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Tristan und Isolde review at Wales Millennium Centre Cardiff

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Welsh National Opera revives Yannis Kokkos’ 1993 production of Wagner’s transcendent exploration of love and death in a distinguished performance. Kokkos’ self-designed staging is visually highly effective, presenting the opera’s narrative line with exceptional clarity and truth, and the semi-abstract sets have an aptly timeless quality.

In an ideal world perhaps the Swedish soprano Annalena Persson’s Isolde and the Canadian tenor John Mac Master’s Tristan would have more sheer beauty of tone and more power but in reality it would be hard to find two singers as committed and accomplished in these superhuman roles today. Both engage fully with their material – Isolde’s curse is potent, Tristan’s mad scene terrifying – and the result is that the audience is gripped throughout the long evening. The secondary characters – Robert Hayward’s bluff Kurwenal, Susan Bickley’s loyal Brangane, Alfred Reiter’s sorrowful King Mark – are all finely sung.

But where the evening scores highest is with the conducting of Mark Wigglesworth and the playing of the WNO orchestra. The balance is superbly managed and the combination of passion and control flawless. On this showing, Wigglesworth is one of the great Wagner conductors of his generation, while the standards reached by the orchestra are of the very highest.

This is another show that displays the world-class credentials of the Welsh company. Wagner fans should move heaven and earth to see this outstanding production as it tours over the next few weeks.

Production Information

Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, September 30, October 7, then touring until December 9

Yannis Kokkos
Welsh National Opera
Cast includes
Annalena Persson, Susan Bickley, Robert Hayward, John Mac Master, Alfred Reiter
Running time
5hrs 30mins
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