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Subject: Lehman as Met Tristan 2 December
From: "Volpe, Russell" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Volpe, Russell
Date:Wed, 3 Dec 2008 15:25:17 -0500
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I was at the performance of Tristan last night at the Met and I would like to issue a report for interested listers.
 
Gary Lehman rose to the occasion, was in good voice and coped nobly with the punishing title role.  I found him somewhat tentative in Act I, but he sang tenderly in the Act II duet Nacht der Liebe when he and Katarina Dalayman melded as if transfixed by a mysterious and overpowering love.  He paced himself well overall and sang solidly in his delirium in the third act.  The voice is not of the heroic, ringing heldentenor variety but it is expressive and even throughout his range.  Only occasional did a hint of strain emerge in his voice; interestingly, more often earlier in the opera than in the long third act sing.  He did not run out of gas in Act III, as so many recent Tristan's have - in fact he seemed more at ease and comfortable singing during the delirium where he did some of his best work and when his modest-sized instrument was occasionally swamped by Barenboim, as was everyone on occasion.  He really is a viable, accomplished Tristan and deserves to be recognized as such.
 
Barenboim led a rapturous orchestral performance that was notable for dynamic range, quick changes in pacing and intensity and telling moments of orchestral detail and color.  The orchestra was arranged differently with all the strings centered around him, principal violins to his right and the rest of the strings in front of him and on the left.  The woodwinds, brass and percussion were all to his right.  This contributed to the altered sound that emerged from the orchestra pit often in wondrous ways. Barenboim's Tristan was more in tune with the emotions on stage and filled with dramatic urgency and in those ways different than Levine's whose more ethereal, transparent approach delivers many wonders of a different sort. In Barenboim's Tristan I heard more individual instrumental voices than I often do and heard the score in new ways.  I also found the performance as a whole went by very quickly in his hands and sometimes languorous moments like the long first scene of Act III remained tense, propulsive and in tight focus.
 
Katarina Dalayman was a compact, tightly focused, intense Isolde.  She sang the part well, pealing gleaming high notes, with a voice smaller than the iconic heroic Isolde.  She offered expressive, sensitive acting throughout, particularly in the first act. She was entirely believable as the Irish princess enmeshed in this strange predicament.  Her Liebestod was not of the transcendent, melt-away variety but one of a grounded woman offering her final tribute and a gracious farewell.  Barenboim and the orchestra did the rest.
 
The Kurwenal of Gerd Grochowski was small-voiced and more often swamped by the orchestra than others, but at his best in Act III.  Rene Pape is glorious, simply glorious as King Marke, his portrayal deeper, more nuanced and sensitive with each outing.  Michelle DeYoung's Brangane, started off tentatively in Act I, but she went on to a haunting, beautiful "Watch" and effective proclamations in the third act as Marke and his forces arrive for the denouement.
 
The production by Dieter Dorn with Sets by Jurgen Rose and lighting by Max Keller remains an abstract collection of intermittently effective ideas.  Clutter of the toy soldier and trap door variety dominate the other wise empty playing space and most of the other set pieces rise and fall from the floor.  Count me among those who don't miss the fade to rose colored lighting that accompanies the just-downed love potion, newly absent this season.  I am also incapable now of listening  without distraction to the gorgeous English Horn solo in the beginning of Act III when watching this production as Tristan slides downward, upside down slowly to the fore of the stage.  I was at the performance last year when the carpet slipped and Mr. Lehman, as Tristan, hit his head on the promtor's box and I found my self cringing last night until the carpet had reached the end of his journey and he was safely up and off it.  If you can change the lighting, get rid of the carpet.
 
Russ Volpe

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