SEATTLE, WA: Last week, I had the opportunity to sit in on a piano dress rehearsal of Seattle Opera’s new production of Tristan und Isolde, which opens at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall on July 31. This production, Seattle’s first Tristan since 1998, promises to demonstrate the same intelligent enthusiasm for Wagner that the company has shown since its first production of the four-part epic Der Ring des Nibelungen in 1975.
Stage director Peter Kazaras, well known both as a director and as a performer (he sang the role of Loge in Seattle Opera’s Ringcycle in 2001 and has since become the artistic director of Seattle Opera’s Young Artist Program), offers a thoughtful interpretation that was inspired by Ambrose Bierce’s short story, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek.”
Aided by the surreal visual effects of lighting designer Duane Schuler, Kazaras strives to create a sense of timelessness in the interactions between the two lovers. It’s not an easy task given the opera’s four-hour running time, but Kazaras is supported by the expressive performances of Clifton Forbis as Tristan and Annalena Persson as Isolde (her first role with Seattle Opera). Forbis brings an unexpected sensitivity to the role of King Marke’s nephew, while Persson tackles Isolde’s wild range of emotions with a realism that stands out from the “park and bark” tradition of many of her predecessors in the repertoire.
The production also features Seattle favorites Greer Grimsley as Kurwenal, Stephen Milling as King Marke, Jason Collins as Melot, and Margaret Jane Wray as Brangäne, all of whom have appeared in past Ring cycles with Seattle Opera. Asher Fisch, the principal guest conductor at Seattle Opera since 2007, will conduct. For more information, visit www.seattleopera.org.
Photo Credit: Annalena Persson as Isolde, Clifton Forbis as Tristan; photograph by Rozarii Lynch