22 October 2005

Late reactions

(I don't buy new releases because I can't possibly afford them at full price and procure minimum nutrition at the same time. The current strategy is to wait till they make their eventual discounted appearances at Academy Records, or on Amazon, eBay, or Berkshire. Besides, there remain a thousand other recordings, awaiting judgment, in the 'to-do' cabinet.) A few days ago, I came across (and claimed at half-price!) the DG Tristan und Isolde, extracted live from the acclaimed Wiener Staatsoper performances of 2003. This morning, I put on Act I as background music while part-cleaning my workspace, part-cruising the web. Suddenly, Christian Thielemann turns my head toward the darkening window: outside, the farthest tentacles of Wilma are now dispersing what's left of the day's meager sun; meanwhile, Deborah Voigt is minutes into Isolde's fiery Narrative. But as she enunciates the love paradox, sinking into "Von seinem Lager / blickt' er her / nicht auf das Schwert, / nicht auf die Hand / er sah mir in die Augen," ('From his couch, he looked up, not at the sword, not at my hand, but looked into my eyes') my breathing stutters and my insides shake in the eye of this aural hurricane. (I'm being overdramatic here. Anyway ...) Thielemann, in the habit of exploring the widest possible range of expression, has a thrilling way of imposing an inevitable stillness to the music. While other conductors march on through these passages, he lingers (naked) in the obvious (near-profane) fragrance, and shapes the phrases into a lovely, tragic trance. Because his emotive amplitude is vast (like a Hollywood melodrama), the chasm into which he plunges is deep but still painfully familiar. I recall with much fondness his Die Frau ohne Schatten at the Met in 2001, where he molded the small lines of the Watchmen (to end Act I, *oh so easy to miss*) with the same high human kindness that made my eyes tear in the darkness. To make the familiar true, and the true so viscerally comprehensible--this is a rare magic in opera. Christian Thielemann has it.

(Anyway, before I collapse into my own Liebestod prematurely, I'm saving CD 2 for when Wilma finally hits land, and CD 3 for when the first clearing is established.)