Tristan and Isolde

met-opera-2016-17-season-tristan-und-isolde_32104_posterlargeFirst disclosure: “Tristan und Isolde” is not my favorite Wagnerian opera — all of that gorgeous, shimmering, chromatic music put in the service of a story about ill-starred lovers that groans beneath the weight of mysticism piled atop it.

Second disclosure: The new production at the Met, by the director Mariusz Trelinski, transports us not to medieval Cornwall and Ireland, but to a modern warship bristling with klieg lights and manned by thuggish-looking soldiers all in black who physically threaten the ladies on board (Isolde and Brangane, her lady-in-waiting).

The glorious Act II love duet between Tristan (tenor Stuart Skelton) and Isolde (soprano Nina Stemme) takes place in the innards of the ship, with ventilator fans spinning overhead and the lovers professing their ecstasy amid fuel tanks and military paraphernalia. We are a long way, in short, from the green fields of Tristan’s ancestral home, which are briefly alluded to by video projections of trees (about the only natural element seen in the entire production, which takes place in interiors and, in Act III, in a particularly grim hospital). But if what you’re after is great Wagnerian singing, this production is absolutely first-rate. (There are two more performances, on October 24 and 28).

Nina Stemme is outstanding in this, her signature role. Her voice carries brilliantly over the full force of the Met orchestra, here led by the English conductor Simon Rattle in a welcome return to the Met. Stuart Skelton, while not Stemme’s expressive equal, paces himself well in the daunting role of Tristan. Bass Rene Pape as King Marke, the man for whom Isolde was originally intended, commands the stage in his few appearances. Altogether a wonderful night of singing at the opera.

Annalyn Swan

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