East German stage director Ralf Pleger promised us a Tristan unlike anything we had ever seen. It was indeed. And Slovakian conductor Jura Val?uha gave us a Tristan as never before heard. All of this just now in the most Wagnerian of all Italian cities — Bologna!?
Each March France’s splendid OpÈra de Lyon mounts a cycle of operas that speak to a chosen theme. Just now the theme is MÈmoires — mythic productions of famed, now dead, late 20th century stage directors. These directors are Klaus Michael Gr¸ber (1941-2008), Ruth Berghaus (1927-1996), and Heiner M¸ller (1929-1995).
Tristan first appeared on the stage of the ThÈ‚tre du Capitole in 1928, sung in French, the same language that served its 1942 production even with Wehrmacht tanks parked in front of the opera house.
Over 100 years ago, Adolphe Appia sketched designs for Tristan und Isolde that have influenced theatre design from Alfred Roller to Wieland Wagner. Appia’s vision came to life on stage at the Royal Opera House this week. This new production has far deeper roots in tradition than its detractors realize.