It's the damndest thing, or at least I think it's a little strange, what happens to me at the beginning of a Wagner opera, and I'm wondering if it happens to anyone else. It's a lot like the feeling at the beginning of a long drive, and I suppose there's no other word for it than anxiety; the knowledge that, come good or come awful, one is more or less strapped in for the long haul. So even though I have come to think of Tristan as, under ideal circumstances, an opera without any dull patches, I have a moment of wanting to run for the exit. Fortunately I haven't, yet, and boy am I glad I didn't last night. Because the other impulse I had to rein in at last night's round of Tristan und Isolde, oder: Wer singt heute, und mit wem? was the occasional urge to applaud mid-act, mostly for Mr. Heppner though also for his colleagues.
A Heppner is a sometime thing, and I've lamented it before, and won't try to pretend I haven't. He gives me shpilkes waiting for the cracks. I will, however, forgive it (and there was exceptionally little to forgive last night, though I hear the microphones picked up flaws that weren't evident in house) and perhaps get his name tattooed on my ass when he brings the dementia. I'm not sure which conventionalized way of praising his singing to choose in fact. Hey, pick one:
a) like a god
b) like a real heldentenor*
b 1/2) like a hero
c) shut up Maury you are writing this column
You know what I'll say, and don't roll your eyes at me, is that as of last night I am slightly less mopey about the fact that I am not 90 and never heard you-know-who in the role. Truly, Heppner lacked nothing. I have heard the Hep produce fetching tone before, and I have heard him sing loud, and sometimes I have heard him sing with that inebriating wallop that almost nobody has just now. Now I have heard him sing like a fucking lunatic, sing like he would break if he did not. I am grateful to him and to the universe. For a better description of what he did, I refer you to my host and fellow astonished listener.**
By the way is it true that the Dane never sang it without cuts?
Some of the assembled Celts (Gaels?) last night were the same as before in this ever shifting cast (including Salminen, thank god) and sounded great as before. I do have my ear on Mr. Gaertner after hearing him twice decant a fine Merlot I mean Melot. Some were new, as was Richard Paul Fink, a wilder and woolier Kurwenal, and probably a notch louder than his also excellent counterpart.
And, as the little white slip of dread told us going in, Ms. Voigt had contracted a touch of sea sickness from all the crossing from Ireland to Cornwall and would not be with us. You may have heard Janice Baird the other night, but I had not, and was very well pleased. Comparing her with DV would be like comparing apples and some more hochdramatisch fruit. I'm glad to have witnessed both assumptions of the role and wouldn't willingly choose between them. Baird's voice is not as beautiful, and as many have noted, it has an overly broad vibrato at times, but it's steely and has a bit of a Nilsson bite without going over into Linda Watson territory, and fach-wise, it's yeah a little bit more convincing. And yes, if your entire evening hinges on a single F#, you'll want to know that it was in tune, though I don't see why you'd pay a bunch for a ticket rather than sitting at home with a tuning fork going "that's what I'm talkin' about!" In the parlance of the playground, I am tempted to ask if you are going to marry F# if you like it so much.
Baird sang the role as if hungry for the taste of the words, and as we know, that's not something DV always does--I hear she did during the moviecast, especially in the narrative/curse. This thing Baird was doing, it wasn't naturalistic acting, ecole de Mattila, but there was passion in it, and especially in this production, that'll do the trick. She's Seattle's new Brunnhilde, one reads, and the thought of her in the 'dammerung cannot help but interest us.
Really, I do think this is one of the Met's most successful productions. And am apparently the only one who does not find it funny when they drink the potion and everything goes Valentine red. I'm not used to being the sappy one but I just think it's pretty. Wait, we interrupt this regularly scheduled paragraph to inform you that Hans Lick (a Person who Knows Things) has mentioned in the Parterre Comment Mosh Pit that the last T/I will be Salminen's Met Farewell. Ach! Weh! Um, maybe I'll go again Friday.
If not, I'm due for an Ernani, so that's probably next up. Beyond that lies....Satyagraha!
*Yep, you've been Renee-rolled. Oh god, it's a long story. I believe it may have started here. (No, I promise I'm not Renee-rolling you again.)
**really one of the great luxuries of living here is the frequent opportunity to go to the opera with people who are there to love it, and at intermission to run into more of them. I don't mean uncritical people, as I hope is obvious. What I do mean may be another entry altogether, it occurs to me after typing and deleting seven times. But probably you know what I mean.