TRISTAN UND ISOLDE:
RICHARD WAGNER's monument to love, the most emotionally-charged piece of music ever written, a love song from beginning to end.

The plot is simple - Tristan meets Isolde and takes her to be his uncle's wife. But they have fallen so deeply in love. He gets wounded; he dies. And she dies after him - a love-death..

The opera is complex: it lifts eroticism to the realm of the soul; it is about subjugation of the will, and the suppression of the ego as the path to transcendent love; it defines death as the end of separation, the passage into the ultimate union, life transfigured into a state of perfect bliss.

And it is all there - in the text but most especially in the, oh! so beautiful music.

Shown here are curtain call photos from the 1999 August Everding production at Munich's historic Prinzregententheater. Conducted by Lorin Maazel, with Jon Fredric West as Tristan, Hildegard Behrens as Isolde and Hanna Schwarz as Brangäne, the production premiered on November 10, 1996.  Also shown are a couple of photos from earlier productions of the Bavarian State Opera.

Hildegard Behrens as ISOLDE


Photos: © C. McKinnon


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ISOLDE is one of the most challenging roles in the dramatic repertory. And for Hildegard Behrens, a most cherished role, one that invites continual refinement, perhaps because the opera is a drama of the soul, and Isolde is all about transcendent love. Indeed, even today she discovers new ideas that enlighten her interpretation of the role which defined her as a Wagnerian soprano early in her career:

"an Isolde to challenge the greatest in the past."

She first sang the role at the Zurich Opera in 1980 to great critical acclaim and has since taken it to the world's major opera houses.

When in 1981 the great American conductor Leonard Bernstein decided it was time to record Tristan und Isolde, for him "the central work of all music history, the hub of the wheel...." he chose Hildegard Behrens for his Isolde. By all accounts "their partnership was one of the most thrilling sights ever witnessed on a concert platform." Upon completion of the recording, Bernstein exclaimed: "My life is complete. I don't care what happens after this. It is the finest thing I've ever done."
-pp. 462-463 in Humprey Burton: "Leonard Bernstein," Doubleday 1994

Of this historic recording, soprano Anne Evans, most recently said:

"...Hildegard Behrens, who made an extraordinary recording of the opera under Leonard Bernstein, was probably the best of the rest in recent times... First [Frida] Leider [who dominated the role in interwar years], then Behrens..."
- from "Isolde- the mother of all soprano roles" / The Guardian (UK), Sep 24, 2009


* ...a SUPER SOPRANO in almost every sense."


Of her ISOLDE in the Metropolitan Opera's production of Tristan und Isolde, the New York Times wrote:

"Moreover, Miss Behrens finished her evening's work shortly after midnight with a soaring ''Mild und leise,'' saving voice on a few of the lower passages but hurling out the high notes with shining, seemingly tireless tones. After an entire night of coping with Isolde's music, only a SUPER SOPRANO can hope to deliver the Liebestod in such superb fashion. Miss Behrens is a SUPER SOPRANO in almost every sense." - NEW YORK TIMES, Dec. 8, 1983


READ: Hildegard Behrens' account of her Isolde with Leonard Bernstein>>

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HILDEGARD BEHRENS: she makes music worth seeing!

PROFILE     PORTRAITS     PERFORMANCES     DISCOGRAPHY     AWARDS     QUOTES
BRÜNNHILDE     ELEKTRA      SALOME      FIDELIO     ISOLDE     MARIE     SENTA
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HILDEGARD BEHRENS
SUPERSOPRANO*

Saddened by her passing, we celebrate her life.
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HILDEGARD BEHRENS



WATCH:
"Liebestod"
- from 1981 recording with Leonard Bernstein, cond.
TRISTAN UND ISOLDE




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