Peter Gelb and James Levine can breathe a sigh of relief. After a roller coaster week at The Metropolitan Opera that saw one Tristan get booed, and another one get injured with almost a near concussion, the Saturday matinée finally got a Tristan that could sing the role: Robert Dean Smith.
Many thought that Gary Lehman deserved the HD telecast and radio broadcast, especially after replacing John Mac Master and at the same time getting clunked on the head when he slid down the stage right into the prompter's box. Although Lehman physically looks the part of Tristan, the MET went with as much a sure thing vocally as you can these days: they got a tenor that's done the part at Bayreuth. The MET likes impressive credentials like that, especially when the house finds itself in a bind; never mind that his Green Hill reviews in 2005 were only so-so.
Robert Dean Smith made his MET debut today, two years earlier than scheduled, and it was a great success. He really did very well! Impressively well! He was magnificent in Act I (most Tristans are), he soared in Act II (most Tristans remain earthbound), and he was heartbreaking in Act III (he lived though it, and that's an accomplishment these days!) He soared above the orchestra -- which played gorgeously -- in the concluding act, and managed to get through that most difficult of music unscathed, definitely finishing much better than in the 2005 Bayreuth production.
I'm finally going to see this opera on Tuesday. I wish that Robert Dean Smith could stay for another performance, but his was a one shot deal, and I hear that Gary Lehman will be back in the role on Tuesday. Oh, well, it will be fun to see what this young American artist has to offer. Hopefully the MET's stagecraft will behave this time around.