TRISTAN UND ISOLDE:
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.
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.
Click PLAY button to hear
the music clip again.
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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:
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
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
* ...a SUPER SOPRANO in almost
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