Occasional musings, Geistesblitze, photos, drawings etc. by a "resident alien", who has landed on American soil from a far-away planet called "Germany".

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Tristan und Isolde

Live from the Met!


ArtLvr said...

Hi Ulrich --

I've been watching Wagner's Tristan on TV all afternoon, live from the Met -- it's not over yet! Everyone has come back, even the king (from Ireland?) was going to release Isolde from her wedding vow -- too late. I didn't recall about potions being involved, but should have known!

It's a striking production,visually spare, and great cast with Deborah Voigt et al -- and it's the first time I've seen split/screen technique used in the telecasting (judiciously, to be sure). Wish I'd recorded it.... Hope you are having a good trip!


Ulrich said...

Too bad I missed it--must pay more attention to TV schedules--there are weeks when I don't watch a single minute, which is not advisable if you want to get better at crossword puzzles. But then, I'm too old to change my stripes. As to Tristan: I've listed it among my favorite operas and really regret missing it.

A general word on Wagner: This is a case where not knowing German is an advantage b/c you have to follow the text in translation (if you follow at all). Wagner's libretti serve one purpose well: They allow him to unfold his melodic lines as he wants them, but if you look at them outside the music, you'll see that they are hardly ever brilliant, often so-so, and sometimes cringe-inducingly awful, starting with the fact that his heros have the annoying habit of talking about themselves in the third person, as if they had never grown up.

miriam b said...

I've been so busy today finishing the pesky details on a beautiful retro-style dress (1940-ish) that I never even looked at the TV listings. That opera would have been perfect accompaniment to the onerous task of turnng up a hem on a bias skirt. As a kid, I used to listen to the opera every Saturday, often while doing something soothing and mindless. This was the nearest thing possible to meditation. One day I knit the entire back of a sweater while listening to what has to have been a long opera. I have to try to revisit those early years, when it was actually possible to achieve an alpha state once in a while. Too much Sturm und Drang these days. "The world is too much with us" (sigh).

Speaking of retro, Cocteau did a great version of the Tristan legend in the '40's. The recently deceased Jean Marais starred in the film, which was called L'Eternel Retour. I've always loved his work. La Belle et la Bête was super, but Orphée was the best of all. IMHO, of course.

I hope you're enjoying your trip, Ulrich.

Ulrich said...

I hope that I will be able to keep this up from over there. (We may have a heavy focus on soccer, though--not to everyone's taste).

An addendum to my put-down on Wagner as a librettist (is that a word?): Yes, he is often awkward, but then again, he comes up with Isolde's final words in Tristan, the so-called Liebestod, where he finds the perfect words for what he wants for his music--I don't think another writer could have given him what he wanted.

The eternal question remains, however: What the hell did Isolde die of?

PhillySolver said...

Please write about soccer and although I have other teams I watch, I hope the men do as well in Europe as the women did in the World Cup.

I thought Isolde dies of a broken heart which is almost a requirement of a tragedy.

Ulrich said...

@phillysolver: I'm doing this as I'm reading your comment--great minds...;-)

ArtLvr said...

I enjoyed your comments on Tristan -- have to admit that Wagner is often tedious to me, but when you spoke of German roomanticism before, I had to watch this. Perhaps Isolde died of the added shock of Tristan's death after her exhausting sea voyage. Anyway, it was very Shakespearean too -- in his plays, one of the lead actors almost always has the last word(s). And some even consider him the father of musicals as well.

I did think it was interesting to hear the trumpets twice or more from afar as the ship was nearing land -- it sounded very much like that sequence of notes used (over and over, louder and louder) in one of the sci-fi movies -- that one where people are drawn to the mountain in Colorado in time for the landing of the space ship!

I like your headings -- you can do a separate thread for your sports updates! Good luck to your favorite teams...


ArtLvr said...

@ miriam b -- I enjoyed your comments on Cocteau too! I actually got to meet him once: a friend of the family I was staying with in Paris took me over to his apartment in the Palais Royal, where he had us come in for a short while -- unfortunately he was unwell, in a bathrobe with a towel wrapped around his neck and suffering from a bad cold. And I was just a college student who hadn't the background at that point to offer much in the way of conversation...

Another luminary who was often at my hostess's apartment was the director Jean Louis Barreau, if I have the name right. He was coaching one of the daughters of the house with private acting lessons.. Again, my French wasn't very fluent, and when he asked me to read a selection -- mercifully short -- he muttered something like "Are you serious?" Ah well. I did hold up my end when it came to bridge games!


Ulrich said...

@artlvr: Interesting that you mention film music: Wagner is sometimes called the greatest composer of film scores ever--his ability to "paint" a mood is indeed unsurpassed. Furthermore, the scenes he stages--like the Rhine maidens cavorting in the water at the beginning of Das Rheingold, or the ride of the Walcuries, or Freia racing up to her husband Wotan in a carriage drawn by rams--simply cannot be staged on an opera stage, but could be filmed gloriously! So, I often wonder if that is not going to happen some day.

As to Wagner's tediousness: IMHO it's not only his limitations as a writer, but also a really annoying literalness. For example, the Ring became a series of four operas b/c he realized when he composed Götterdämmerung that there was so much background information to be reported that it required first one, then a second, and then a third opera to precede it. So, why then does he have to explicitly RETELL at the beginning of each of these operas what has already been shown before? This is one of the reasons why his operas, especially in the Ring, appear interminable sometimes.

BTW I envy you for your meetings with these great Frenchmen.