The Epiphany Festival at the Novaya Opera
January 19 – 30, 2021
Tristan und Isolde is one of Wagner’s most poignant operas, the peak of the romantic art, the ideal of beauty and expression in music. Its Moscow premiere at the Novaya Opera, the fourth in its Russian history, was the highlight of the 2012–2013 season.
The production was staged by opera director Nicola Raab and designer George Souglides. For the chief conductor Jan Latham-Koenig Tristan und Isolde became his second Wagnerian project at the Novaya Opera after his production of Lohengrin, which was highly acclaimed by the public and critics alike.
In her version Nicola Raab used the sketches made by the famous designer Alfred Roller in 1903 for the legendary production of the opera at the Vienna State Opera staged and conducted by Gustav Mahler.
The podium is taken by Novaya Opera Chief Conductor Jan Latham-Koenig, a connoisseur and brilliant interpreter of Wagnerian music.
In Tristan Wagner uses a surprisingly modern music idiom. From the very beginning he conducts a revolution opening the way to the music of the 20th century. In this opera there is no traditional overture; of course there is a prelude, but it immediately takes you to another dimension. This happens partly because of its unusual chromatic nature and partly because its depth cardinally differs from any piece that Wagner had composed before. The composer combines his revolutionary approach to the opera with a particular measure of ecstasy in the key musical moments. I mean primarily the love duet. The characters come through several stages of this ecstasy. At first the intensity of emotion rises towards the moment of their meeting; after that Isolde is waiting for Tristan together with Brangäne at the beginning of the second act and Brangäne should signal that he may come. Wagner begins the second act very cleverly. He composed it in Venice in summer, and without realizing it he makes the spectators dizzy with a feeling of a sultry summer Venetian night. The music is saturated with the sound of the sea and makes you almost feel splashes of sea water. The last stage of the love duet is when the characters finally set up a meeting andfly into each other’s arms… The music becomes hysterical, which had not happened to Wagner before. The orchestra is rampaging, expressly, in an exaggerating manner. During the first five minutes the music is so fast, passionate and gasping that it seems the two lovers cannot believe that they are in each other’s arms…When lovers meet after a long parting, the first moments are exactly such as Wagner described them. Then everything gradually calms down… they fall into deep calm dreamy ecstasy, which is interrupted by Brangäne’s terrible warning about the coming day,and Tristan and Isolde must be careful. Preoccupied with themselves, the lovers do not realize it. And for the first time sounds the theme that comes again later in “Isolde’s Death” at the end of the opera when they declare claim their everlasting love, pronouncing each other’s names. But it is intellectual love with a lot of conversation. Here Toscanini’s comment comes to your mind. He conducted this opera several times and once he said: “These Germans are incredible.If they were Italians, they would already have had many children. But as they are Germans, they are still talking it over.
Winner of the Golden Mask Russian National Theatre Award in the "Opera. Best Conductor" nomination for the production of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde in the 2012-2013 season.
Maestro Jan Latham-Koenig — not very often, but consistently — gives us magnificently sounding presents. The previous season was opened with a flawless Britten. Earlier was the first Moscow production of Tristan und Isolde, which made a great sensation.
September 22, 2015
The conductor Jan-Latham Koenig has first of all been noted here for his Wagner: such obviously magnificent Wagner as, for example, in the production of Tristan und Isolde is to be found nowhere else in Moscow.
23 September 2015
I don’t know what magic occurred that evening in the Hermitage Garden, but I still find it difficult to believe in what I heard at the Novaya Opera after Bayreuth, Vienna and Munich (I don’t even mention less iconic venues for the Wagner heritage). It was unforgettable and incredible in all senses.
16 February 2015
This production is one more point to be proud that Moscow has a theatre that bears sole responsibility for a qualitative and not formal revival of Russian Wagneriana, i.e. responsibility for fostering a new listener.
28 May 2013
It is hard to believe, but now we have our own “Tristan”! Now you can plunge for four and a half hours into a fantastic potion that is boiling and roaring in the orchestra pit. There the strings are thrilled, the timpani rumble audaciously and the horns ring expressively. So many things happen in it that there is even no need to look at the stage and at the glowing surtitles with the Russian translation. It is a tremendous job and a fabulous victory.
20 May 2013
The stage director Nicola Raabhas donea conceptually quiet, but interesting work. Itshowsthe image of the old romantic theatre; it is a good thing that the set designer George Souglides used the sketches by Alfred Roller from the 1903 Vienna production.
In the harmonic production the direction doesn’t aim to come to the front, but it was nevertheless evident that the director had thought out an original story of a non-encounter. Each of the two characters is a soloist than a partner: the lovers sang about yearning, separation and pleasure to themselves and the audience, but not to each other.
It is not a defect, but the underlying theme of the production: Tristan and Isolde seem to belong to different epochs. Isolde is a pagan fortune-teller, a part of the nature, filled with the blood of vegetation health. After death such people fall back to the earth as life-giving precipitation. Tristan is an essentially losing individualist of the new time, doomed to loneliness and death.
25 May 2013
The productionis a refined and clear interpretation, which readily lends itself to non-cool introduction. And it is just a serious theatre work that Moscow needed so much.
22 May 2013
The conductor Jan Latham-Koenig proves one more time after Lohengrin’s production here at the Novaya Opera that in Moscow there are orchestras which can master Wagner’s scores.
23 May 2013
One of the main lucky finds of the production is that the producers have managed to strike a delicate balance between reality and a particular veil of romantic mystery which unfolds amidst real things and interiors and, at the same time, absolutely separately from them.
20 May 2013