live review Tristan Variations Copenhagen
Friday 10 May 1996
Wisely, Lorentzen largely avoids obvious references to Wagner in his ingenious electronic score. The famous "Tristan Chord" is there, fleetingly (odd if it weren't), but overall the Wagnerian elements are transformed beyond recognition. The result is a dense, high-energy soundscape, sometimes very loud in the small space of the Kaleidoskop Theatre, but hugely effective as one important strand in a quasi-Wagnerian "total work of art".
As its title suggests, the piece reworks bits of Tristan - the doomed lovers, the betrayed husband - but mixes them with elements of Wagner's own adulterous affair with Mathilde Wesendonck, and hints of the fate of Wagner's patron, "Mad" King Ludwig of Bavaria. Mathilde's husband - given a show-stopping performance by tenor Ole Hedegaard - is not the mild, forbearing man he seems to have been, but a grotesquely comic capitalist monster, who achieves a hilarious sexual climax with a well-placed revolver. As Wagner/ Tristan/ Ludwig, baritone Morten Frank Larsen was impressive too; in a sense the opera is about Wagner as myth-maker, inventing himself as lover or romantic revolutionary. Soprano Lene Rasmussen as Mathilde/ Isolde sounded as beautiful as she looked, like Larsen holding to her notes heroically in the midst of Lorentzen's teeming electronic sounds.
But this is "sound-theatre", not music-with-drama, and the 23-year-old producer, Kasper Holten, deserves much of the credit for its success. His staging - set around a circular pool, with a revolving slide, in front of a stark metal wall - amplifies all the important elements in the story, while adding one of its own: love in the time, not of cholera, but of another sickness, that of rampant, deadening mechanisation. Lorentzen's electronics both reflect this and register a painful protest. Unusually for an electronic score, there's a conductor (Flemming Windekilde). Practically, he gives the singers the beat and - discreetly - the odd helpful pitch. Unusually, he also controls dynamics, and even some of the mixing. An element of interpretation is thus restored to what could have been a purely mechanical job.
Could the piece work here? It would need a good translation, but it seems to have drawn audiences from way beyond Copenhagen's new-music and opera-going circles. Prejudice against new "classical" music is more entrenched among English arty-types than it is on the Continent. Even so, the experiment might be worth trying.
Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing
Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Is this bridge haunted by the ghost of nu rave?
- 2 Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
- 3 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 4 Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories
- 5 Noel Gallagher: I lost sh*tloads of money, a few million, didn’t tell my wife
Britain's first cinema flickers back to life following £6m refurbishment
A historian gave the most British look of despair when someone screwed up Richard III's birthday at his reburial
James May hints Top Gear days are over following Jeremy Clarkson's BBC exit
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
James May hints he will not continue on Top Gear without Jeremy Clarkson
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans
Revealed: Putin's army of pro-Kremlin bloggers
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew