Thursday, March 20, 2008

Travails of Tristan continued...

Can one believe that the Met's jinxed Tristan run this season has fallen prey to yet another disaster? Read on . . . .

Tristan und Isolde - Metropolitan Opera, March 18, 2008

First Ben Heppner took ill and withdrew from the Met season's first performance of Tristan und Isolde last week. His place was taken by John Mac Master. At the next performance, Gary Lehman replaced Mac Master and Deborah Voigt quit in the middle of the second act, felled by an upset stomach. Last night, a scenery malfunction in the last act knocked out Gary Lehman, who was singing Tristan.

Here's how it looked like it happened. The mat on which Lehman was lying supinate apparently cut loose from its moorings and sent him like a trajectory head-first down the steeply raked stage right into the prompter's box. A computer glitch could also have been to blame, because the mat glides slowly down stage from the rear over the course of several minutes. Suddenly the mat simply raced toward the prompter's box.

Mark Showalter and Eike Wilm Schulte, who were on stage at the time, rushed to the side of the motionless Lehman, followed by several stage personnel. Lehman stood up after a few moments, and walked about the stage, rubbing his neck. The curtain was brought down, and a stage manager appeared to say, "Gary is o.k., but he needs a few moments and a glass of water before he continues."

According to the Associated Press report, a doctor examined Lehman, before allowing him to proceed with perhaps the most arduous scene for any singer in all opera. When the curtain went up again about 10 minutes later, a huge round of applause greeted Lehman, who was again lying, arms outstretched, on the killer mat. By any standard, he gave a towering performance of Tristan's delirium ridden visions -- all the more astonishing, given the potentially serious injury he had just sustained.

At the final curtain calls, could James Levine, who is well-known for passing around complements, have given Lehman a pat on the back, an extra solo bow or some kind of acknowledgment? Yes. Did he even bother to shake Lehman's hand in full view of the public? No.

Despite a momentary memory lapse by Lehman late in the second act, and some rhythmic uncertainty from Voigt shortly after her third act entrance, the performance was, by and large, the best of the three given so far. Michelle De Young, Matti Salminen and Schulte were in especially good form.

So who will sing Tristan at Saturday's world-wide live telecast? At last night's intermissions (both long enough to hit the head twice), the video screen above the box office said, TBA. According to Robert Dean Smith's website, he will go to the Mat from Hell on Saturday (the Associated Press refers to him as Roger Dean Smith.)

© 2008 Sam Shirakawa

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