Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde: Act I - Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Sun 30 Sep (4 stars)

The SSO bring intense depth and exquisite insight to Wagner’s tremendous score

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Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde: Act I - Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Sun 30 Sep

Kicking off their 2012/13 season with an all-star concert performance of the first act of one of the world’s most celebrated operas, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra once again proved themselves to be amongst the UK’s leading orchestras. Featuring some of the biggest names currently on the Wagnerian stage, Sunday’s performance of Act I of Tristan und Isolde was truly breathtaking.

Swedish soprano Nina Stemme gave an absolutely flawless performance as Isolde, combining her warm, solid tones with just the right amount of buoyancy to have the audience rapt from the outset. The absence of staging by no means dampened the drama, since both Stemme and tenor Ian Storey as Tristan gave such engaging performances. Conducted by Donald Runnicles, the orchestra weaved a complex tapestry through the music, bringing intense depth and exquisite insight to Wagner’s tremendous score.

Preceding the main attraction was Rachmanninov’s symphonic poem, 'The Isle of the Dead', inspired by Swiss symbolist artist Arnold Böcklin’s painting of the same name. Rachmanninov’s eerie and mysterious composition is brought to life, Runnicles moulding the music to depict the dark and foreboding essence of the piece, all the while with a menacing undertone depicting the churning of the choppy waters round this macabre isle.

BBC SSO: Wagner's Tristan and Isolde Act I

Wagner's Tristan and Isolde mixes up Celtic mythology and a rather silly extra-marital affair of Wagner's into an intoxicating but delectable goulash of doomed love with a generous dollop of Schopenhauerian pessimism. It's so famously strenuous that at least two conductors have died during performances. Perhaps out of…

BBC SSO: Wagner's Tristan and Isolde Act II

Act II of Wagner's Tristan and Isolde sees the two lovers finally getting together, but this being a tragedy, their happiness can't last. This concert performance also features excerpts from Berlioz's Romeo and Juliette. Donald Runnicles conducts, with Nina Stemme and Ian Storey as the eponymous Wagnerian couple.

BBC SSO: Wagner's Tristan and Isolde Act III

Richard Strauss' Metamorphosen introduces the third and final act of Wagner's epic tale of doomed love. Tristan is seriously wounded – but is that Isolde's ship on the horizon? If so, will she make it to his side? And even if she does, is everyone going to live happily ever after? Not so much. Donald Runnicles conducts…

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