance. Nina Stemme isn't quite Waltraud Meier, but she is still the best current Isolde. The sets in this version are extremely abstract and not at all tradtional, but the costumes are exremeley traditional, so as far as faithful performances go, this is fairly good.
The only truly traditional Tristan und Isolde on DVD is the one with Johanna Meier at the Bayreuth, but the acting and musical performances are less than fantastic, so I would probably avoid that one.
 

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I really like this one:
View attachment 91160
Its the one i own, so I guess I'm a little biased, however I do really think it is a fantastic performance. Nina Stemme isn't quite Waltraud Meier, but she is still the best current Isolde. The sets in this version are extremely abstract and not at all tradtional, but the costumes are exremeley traditional, so as far as faithful performances go, this is fairly good.
The only truly traditional Tristan und Isolde on DVD is the one with Johanna Meier at the Bayreuth, but the acting and musical performances are less than fantastic, so I would probably avoid that one.
I also like this version, Stemme is very good and the production is ok, it's just a shame about the cut in Act 2.
 

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I like the Heiner Müller best. Meier and Jerusalem not only sing well, but make the most compelling couple. The staging is nontraditional, but mostly abstract and austere, rather than stuffed with distracting gimmicks. Barenboim's conducting is exemplary.

The concluding Liebestod is one of the strongest moments:

 

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I like the Heiner Müller best. Meier and Jerusalem not only sing well, but make the most compelling couple. The staging is nontraditional, but mostly abstract and austere, rather than stuffed with distracting gimmicks. Barenboim's conducting is exemplary.

The concluding Liebestod is one of the strongest moments:

A staging I like even better is Chéreau's for La Scala, conducted by Barenboim. Meier's voice is perhaps showing her age a bit, but I do find the whole to be very satisfying. Available on blu-ray and dvd.
 

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I'm old fashioned so I like this traditional one..............

 

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I like the Heiner Müller best. Meier and Jerusalem not only sing well, but make the most compelling couple. The staging is nontraditional, but mostly abstract and austere, rather than stuffed with distracting gimmicks. Barenboim's conducting is exemplary.

The concluding Liebestod is one of the strongest moments:

Is it just me or does the brass chord at about 5:01 sound a little off?
 

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Yes it is; has different cover now.
Wagner: Tristan und Isolde
Live recording from Deutsche Oper Berlin's Opera Tour to Japan, NHK Hall Tokyo, 1993
I like that one as well, though Jones and Kollo sound a bit past their primes vocally. It's also available on blu-ray. Very nice traditional production by Götz Friedrich.
 

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Of all operas Tristan doesn't really need to be seen, especially on the small screen. Often the actors don't look good close up as they are by necessity mature. And the action is so simple it can be imagined. The last Met broadcast of Tristan was a disaster stage wise and one can be far better off with an aural experience and using one's imagination
 

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Of all operas Tristan doesn't really need to be seen, especially on the small screen. Often the actors don't look good close up as they are by necessity mature. And the action is so simple it can be imagined. The last Met broadcast of Tristan was a disaster stage wise and one can be far better off with an aural experience and using one's imagination
But if you don't have that option, DVD'S are a good alternative on a wide screen T.V. of course.
 

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I like the Heiner Müller best. Meier and Jerusalem not only sing well, but make the most compelling couple. The staging is nontraditional, but mostly abstract and austere, rather than stuffed with distracting gimmicks. Barenboim's conducting is exemplary.

The concluding Liebestod is one of the strongest moments:

This single masterful modern visual realization of liebestod "almost" makes up for all the reggie absurdities wagner opera has suffered over the years (including in this same opera).......how does one create the impossible visual of a transcendent spiritual unification with your beloved just deceased beyond this mortal world?

The shimmering gold gown and organic glowing gold square......it is a symbolic window or portal to a realm beyond this mortal world of mans suffering where blissful love exists in pure form forever, finally someone has used their visual imagination to benefit wagner's glorious vision, I love it!
 
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