The vox populi coming out of the Coliseum last night was not ecstatic. The new Tristan and Isolde, directed by the company’s callow artistic director Daniel Kramer (pictured), had failed to overwhelm.
First reviews now trickling in tend to confirm that impression.
Rupert Christiansen in the Telegraph: Daniel Kramer’s staging … feels like something struggling against the massive simplicity of the plot and its philosophical hinterland. The most peculiar aspect is the presentation of the servants Brangäne and Kurwenal as a commedia dell’arte double act, cringing and servile caricatures who end up as syphilitic Beckettian hobos…. Such quirks suggest to me an ambitious and imaginative director without confidence, trying adolescently hard to make an original statement.
Andrew Clements in the Guardian: What won’t be resolved so easily are the problems with the staging, which is confused and illogical, and offers no obvious insights into Wagner’s drama. Certainly Anish Kapoor’s designs don’t help matters. In the first act, the space is divided into three segments with no heed paid to the audience’s sight lines, while much of the action is confined to the front edge of the stage in the other two, though the moon-like object that opens to reveal a beautifully lit grotto for the lovers in the second act is certainly striking.
But the glosses that Kramer adds seem gratuitous. Craig Colclough’s Kurwenal is a Jacobean fop in the first act and some hybrid between Benny Hill and a Beckett clown in the last…
David Nice, on TheArtsdesk: Daniel Kramer … has a few “bad Star Trek episodes” and many good ideas that don’t always join up or else outstay their welcome. Unevennness abounds: hideous costumes and makeup clash with Anish Kapoor’s eventually brilliant designs, singing and conducting are only patchily inspired.
On the other hand, Barry Millington in the London Evening Standard: For English National Opera and its incoming artistic director Daniel Kramer, whose production this is, much has depended on this new Tristan and Isolde, with designs by renowned sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor. It’s a brave and bold show, sometimes idiosyncratic, but at its best (the final act) full of resonant imagery and theatrically enthralling. In short, just what ENO needs.
More to come.