Bayreuth 2006: Tristan und Isolde
Andreas Schmidt, who sang Kurwenal last year was replaced by Harmut Welker. This was a good change, but I can't say that Mr. Welker was that much of an improvement. There were more than a few rocky spots in his performance, and the voice seemed shaky and unsure of pitch throughout the performance.
Nina Stemme, Robert Dean Smith, Petra Lang, and Kwangchul Youn all came back to reprise their original roles from last year. Ms. Stemme is one of our most able Isoldes: the voice is strong, steady, voluminous and a pleasure to listen to. Mr. Smith has improved quite a lot since the premiere of this production. This time around, his Tristan sounded steadier and he was able to pace himself much better. As a result, he was able to carry the third act with no vocal mishaps, although you can hear that the voice was getting close to the breaking point. Both Ms. Lang and Mr. Youn (who is a really busy beaver these days at the Festival) ably sang their respective roles. Peter Schneider led an expressive reading of this lush score, but certainly not a memorable interpretation.