Few people these
days expect literal cloaks, swords, ships and castles from Tristan und
Isolde, although there is some semblance of those things to
be found in David Fielding’s new production for Grange Park Opera, despite its
could say there’s no ship or sea in Fielding’s staging, a first for Wagner at
the country opera house, as he sets the first act on a spick and span cross
channel ferry steaming towards Cornwall with a watery, if static, horizon.
Berkeley-Steele’s “hero without equal” looks like the ship’s purser, the man
you’d go to if you’d mislaid your passport or wanted to change some Euros. But no, he’s clearly the captain because he
has stripes on his cuffs and presides over the vessel’s computerized control
was an astonishing Siegfried for ENO and he certainly has the knack of
appearing youthful. His Tristan looks a
handsome young man but his costumes (in Act Two he’s a waiter in white jacket and
striped trousers) have a constricting effect.
Vocally he’s on good form, struggling a little in the huge outpouring of
the final act, but valiant and steadfast.
Mellor’s Isolde is the vocal triumph of the night, freer and with much
greater light and shade than for her rather frenetic Brünnhilde at Longborough last year. It’s a performance that can only grow and
Mellor’s first Isolde promises great and greater things.
combines directing and design duties and visually things get stronger act by
act. The love scene is set in an elegant
palace bedroom of white and silver, which in a natty trick opens out into a
scene of bucolic greenery, and the final act’s tatty room by the sea provides
the evening’s most pleasing vista.
slightly muted opening prelude, sounding thin on strings and with some ugly
first night wobbles, the musical build is slow but sure. Once the potion has been administered,
Stephen Barlow drives the English Chamber Orchestra on to a rousing Act 1
finale and then greater and greater strengths.
Act 2 rages with passion and there’s much fine playing thereafter.
between the leads is in short supply, not helped by Isolde having to put on
clothes for the love scene, while Tristan stays buttoned-up, only removing his
starched jacket (and then not his shoes) when he slips into bed with the lady.
skull, goblet and knife slide into view during the post-coital haze and further
extraneousness is provided later with moodily silent figures (young Tristan and
his ghostly mum and dad) wandering through the Act 3 prelude and beyond. One can see the rationale for it all but the
ideas don’t quite gel.
interesting characterisation, Sara Fulgoni’s Brangäne is a strangely galumphing creature (sorry
to say, Mrs Overall comes frequently to mind), while Clive Bayley’s dotty King
(King?) Marke is a scruffy old bird-watcher, who only overcomes the obstacles
through sheer vocal weight. Stephen
Gadd’s reliable kilted Kurwenal fares better in all respects.
the production fails to create a convincing world but musically there’s a good
deal to admire and enjoy in this first Wagnerian adventure for the Hampshire