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Meister Singer

Santa Fe
The Crosby Theater
07/23/2022 -  and July 23, 27, August 5, 11, 19, 23, 2022
Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde
Simon O’Neill (Tristan), Tamara Wilson (Isolde), Jamie Barton (Brangäne), Nicholas Brownlee (Kurwenal), Eric Owens (King Marke), Dylan M. Davis (Shepherd), Jonah Hoskins (Sailor), Eric Taylor (Melot), Erik Grendhal (Steersman)
Santa Fe Opera Chorus, Susanne Sheston (Chorus Master), Santa Fe Opera Orchestra, James Gaffigan (Conductor)
Zack Winokur, Lisenka Heijboer Castañón (Stage Directors), Charlap Hyman & Herrero Company (Scenic Designers), Carlos J. Soto (Costume Designer), John Torres (Lighting Designer), Greg Emetaz (Projection Designer)

E. Owens (© Curtis Brown for SFO)

Tristan und Isolde received a standing ovation for its company premiere last night in Santa Fe. The performance was at the highest level, from a minimalistic yet elegant staging to a radiant orchestra, to powerful singers.

Directors Zack Winokur, Lisenka Heijboer Castañón center their fairly conventional approach on characters, well aware that there is little action in this opera. The set, consisting of two immense adjustable gray walls pierced with lancet windows and narrow doors, suggests more than it describes. Lighting by John Torres is equally striking, creating a diaphanous atmosphere during Act II’s love duet, icy at other moments.

The singing cast delivers a masterful performance. As always, the chorus is admirably prepared by Chorus Master Susan Shelton. Jamie Barton is a warm and loving Brangäne, and her warning solo is irreproachable. Nicholas Brownlee as Kurwenal is the expected heroic baritone with perfect projection. Bass Erik Owens is a charismatic King Marke. He demonstrates a clever sense of progress in dramatic tension. In his distressing – and lengthy – monologue, Owens secures the spectator’s interest till the last note.

Simon O’Neill is known for his Tristan. The voice is that of a true heroic tenor and easily carries over a full orchestra. O’Neill makes his delirious agony a quite poignant moment. Tamara Wilson receives a standing ovation for her Isolde. She is seductively feminine and moving. Here again, the voice is astonishingly opulent, fearlessly cutting through a tempestuous orchestra. After a long evening, she shows no sign of fatigue and sings the Liebestod as if she were starting afresh. Dylan M. Davis (Shepherd), Jonah Hoskins (Sailor), Eric Taylor (Melot), Erik Grendhal (Steersman) measure up to a singing cast of the highest standard.

Lastly, Conductor James Gaffigan sets this luxuriant score ablaze, packing it with scathing nuances and details. Tempos never rush nor drag. In such an intricate abundance of musical ideas, the orchestra is incisive, displaying inexorable impetus and unabashed sensuality while maintaining extreme clarity.

As everyone leaves the theater, intoxicated by such musical wealth, one may ponder: is it worthwhile to try piercing the mysteries of Wagner’s scores?

Santa Fe Opera

Christian Dalzon



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