Sunday, August 08, 2010


I'd given some thought to going to Seattle this month to see the new production of Tristan und Isolde. After seeing the video the opera company has produced - well, part of it, because I just can't sit through too much of Speight Jenkins's yakking - hoo boy. I dodged a bullet: boring production, soprano who doesn't sing in tune, silent-movie acting. The 1998 production, which Seattle Opera told me last year has been mothballed for financial reasons, was spectacularly beautiful, well directed, and well sung. Too bad!

After you watch the video through the Liebestod, try this for immaculately-sung contrast:

(And note Dame Margaret's use of portamento, which I was recently informed just isn't allowed in Wagner. Uh-huh. Tell it to Kleiber and Price. Pending some library research, I'll have a few more things to say about that assertion.)


Aaron said...

just not allowed, eh? i'm assuming they used some portamento in the 19th-century bel canto style wagner admired so much...

it's true that sometimes the music calls for more rigidity -- especially with something like brünnhilde or senta popping off high notes. but to take one example, whenever the singer doesn't use a bit of portamento on that last "selig" in brünnhilde's last line of götterdämmerung, i just feel a little cheated.


(but hey, what does nilsson know about wagner?)

Lisa Hirsch said...

Ahaha, Nilsson famously omitted some portamento even when it's written into the score!

Yes, I was told that in current Wagnerian practice, since Cosima, in fact, portamento is a no-no. Of course, Lilli Lehmann sings Wagner with portamento, but, as you say, what did she know?

Henry Holland said...

Love that clip of Nilsson singing the end of the Immolation Scene. It's awesome how she leans back at certain points when she lets the voice go full out, lest the tape and tape decks be overwhelmed.

My only "I wish I had heard [whoever] sing [whatever]" type regret about a particular singer is never hearing Nilsson sing Elektra, Isolde or Turandot in her prime.