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Tristan och Isolde

By Dave Snowden  ·  March 3, 2013  ·  Great places

I managed to wake up around ten minutes before the alarm went off which proved to be my salvation this morning  A shower and hasty pack, then checkout and the short drive to the NCP Car Park at the Hilton T5.  If you don't know this it's a treasure.  Book in advance and its just over £5 a day which is very, very cheap for Heathrow, but you have to time it to get the bus to the terminal.  As it was I made it with a minute to spare.  Security queues are light at that time of the day so I had a chance to clear some emails and partake of the excellent bacon rolls in the BA lounge before falling asleep on a flight to Göteborg.   Now last Thursday I had checked out if there was an opera house in Göteborg and discovered that there was a new one, and it was performing Tristan today.  I briefly balanced attending the speaker dinner for SDC2013 and the opera and then realised I was kidding no one and grabbed a ticket on line.  My thanks to Google Translate for taking me through the booking site without mishap.

Now I am getting very fond of Scandinavian Opera Houses.  They are all on the water front with great architecture.  They also have proper subsidy and interesting productions.  This was no exception.  The cast was balanced, no major international stars although the principles were all experienced enough. The staging was minimalist, but allowed considerable scope for interpretation and emphasis.  Yes we could have done with Isolde holding something back for the final glorious few minutes where she sings herself to death.  I remember in the WNO production you could feel the voice as well as hear it.  Today it was almost lost in the orchestra.  But that is a minor niggle, the whole thing was well done.  

The glory of Tristan is the Tristan Chord, the creation of tension the resolution of which is more tension and so on.  It is so easy to be transfigured by this music and the sparse beauty of the sets enhanced that experience.  I also realised how much better it is to be without subtitles.  Well we had them, but in Swedish, so they were easy to ignore.  The second interval coincided with sunset which added to the aesthetic experience.

The one thing which did not was the audience.  So for the sake of everyone, especially the good burgers of Göteborg these are Snowden's seven rules:

  1. From when the conductor lifts his baton (and ideally one minute before) to the moment s/he lays it down (ideally a minute later) you make no sound, you do not comment on a scene to your neighbour or engage in chit chat.  If that is what you want to do, buy the DVD don't mess it up for the rest of us.
  2. If you have a cough, bring cough sweets and use them.  Do not bring them in bags that rustle and if you cough cannot be controlled by medicine then give your ticket to a needy student and stay away.  If you have a racking cough then go to hospital or the morgue depending on its stage, either is preferable to ruining a religious experience.
  3. The time to consume that box of chocolates  your paramour procured for you is before or after the performance, not during it.  
  4. Please do not under any circumstances applaud an individual aria in any opera from Verdi onwards.   OK its sort of forgivable in some Verdi operas and Mozart composed with such breaks in mind; for Wagner it is unforgivable, that aria is a part of the unfolding story it does not stand alone.
  5. If you haven't read the synopsis before the act starts live with it.  Do not open your programme, use your iPhone to light up the page or converse with your neighbour.
  6. If your neighbour falls asleep nudge them.  They don't want to be asleep (and it can happen, I confess to having done it after several flights and with the temperature too high) and you don't want to hear the breathing or worst the snores.  If nudging doesn't work then judicious application of a pin is acceptable, but stuff their mouth first, we don't want a scream.
  7. If you can't remember to turn off your mobile phone or that bleeping watch then don't be surprised if they are seized and destroyed (silently)

Got it?  Now as to punishments ...