* Notes *
Los Angeles Opera's 1987 production of Tristan und Isolde was revived last week in San Francisco. The production was designed by David Hockney, best known for his swimming pool paintings from the sixties. The set looked much like a large-scale colorful pop-up book, filled with strange details, such as curtains attached to nothing on board Act I's ship and Celtic knots as leaves in Act II's forest. Similarly, the medieval costumes were rather bright, at least until Act III, and uniformly made of velvet. It reminded me of the Land of Make-Believe in the esteemed children's television show Mr. Roger's Neighborhood.
The choreography was bizarre, often the singers would simply stand as if they were in an oratorio and not a staged production, or worse hold some unnaturally static position. The sailor who begins the opera with "Westwärts schweift der Blick" had his back to the audience, which doesn't make for particularly good theater.
Jane Irwin (Brangäne) held her own, even singing with Christine Brewer (Isolde), who has a powerful and dramatic voice. Thomas Moser sang better as Tristan than as Florestan last season, some of his higher notes are quiet. Both Brewer and Moser had good diction, though there is an advantage in that Wagner wrote so that the words could be discerned. Runnicles kept it together in the orchestra pit.
* Tattling *
Though I arrived late for Evan Baker's preview lecture, it seemed to go well. Baker can actually pronounce words in German. He used the the Nilsson-Windgassen-Böhm recording from the 1966 Bayreuth Festival for his musical examples.
The audience was possibly the best-behaved I have ever encountered. Part of this is because the hall was not full, and even though I got my standing room ticket less than an hour before curtain, I was the twentieth standee. I imagine most people are intimidated by a performance that is more than four and a half hours long. People left at each of the two intermissions, and I had the standing area nearly to myself by the end. I did not hear a single mobile phone, and better yet, not a single beep marking the hour from an electronic watch.