Last night the lemur and I braved the biggest snow storm in several years to catch Tristan und Isolde at the Four Seasons Centre. It was the same production I saw last Tuesday but with Michael Baba and Margaret Jane Wray replacing Ben Heppner and Melanie Diener in the title roles. I was also sitting at the front of the Orchestra Ring which is a very different sight line than the back of Ring 3. There’s no way to avoid saying this, it was hugely disappointing and especially so as it was the first time the lemur had seen the show and I had been talking it up excitedly since Tuesday. Baba and Wray sounded underpowered and under-rehearsed. The big Act 2 duet, O sink’ hernieder, Nacht der Liebe, that had left me literally shaking on Tuesday merely left me shaking my head. What had been a glorious, transcendent, hypnotic wave of sound had turned to mush. It was a relief when Franz-Josef Selig, King Marke, took over. At last we got some Wagnerian singing of style and class. Act 3 wasn’t much better. To be fair, the rest of the cast was just as good as on opening night and the orchestra deservedly got the loudest and longest applause of the night. But Tristan und Isolde needs, as Isolde points out, Tristan and Isolde.
Word on the street is that there are only “a few hundred” tickets left for the COC’s February run of the Peter Sellars/Bill Viola Tristan und Isolde. It’s a fair bet that most of the available tickets will be for nights when Burkhard Fritz is singing rather than Ben Heppner. If you want to see Heppner I’d plan on buying now rather than expecting something last minute to turn up. I’d expect there to be horrific line-ups for the same-day nosebleeds and standing room tickets (and I don’t have the stamina to stand through Tristan!).
Christopher Alden’s production of Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito apparently isn’t selling so well, despite a stellar cast and a production that got very good reviews in Chicago. This makes me a sad panda. Unfashionably, perhaps, I regard Clemenza as one of Mozart’s best operas, perhaps his very best, so the chance to see it with a wonderful cast is one I would not miss. My current plans call for me to see it twice; with the principal cast and with the Ensemble Studio, but I shall be sorely tempted to get in for an extra look earlier in the run than my current tickets!