Wagner: Tristan und Isolde
I was so overwhelmed by this ‘live’ Tristan, staged at Glyndebourne in August 2009, that I feel mean not giving it five stars. Unfortunately, though, it does have a dreadful cut of about 12 minutes in the love music in Act II. That is a common crime in performances, but makes musical and dramatic nonsense of an extremely carefully composed and utterly inspired central passage: it’s like cutting a few minutes out of a Beethoven Symphony. Having seen this production at Glyndebourne, I knew it was coming; but I don’t see why, when issuing the recording, the passage couldn’t have been inserted – supposing, as must be the case, that the cut was made to save the tenor’s voice rather than for aesthetic reasons.
Torsten Kerl is the Tristan, an impassioned performer, though not a subtle one, nor one who ever sings quietly. Still, he makes a great deal of the part and manages the huge climaxes in Act III, where he has to sing virtually alone for 45 minutes, to powerful and upsetting (in the right sense) effect.
His Isolde, Anja Kampe, is a singer of comparable merits and defects. Her voice is rarely beautiful, but she is involved and always expressive. Beauty is to be found, vocally, in the Brangäne of Sarah Connolly, a wonderful performance in all respects, and in the King Mark of Georg Zeppenfeld, who makes the long monologue of reproach and incomprehension extraordinarily moving.
Perhaps the greatest heroes of the occasion, though, are the London Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Vladimir Jurowski, whose superb performance makes this Glyndebourne recording an indispensable addition to a Wagnerian’s collection, however large it may be.