Ahh! – What a treat to be surrounded by the wonderful sensations of live music as a listener again. On Saturday George and I excitedly attended the inaugural performance held by The London Opera Company at The Warehouse in Waterloo, London. There we heard a chamber concert performance of Wagner’s opera Tristan and Isolde. This particular opera is around 5 hours long, split into three acts. A stamina test for both the ear and the buttocks. With this in mind, I was wondering how the company would put on the performance safely under the current pandemic.

Before the performance:

The company smartly decided to have electronic tickets to remove the need for ticket stubs to be collected upon entry. Along with the online ticket, we were provided with a few instructions to make our participation as safe as possible for ourselves, the combined group of spectators, and the performers. We were given a period of time, at which we could enter the theatre to take our seats. For example, George and I were given 14:45-15:00. By splitting the entry of the audience members into groups, it meant that foot traffic was moderated and allowed for safe social distancing. Audience members were encouraged to wear masks upon entry and during the performance.

The seating area was split into seating arrangements of 1 and 2 people. The clusters of seats were evenly scattered across the floor into eight rows (A-H), with perhaps a total of around 30 audience members. The audience looked like stars in the night sky, all fizzing with pre-show excitement building to a wonderful atmosphere ready for the performance to begin.

During the Performance:

Tristan and Isolde is an orchestral passion, and can usually require a large number of instrumentalists to perform alongside the singers. This particular performance was an arrangement written for Piano, Violin, and Cello. Jonathan Musgrave (Piano), James Widden (Violin), and Alison Holford (Cello). I really enjoyed listening to this musical adaptation as it showcased some very intimate moments, such as the dazzling love duet in Act Two between Tristan (Brian Smith Walters) and Isolde (Cara McHardy). This musical ensemble certainly got my brain ticking, as George regularly performs in a piano trio with the Chloe Trio. Perhaps in the future, we could be inspired to put on an opera accompanied by a small ensemble too!

After the instrumental introduction, the singers soon began to enter the stage. They would appear to sing their musical parts, explore and progress the story from strategically placed music stands. These were spaced to allow for safety but the chemistry fizzed between Isolde and Tristan despite the 2-3 meters distance. There was no physical contact between singers, no props or scenery. The company did provide a translation, which was clearly projected onto a screen alongside the performance. This helped immensely with an understanding of the story and the intricacies of the musical motifs and melodies.

It was great to see my friends from previous productions take to the stage. I’ve worked with Jonathan Cooke at the RCS, Jonathan Musgrave and Brian Smith Walters on Candide, and Louis Hurst on Much Ado About Nothing. It was exciting to hear such dramatic voices come together to create a vibrant collective, which sent shivers down my spine.

I was really excited that this musical event was allowed to happen and it has been a joy to see more musical spectacles emerge in the UK over the last few months. I hope that these safety measures can allow more to happen and that I can return to the stage soon!

36 thoughts on “Tristan and Isolde

  1. So wonderful to hear about this live performance and how it can be done. We are just listening to the Vienna ‘Summer’ concert outside the Schönbrunn Palace. It has a tiny audience compared to the usual thousands, but the musicians are wonderful and we had the instrumental version of the Tristan and Isolde love duet! Kauffman is singing some arias too. In the 1960s, in my teens, I went to the opera on my own in Glasgow, it was Walkure and I sat in the gods. I couldn’t understand why everyone had food parcels with them! Many hungry hours later I understood. I loved the music, but had no idea what all the people in green lurex sacks were doing on that distant stage!

    1. I’ve not seen many long operas; we definitely should have taken some sandwiches along. Wagner is a composer that I’ve not been asked to sing his repertoire by any of my teachers over the years so perhaps he didn’t write much for my fach. I must investigate.
      Hope you’re all keeping well Hilary.

      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

  2. Safe opera. Sounds like it was workable. I like the matching orange mascherine. We named our daughter Tristan. She often gets confused with being male by the name, but Tristan is a perfect name for her.

    Another fantastic portrait. George I presume? He really knows how get you with a great pose and a perfect, beautiful expression.

    1. I like the name Tristan. It was a long time to wear a mask but otherwise they were very comfortable.
      Thanks Timothy yes, George took the photo I need to decide what I need to do with my hands.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

      1. Hands are often a problem. You did well with this pose with a confident left hand on your hip while playing with your hair with your right hand. The pose is strong yet friendly and looks natual. It’s a pose a lot of models strive for and fashion photographers would love to capture. Having a scarf, clutch or other object in your hands can be very effective. Flowers, a sheet of music, microphone or holding on to a railing, foliage, etc. But from the photos I’ve seen, you have a good instinct for what to do with your hands.

    1. I hope we all find a way to live with this virus next year, two years out of action is too much to think about.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

    1. Thank you John. I just wanted to show that there are people trying to put on live events, it must be a pain to organise but we need to find a way to work doing what we love to do whilst keeping everyone safe.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  3. Great. It is very encouraging to see that many artists adapt to the problem to offer new things to the public! Like you did with balcony concert. I believe this is the future. Stages that allow you to perform everywhere!
    Best regards to You and George.

    1. The problem is financing small audience events without big subsidies from patrons or government. Shows with orchestras, big casts just can’t bring sufficient income in to survive. One spot of good news today was that our National Lottery is going to support some pantomimes with partial distanced audiences, I hope it is for all venues not just for large venues in the big Cities.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

    1. Thank you. We are recording some indoor concert recitals and trying to sell them had a couple of successes, and I’ve done some home recordings for composers; it is terrific that George is in my home bubble.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  4. Glad that you were ale to see a live performance! It seems strange for a huge Wagnerian orchestra to be reduced to a trio, but I’m sure it work well with the setting. Sounds like they took a lot of precautions, which is a must today.

    1. It worked surprisingly well. George regularly plays in a trio with violin and cello so he was very interested in how they made this work. We need to really think how to make this work in 2021.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

      1. A piano is almost an orchestra on its own – I do have a piabo transcription for Tristan and Isolde, so it is possible to distill it down. And then with the added versatility of a violin and cello – yeah, trios are great and very versatile. Hope you can figure out something that works for you.

  5. That sounds wondrous and that it catalyze your wonderment about performing an opera with a small ensemble as well. Excellent creative developments it sounds like. Big Abrazos Smiles to that for you guys.

    1. It was so nice to see my friends performing live. The joy they were feeling was real and I felt their passion for the art. It made me want to sing.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

      1. I’ve thought about you two and other performing artists I know’s situation quite a bit over the Summer through Fall. First, it came to me how many behind the scenes people lost everything, whereas the performers could go online without them. Then, the behind the scenes people losing out expanded to me as loving that in-person experience losing out. There’s not much similar to music or theatre in person where I just BE and swim in that gourmet ablution pool of all the energies of all the people as I experience the performance.

        I feel your joy you felt they were feeling, and the passion. “It made me want to sing.” That makes the heart sing. Music and theatre are two of the few things I simply saw as Rocks of Gibraltar over the past 6 months that had no need of adapting, as it just wasn’t the same. There was simply an uncomfortable pause. I do appreciate, though your balcony concerts. You two made the best of it, and I gather the enamored people who were there experiencing the performances we so much the better in their joy for it. I have a concept I use called, “don’t waste trouble.” I’ll up that ante, though, here. Your guys performances were more at the level of Jodorowski’s Chariot‘s voice… “I made a diamond out of my misfortune.” That just goes places for me, and you two took me there over the Summer. Thank you.

        Best wishes as well,
        Jordan

  6. So nice to see your able to be at a live performance again, although more thought is required to arrange concerts now, I hope we’ll see more of these soon. Lovely photo of you both and I love the matching masks! 🤗🥰

    1. Thanks Gill. I hope that we find a way for live performance to survive next year. I think this whole year has been written off now.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  7. How exciting for you both, getting to see a live performance.
    It’s sounds like you both really enjoyed it.
    Lovely photo of you both too
    Fingers crossed for some bookings coming your way soon 😘😘

    1. It was lovely, nice to see friends actually working singing live!
      You know me I’m keeping busy, don’t worry 😊.

      All my best wishes
      Charlotte

    1. Yes I think if people feel safe they are wanting the live performance experience to feel alive, the tv is a godsend but nothing beats live art.

      All my best wishes GP
      Charlotte

    1. Amen! I’ll be trying to put on candlelit winter balcony concerts at this rate just to sing live lol.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  8. No physical contact between singers, no props or scenery? Wow!! I feel like this puts so much more pressure on the musicians and actors to perform at their highest levels in order that the story emotions might come through…what a testament to this performance that such restrictions took nothing away from you enjoying the heart of the narrative. Wishing you well as you slowly contemplate your own return to stage. 💜

    1. It certainly does put a lot of pressure on. However, we always do sitzprobe like this and singers can put on a concert show so its not completely unusual but I miss the acting it is a big part of an opera for me personally. I will take just singing.

      Best wishes
      Charlotte

  9. Great to hear that music is once again in the air ~ nothing quite like seeing a live performance even if it was under the more extreme circumstances. It would be great to see such a performance regardless. Wishing you two well.

    1. I can hear it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord. Oo I wonder what that would sound like with an operatic twist. Thank you for your good wishes Randall.

      My best wishes to you
      Charlotte

      1. I like the way you think 🙂 Please, please give this wonderful song an operatic twist! It would be wonderful. Take care, Charlotte, and look forward to the song 🙂

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