Tristan und Isolde

Georges Sébastian
Choeur du Grand Théâtre de Genève
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
31 January 1972
Grand Théâtre Genève
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
TristanJean Cox
IsoldeAmy Shuard
BrangäneKerstin Meyer
KurwenalJef Vermeersch
König MarkeKurt Moll
MelotStan Unruh
Ein junger SeemannPierre-André Blaser [or Jaume Baro]
Ein HirtJaume Baro
SteuermannMichel Bouvier

There seems to be a bumper crop of Tristan und Isolde productions this season, which is quite a feat considering the scarcity of artists qualified to sing the title-roles. The version of the GRAND THEATRE presented Amy Shuard in her first stage Isolde. Miss Shuard emphasized the proud, irascible, even arrogant side of Isolde’s character, and while some of her expression and imperious gestures might have been more appropriate for Turandot, they were clearly those of a princess accustomed to commanding. At first the voice sounded somewhat edgy, and the Narrative was uneven in the soft passages, where greater legato is needed. For the forceful passages, however, the requisite power was there, with the high Bs relished, perhaps excessively. Her interview with Tristan was distinguished by the great subtlety and differentiation with which she cajoled him into drinking the potion. Up to this crucial point, despite some unnatural poses, her well-considered interpretation had been so convincing that the sudden transformation to a woman melted and consumed by overpowering love did not come off. In the second act, too, although her longing was vidid, her love was more noble than sensuous. The love duet was clearly leading to the transfiguration of the Liebestod’ ; and the latter was the crowning point of her interpretation.

She was poorly matched with Jean Cox, who as Tristan was neither an involved partner nor an antagonist. A hero more in size than in demeanour, he is no Heldentenor, and while he sang his notes capably, that was all. His acting was aloof and wooden. At his best in the lyric music of the love duet, he blended well with Miss Shuard. The third act seemed beyond him.

The outstanding performance of the evening was given by Kurt Moll, who invested Mark’s long monologue with uncommon interest. Aided by remarkable diction and stage presence, he built up tension in sections which generally sag, and his warm, deep voice was a pleasure to hear in any register. Kerstin Meyer is still a good Brangaene, deeply involved in the anguish and misfortunes of her mistress. Her off-stage warning suffered from a wobble which marred the exquisite sustained tones. Even when she was poised awkwardly on two steps her high register was reliable, her diction excellent. So was the diction of the Kurwenal, Jef Vermeersch, who revealed a fine, robust voice and brought out the varying facets of his role. He, however, was noticably at odds with the podium, as was his Tristan. The smaller roles, especially the Melot of Stan Unruh, were refreshingly well done.

There was little in Georges Sebastian’s conducting to command attention. His beat was often unclear, and he paid little heed to Wagner’s gradations of tempo and dynamics. The work was thus robbed of much of its mystery, architecture, and sweep. By the sixth performance the orchestra had for the most part ‘settled in’ and produced some delicate moments. Herbert Graf’s production uncomfortably straddled the fence between realism and symbolism. It received little help from the nondescript sets of Joelle Roustan and Roger Bernard. Judicious cuts helped the flow of the drama and mitigated the length of the poem.


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Media Type/Label
Technical Specifications
128 kbit/s CBR, 44.1 kHz, 178 MByte (MP3)
A production by Herbert Graf