When, after the show, I was asked how the third Act of Tristan went, I replied that someone in a Siegfried Jerusalem suit came on and "sang". It looked like him.... By his own standards it was one of his better performances vocally, though it was by no means beautiful singing. Maybe he had saved his voice for this demanding Act. His characterization was rivetting. He is not a stiff when it comes to histrionics.
The introduction to Act III was from some far off galaxy...an other-worldly sound. Barenboim could do no wrong with this score and this band on this night.
The boxy room in this Act was something I liked. It was a room, almost bare, very little rake to the stage. The walls and floor were a soft white, the latter being strewn with bits of rubble and fallen plaster like some of the "squats" I used to visit friends in in London, back in the 70s. In the rear right corner sat the overcoated and sunglassed figure of the blind shepherd, sung by Peter Maus. On an old armchair covered by a dustcloth, was slumped the figure of Tristan. A square doorway stood at the back wall in darkness. Bands of soft white light were projected through the scrim onto the back wall.
Falk Struckman, in grey rags, as Kurwenal, was sporting the kind of hairstyle one would have if one had thick bushy hair (not me alas) and was applying hairspray (extra hold) just as a sudden gale force gust of wind came by. It took off from his head and moved westward and likely had its own time zone.
It was a very claustrophobic set and, for me, complemented the action and did not jar. I was rivetted by the unfolding drama. Jerusalem and the band made quite an emotional impact. When Kurwenal spotted the ship the band unleashed such a wail of jubilation. I had never heard an acoustic orchestra create such an intense wall of sound. I like it loud!
The Act passed seemingly in the blink of an eye. I did not squirm in my seat. There was no coughing. I wasn't even aware there were others in the room: there was just me and the orchestra and the singers.
I knew it would soon end, after the quick succession of blood-letting, following the arrival of Marke and Melot (Poul Elming). Kurwenal died, draped over the armchair. Tristan expired on his back at the front of the stage. The doorway at the rear was bathed in a brilliant golden light and through this came Isolde.
She stood by Tristan's body and as the cue for "Mild und Leise" came forth, she dropped the grey cloak she was wearing, to reveal a shiny silver full length cocktail dress that shimmered in the bright spotlight.
By now I was hoping to make my way to the end where the band has its beautiful final chords. There was no way that "Mild und Leise" was going to transport me, even though there is no other song in the history of music that I long to hear more than this. The flapping tongue of Waltraud Meier shredded it before my very ears.
The soothing balm from the pit refreshed me.
There was bedlam after the curtain closed...so I wasn't alone after all! Many curtain calls followed. I have no idea how many. I saved my huzzahs for Daniel Barenboim, catching his eye now and then and mouthing "wonderful" to him.
The barrage of appreciation was still going on when I went outside. I got my camcorder from the coatcheck and took some shots while the doors were open. Outside was the moon and the warm night air. BMW taxis quickly ferried folks away to dinner or to bed. We spent our usual decompression period waiting for the cars to clear the parking lots. Then, the roads cleared and it was our turn to speed off into the night toward our hotel.
It was maybe 11pm when we arrived and were hailed in the bar by P13, who had met up with our new German friends, Günter, Herbert and Matthias. Beer was ordered and therefore my happiness knew no bounds. After a while Carol, still under medication, went to rest. The German guys were well travelled and spoke fine English and contrary to stereotypical jokes about their countrymen, they were very witty, with deliciously dry senses of humor.
The bar actually closed at 2 am but the young bartender kept the drinks coming as long as he saw us enjoying ourselves. The Germans had not attended Tristan, as they had seen this production before. As we were all attending Meistersinger later that day we did the smart thing and called it a day at 4am. The bartender was right there until the bitter end and earned a handsome tip. Our last late-night drinking soiree at a hotel in New York saw the staff close up the place at 1 am and then an hour later, several security men came to ask us to leave. This hotel was wonderfully hospitable during our stay. Hotels and hospitality...that could be a winning combination!
The feather bed never felt so feathery as I sank into it. Meistersinger in 12 hours......I drifted off to sleep.
To be continued......