Richard Wagner, WAGNER, R: Scenes from Tristan und Isolde and Gotterdammerung

Gavin Borchert

By Gavin Borchert

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

One of Wagner's goals was to reform opera by replacing its showoff arias, static ensembles, choral interjections, and ballet interludes with a more flexible, naturalistic musical/dramatic format. But by the time he composed Götterdämmerung, the finale of his vast Ring of the Nibelungs tetralogy, he'd relented a bit, including mass choral scenes in the old grand opera tradition. Not that anyone really minds. Nicknamed Goddammitslong by orchestra-pit veterans, its six-hour span ends with a bang, as heroine Brünnhilde sets off the destruction of the gods — in conductor John McGlinn's hands, an explosive yet deeply poetic moment. Tristan und Isolde also ends with a soprano apotheosis, as the lovers'yearnings — represented innovatively by music of unprecedented harmonic restlessness — finally find resolution in death. Margaret Jane Wray and John Horton Murray are appropriately caressing and satin-voiced as the lovers.