The Organ

WNO Wagner: Tristan and Isolde

Birmingham Hippodrome
11th November

It was a few weeks before I could catch up with Tristan in the Birmingham Hippodrome where the size of the building suits Wagner far better than the Oxford Apollo. The overwhelming impact of this revival came from the orchestra under Mark Wigglesworth who is proving to be a very fine Wagnerian. I had felt uncomfortable with Annalena Persson earlier this year as Senta but there were no difficulties with here Isolde. Alive to the text, and more than able to bring fire to act one, she galvanised the action of the first two acts, carrying the rest of the cast with her. Only Robert Hayward's stalwart Kurvenal and Susan Bickley's Brangane managed to come near to her emotional honesty.

Alfred Reiter disappointed as King Mark. After his exceptional Gurnemanz for WNO I had expected much more subtlety and musicality than we got.

Jon Mac Master was a bitter disappointment. He can sing the notes with some ease, and I had hoped that he was keeping himself dramatically for the final act. No such luck. His inability to find any sort of dramatic truth in the score, or create any relationship with such an impassioned Isolde was almost unbelievable. Maybe he can get away with this approach in the concert hall but it has no place in modern theatre. Luckily for us the orchestra swept us through act three and Annalena Persson's Liebestod was all that one could hope for.