Tristan and Isolde: I’m Not Buying It

tristan-at-met
Stuart Skelton and Nina Stemme embrace as the title characters in the Met’s 2016 production of Tristan and Isolde.

I was very excited to attend the October 8 broadcast (Met in HD) of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde with my primary opera companion Roger.  After all, Wagner’s Die Meistersinger had been the highpoint of the 2014-15 season for me, and Nina Stemme is one of the greats on the stage today.

Shall I … in the wafting universe of the World-breath drown,

be engulfed–

unconscious–

extreme delight?

Acts I and II are lovely, but Act III really lost me.  I’m not sure what it was about the production that caused friction for me.  Perhaps the age and physical appearance of the principle players threw me off.  (Although I don’t like to think of myself as being especially superficial, I guess I do want my Tristan to look more like a young Thor.)  It certainly wasn’t the music–the music is gorgeous.  I think in the end I’m just not  convinced that life wasn’t a better option for this couple than death.  Perhaps if they were living in a war zone or a concentration camp I could get romantic about the idea of dying together, but these two seem to have everything to live for.  Unlike star-crossed lovers who can never be together, these two have options.  Shoot, once he realizes what’s up, King Mark is even willing to give his blessing.

Call me crazy, but this Liebestod thing just doesn’t work for me.

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