I really don’t get this whole fuss about Scala’s season opening every year – it is supposed to be a big deal if you live in Italy and could get a ticket and appear next to the Italian rich and famous who probably don’t really care for music anyway. I even happen to know someone who refused an official invitation (no comments). Anyway, as the world is a happy place and mankind has reached a perfect state of harmony, newspapers all over the world have nothing else to tell about and decided to write a lot about the Barenboim/Chéreau Tristan. Curiously, everything I read did not really made me feel I was actually missing anything special, but this could not pass unnoticed. I have seen only some excerpts and Chéreau’s production, the rest of the cast – so far there is nothing to die for there. On the other hand, Barenboim seems to have done a very good job – but all that pales next to the wonderful Waltraud Meier. I have always found her rendition of the so-called act I’s “narration and curse” splendid – every word and note rich with meaning and depth – and she has one of those voices that go beyond beautiful/not beautiful: it goes straight to the soul. She still is magnificent in this role and her voice is in very great shape. Of course, she is a mezzo dealing with soprano stuff – but in spite of all that she does it beautifully and turns all disadvantages into advantages.
Unfortunately, I have seen her only once – a splendid Ortrud in Berlin in 1999 – and it was one of the rare experiences in which your expectations are entirely fulfilled.