Saturday, 26 September 2009
Adolphe Appia's Tristan und Isolde
This is how Adolphe Appia saw Tristan und Isolde around 1900. This is Isolde in Act 1 on her way to Cornwall as trophy wife. The irony that such a feisty, strong woman should be a trophy wife is horrible! It's part of the tragedy, too, though most productions (a male preserve) don't make much of it. What Appia is fixed on is the sense of entrapment, the world closing in, the feeling of doom. We see Isolde in a vast space, which looms over her menacingly, the only light that which is around her, and she's calling out into the abyss. Once I saw a production where she was sitting in a creaky hold, splashed by water so we know she's in a boat. But what Appia is showing is Isolde's inner predicament. It also connects to the recurring themes of night and day, darkness and light which run through the whole opera, meaning different things. This week a brand new production of Tristan und Isolde starts at the Royal Opera House, London. It's directed by Christof Loy, whose recent Lulu was so amazingly true to the music. Read about it on this blog under Berg Lulu tags and read about Loy under Loy and T&I under T&I. "I don't like distractions," Loy said recently. So don 't expect breastplates and helmets. It's the human drama he's interested in.