It's Official: Robert Dean Smith will sing Tristan
I personally did not like the sound that Robert Dean Smith produced during the first and second years of this production. I found him straining by the time that Act III arrived (it's really hard not to, considering the tessitura Wagner wrote), although he sang a very beautiful first two acts. Critic Larry Lash at Andante was very impressed by Mr. Smith's performance:
"Neither warnings nor punishment need be meted out to Robert Dean Smith. His is a well-thought-out career based around a sizable Heldentenor of uncommon sweetness, inherent lyricism, and a fresh, metallic quality. Smith's Tristan was beautifully paced, and that alone is no small feat. By the time he reached Tristan's "mad scene," he shifted gears into a white-hot intensity, nailing not only the delirium of the scene, but every note smack on pitch (something even Jon Vickers could rarely achieve). I wished this, the longest solo sequence in the opera, could have gone on longer."
When Anthony Tommasini visited Bayreuth in 2006, he wrote the following about Mr. Smith's performance:
"Mr. Smith looks the part of a tall, hardy and wholesome Kansan, and in the best sense, he brought those qualities to his Tristan. His voice is not huge, but it carries well. His sound can be grainy, but the overall vigor and richness of his singing are appealing. In the daunting scene early in Act III when the wounded Tristan erupts with delirious outbursts as he keeps expecting his beloved Isolde to return, Mr. Smith showed awesome stamina and dramatic commitment."
Robert Dean Smith will repeat the role of Tristan five times this summer at the Bayreuth festival. This Saturday, we will hear a preview of these performances. However, if you would like to listen to excerpts of Mr. Smith's Tristan, download my podcast of the 2005 production.