2 September 2009

Tristan und Isolde at Glyndebourne

My fourth, and final, trip to Glyndebourne this year was to see Wagner's Tristan und Isolde.

It's an opera that I did not know and it was the second visit this year with the same friends so we went for some (relatively) cheap seats and we found ourselves in the very back row (Row G Upper Circle).

We also found ourselves in the very middle of the row so being at the back was no problem. In some ways it was better than being in the stalls, where we had been on the previous visit, as it is easy to see the surtitles from higher up.

The weather looked less than promising so we grabbed one of the picnic tables in the opera house complex. This worked out well as it not only gets rid of the potential rain problem it also vastly reduces the travel time to the seats thereby giving more time for eating and drinking!


Tristan und Isolde is a fairly simple tragic love story told over four hours of gorgeous and dramatic singing.

Wagner tells the story at a consistent pace and in a consistent mood. There are no stand-out arias and no simple songs heavy with repetition.

The drama is mostly told by Tristan and Isolde who spend most of the time on stage and singing.

The staging was fairly simple, which I like as it leaves the focus on the actors. The same stage (shown here in its 2007 guise) was used very effectively in all three acts where it gave admirable impressions of a boat and two different rooms.

The clever bit was the lighting which was used, for example, to show the passing of the day. It also allowed actors to hide once they had done their bit thereby reducing the distracting noise of people walking on and off stage.

Tristan und Isolde was an undoubted success and was a fitting finale for the Glyndebourne season. I saw four very different operas this year (though they all featured magic and three had love potions!) and it is hard to compare them but, if pushed, I would say that L’elisir d’amore by Donizetti was the most complete production, with Tristan und Isolde a most creditable second.

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