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Tristan und Isolde, Wagner: STEUERMANN (Steersman)

Tristan und Isolde


Composer : Richard Wagner
Librettist : Richard Wagner, after Gottfried von Strassburg, etc.
Venue and Dates : Hamburg State Opera
13 (opening night), 17, 22 March 1988
Conductor : Zoltan Pesko
Director : Ruth Berghaus
Stage design : Hans-Dieter Schaal
Costumes : Marie-Luise Strandt
Stage design : Hans-Dieter Schaal
Costumes : Marie-Luise Strandt
Performers :

Tristan : William Johns
King Mark : Harald Stamm
Isolde : Gabriele Schnaut
Kurwenal :
Melot :
Brangäne : Hanna Schwarz
Ein Hirt :
Ein Steuermann : Simon Keenlyside

Notes : During SK’s 18 months in Hamburg (1987-89) he sang 37 performances of many different roles, including Count Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro), Deputierter (Don Carlos), Fiorello (Barbiere), Montano (Otello), Moralès (Carmen), Nightwatchman (Meistersinger), Steuermann (Tristan und Isolde), Wagner (Faust).

If you know any more about this production or any of the others, please contact us on webmaster@simonkeenlyside.info

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Hamburg opera are reviving the production in 2007. Hamburg Staatsoper, Tristan und Isolde

The following extract from the Hamburg opera website was translated by Petra Habeth

Everywhere the cry, the lament
A legendary production returns: “Tristan und Isolde”

…singing the most beautiful love-duet of the opera Tristan und Isolde enter the inner part of a big turbine, the metal flanges of which start to turn around slowly. The composer wanted “passionate embracing“ of the lovers but this does not take place. Also during the “love-death“ scene Isolde turns away from Tristan and, during the last tunes, goes up the ramp, a curtain with a starry night sky falls behind her and she embraces a planet full of craters.

Ruth Berghaus has freed the plot from all romantic attachment to reduce it to the kernel, the “depth of the inner soul-processes“. She looks at the couple with a dry/clinical view of today and sends them on a galactic journey through time and space. Their love is not from this world, in which feelings become more and more cold. Tristan & Isolde don’t look at each other. They are listening on their inside. Even in the love duet they seem to sing monologues. The love and the fear of love, the attraction and repulsion of two people, who can’t escape from their social reality. In her interpretation – and here R. Berghaus takes Wagner at his word – love is not ecstasy but despair. “It is the same at the Venusberg as in Tristan, there it is lost in grace, here in death, everywhere the cry, the lament” the composer wrote.

The directress describes the downfall of man through love with great forcefulness and force of illustration. The stage design of H.D. Schaal suggests neverending loneliness: a glittering spaceship on its trip through the universe in the first act, the inner parts of a ship, a kind of “powerhouse of feelings”, in which inescapable maelstrom mankind is caught, in the second act and at last the wreckage of the spaceship which is apparently shattered on a meteroid in the third act. In the “Frankfurter Rundschau” there was a operning night review: ” Frau Berghaus give the theatre what belongs to the theatre. There is not only something to hear but also action for the eyes. So that is impossible for the boredom which often arises in a Tristan-performance to occur.”

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