• Wagner: Tristan and Isolde

  • Wagner: Tristan and Isolde – NEW PRODUCTION!
    Brown Theater | Sung in German with projected English translation

    Houston Grand Opera presents Richard Wagner’s transcendent and tragic masterpiece, Tristan and Isolde. The two lovers will be sung by Canadian tenor Ben Heppner and Swedish soprano Nina Stemme, both of whom are making their HGO debuts. HGO Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers conducts; German Director Christof Loy will direct the new production, with costumes and sets by Johannes Leiacker.

    Swedish soprano Nina Stemme has sung Isolde with many of the world’s major opera companies, most recently at Covent Garden and Glyndebourne where she received superlative reviews: “Stemme is rapturous and engulfing.” (The Guardian) “Nina Stemme’s magnificent Isolde…(has) tonal richness and majestic authority. She paces herself consummately, from a thrilling curse in the first act to a radiant Liebestod at the close.” (The Telegraph.)

    Loy, who has developed a close working relationship with the soprano, says, “It is wonderful to be doing this with Nina Stemme… She’s so close to Isolde’s rich personality. She knows what I mean when I talk about this opera as chamber-like. There are moments when the music explodes, boiling over with the intense emotion…but when you study the score carefully, there’s so much stillness, so much delicacy.”

    Widely regarded as one of the most prominent dramatic tenors in the world today, Heppner is renowned for the title roles in the most demanding of the operatic repertoire such as Wagner’s Lohengrin, Tristan and Isolde and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Verdi’s Otello, and Berlioz’ Aeneas. Critics praise his beautiful voice and musicianship; when he first performed Tristan at Seattle Opera in 1998, reviewers exclaimed him to be “...a Tristan for the new millennium.” He has since sung it at The Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Salzburg Easter Festival, and with the Berlin Philharmonic.

    Making her HGO debut will be German mezzo-soprano Claudia Mahnke, singing Brangäne, Isolde’s handmaiden. A member of the Oper Franfurt since 2006, she was previously a member of Stuttgart Opera. Opera Today noted: “Claudia Mahnke’s searing, white-hot intensity as Brangäne gifted the piece with impetus and real vocal excitement. That she could scale her sizable voice back to equally fine effect (and with no loss of vibrant tone) was a pleasure to encounter.”

    King Marke of Cornwall, to whom Isolde has been promised in marriage, will be sung by German bass Christof Fischesser, also making his HGO debut. A member of the Staatsoper unter den Linden in Berlin, Fischesser impressed English critics in his 2010 Royal Opera House, Covent Garden performances of Hermann in Tannhäuser: “Christof Fischesser...sang the role of the Landgrave Hermann with a rich, full-bodied timbre, a well-controlled upper register and appropriate gravitas.” (Opera Brittania)

    American bass-baritone Ryan McKinny will sing Tristan’s tutor and companion, Kurwenal. An HGO Studio alumnus, McKinny has recently made important debuts at The Metropolitan Opera as Lieutenant Ratcliffe in Billy Budd and at the New Orleans Opera as Jochanaan in Salome. A member of Deutsche Oper Berlin his roles have included Peter in Hansel and Gretel, Escamillo in Carmen, Un frate in Don Carlo, and Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor. On the concert stage, he has appeared with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Cleveland Orchestra. Future seasons will see him return to The Metropolitan Opera, Canadian Opera Company, Los Angeles Opera, English National Opera, and Theater Basel.

    Nearly 150 years after its premiere in 1865, Wagner’s tour de force of love, desire, revenge, redemption, and humanity remains one of the most influential musical works of history. Patrick Summers notes, “Tristan and Isolde undoubtedly altered the course of Western music. It is the apotheosis of the pre-Freudian era. It is, paradoxically, one of the great love stories ever told while simultaneously being about the oblivion of death. To me, it is the musical manifestation of Hamlet’s famous final utterance – ‘the rest is silence’.”

    A co-production with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

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