Wednesday, 29 June 2016

TRISTAN AND ISOLDE

So: Wagner. Tristan and Isolde from the cheap seats at the Coliseum (£12 - Independence Day at my local Vue costs more). I've never done Wagner live before. Thought I ought to before I shuffle off. My skim reading of the learned programme notes told me that the impetus for Herr W's writing it was threefold: Schopenhauer's philosophy concerning the Will, the composer's love for his patron's wife (and I suppose concomitant dissatisfaction with his own marriage) and the need to make some money. Well, maybe, but i can't believe it was a crowd pleaser. It is five hours long, more or less. It has a terrific, erotic overture, but then you have to endure four hours of self pity, 'nobility', and explanation (there is precious little showing, it is all telling) before being turned inside out by the final 'Liebestod'. Is it worth it? Yes, probably, just. This finale is really quite breathtaking, a monumental tease, which comes to - it has to be said - an orgasmic resolution. I just about forgave Wagner the four hours of tedium in between. The set, which bore no obvious relation to the material, was by Anish Kapoor, doing his inside-out trompe d'oeil stuff. It was very funky and watching it was a pleasant distraction from the rather dull goings on in the opera. I am musically illiterate so I can not tell whether it was especially well played or sung. The good bits sounded great to me, and the audience loved it.

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