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This much awaited recording of Tristan was worth waiting for. The draw was, of course, Placido Domingo, who now in his mid 60s will never sing the role of Tristan on stage, but whose legions of fans have been certain that he’d make a remarkable go at it. He is indeed excellent, singing with beautiful tone and legato (Wagner insisted that the Italian art of singing be used for his operas as well) and clear if not impeccable diction. Except for some moments, such as midway through the first-act interview with Isolde and the Love Duet, where his attention seems to flag, Domingo shows great attention and sensitivity to Tristan’s plight. There’s the odd moment of strain, but they’re so rare that a tenor half his age would be proud of such a vocal display. Two grand performances come from soprano Nina Stemme and conductor Antonio Pappano. Stemme is radiant as Isolde, with a big, clear, appealing sound that is never forced. Her identification with the character is not yet on a level with Flagstad’s, Modl’s, or Nilsson’s; she lacks the worldly resentment to Tristan and she can’t express sarcasm, but there’s great urgency to her singing and it’s refreshing to hear such a young, secure voice. Antonio Pappano leads the opera quickly (only too quickly once or twice), with little obsessive subtext, and he totally understands how to pace a scene for its dramatic tension. René Pape is a fine, youthful-sounding King Marke; Olaf Bär’s Kurwenal is somewhat forced; Mihoko Fujimara is a light but effective Brangaene. And with such stars as Ian Bostridge and Rolando Villazon as the Shepherd and Seaman, the set is truly luxurious. Perhaps this Tristan isn’t a first choice (remember Furtwängler and Böhm!), but it will be for Domingo fans, and it’s excellent on may other levels as well. –Robert Levine

Album Info

Label: ‎ EMI Classics
Original Release Date: July 26, 2006
ASIN: ‎ B000A2ES88