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'Wagner: Tristan Und Isolde'
(Stephen Gould, Evelyn Herlitzius, Georg Zeppenfelds, Iain Paterson, Raimund Nolte / 2-DVD / NR / 2016 / Deutsche Grammophon)

Overview: An important and highly-anticipated new production of Wagners take on this ultimate, immortal tale of love and longing by the composers great-granddaughter Katharina Wagner.

DVD Verdict: Featuring some of today's most prominent vocalists and Christian Thielemann, arguably the most important Wagner conductor of our day and age. Indeed, this is the first installment of an exclusive, multiyear partnership between Deutsche Grammophon and the Bayreuth Festival, in which the Yellow Label becomes the exclusive audiovisual partner of the mythical Wagner festival, releasing each editions new production on DVD/Blu-ray.

As for this new, and excitingly incredible release, as we know, Wagner's operas are well represented on DVD. Indeed, there are three excellent Rings, several superb Meistersingers, Parsifals in all flavors, Lohengrins by the ton, and a couple of good Hollanders. Up until now there has only been one 'Tristan' worth watching - the 1983 Bayreuth production conducted by Barenboim and directed by Ponnelle.

But now that, at least in my mind, has all changed, for 'Wagner: Tristan Und Isolde', the immortal tale of love and longing brought to us by the composers great-granddaughter Katharina Wagner is impeccable. Simply breathtaking in all its grandeur.

Stephen Gould and Evelyn Herlitzius both have great stage presence, wonderful voices and, unlike some others I've seen in these roles, are very capable actors. Indeed, and once again, in my humble opinion, Gould is truly at the peak of his greatness here (thus far, of course), for I don't think I can recall a time when I've never heard him sing as well as he does in this production (although he always sings well, let that be known).

With both leads exercising their vocal and acting skills to the full, others such as Georg Zeppenfeld ("Konig Marke"), Iain Paterson ("Kurwenal"), Raimund Nolte ("Melot"), Christa Mayer ("Brangane"), and both Tansel Akzeybek ("Ein Hirt / Ein Jungen Seemann") and Kay Stiefermann ("Ein Steuermann") all also anage to bring their best to the visual and vocal table.

In closing, every conductor who plays this music well (and in Wagner we MUST consider the conducting first) brings to it a distinctive style. Furtwängler, a delicacy and lyricism; Karajan's is languid sensuality; Böhm's is white hot urgency. But here, and witnessing the composers very own great-granddaughter Katharina Wagner at the helm, well, she finds a distinctive balance of lyricism and passion and a sense of dramatic detail much like Carlos Kleiber's - which, it has to be mentioned, is here recorded better and in clearer balance with the stage than in the 1983 Ponelle production. Well played, Ms. Wagner. You Great-Grandfather would be very proud of you, as we all most assuredly are also. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1:78.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

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