Tristan & Isolde reviews

The Telegraph ★★★★

Tristan & Isolde: a curious climax, but the singing is dynamite

“Wagner’s love-torn opera is a natural choice for this excellent space; its glorious sound resonates through the building.”


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The Observer ★★★★

Wagner meets the pre-Raphaelites at Grange Park Opera

“Rachel Nicholls was secure and vocally daring as Isolde. Even when jumping from console table to sofa or lying on her back, this British Wagnerian never misses musically. At fortissimo – on which Wagner is keen – her tone can flare, but she also has a capacity for soft persuasion.”

“As Tristan, Gwyn Hughes Jones, a Welsh-born tenor with a busy international career, has impressive stamina, top notes true and seemingly effortless.”

“With Christine Rice as the troubled Brangäne, David Stout a credible and frustrated Kurwenal and Mark Le Brocq creepily distasteful (in character, not voice) as Melot, the supporting cast has no weakness.”

“Above all, Matthew Rose, as King Marke, gave a sterling performance, oppressed by regal sadness and the burden of betrayal, his voice as magnificent and burnished as ever. He is a singer who graces any stage.”



The Financial Times ★★★★

Grange Park Opera matches Wagner’s vision with Tristan und Isolde

“Tristan und Isolde looks handsome and projects a potent sense of atmosphere.”

“A performance of Tristan und Isolde away from the main highways of the opera world should not be as good as this.”

“Christine Rice was a glowingly sung Brangäne, David Stout an impressively strong Kurwenal, and Matthew Rose a deeply considered, resonant King Marke.”

“Stephen Barlow, was always considerate and drew a convincing Wagnerian sound from the Gascoigne Orchestra. ”


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The Times ★★★

Gwyn Hughes Jones is tremendous as the heart-rending hero

“Jones’s Tristan is tremendous, rising to Wagner’s vocal assault course in the third-act monologues (where so many tenors come a cropper) with vehemence and vulnerability.”

“Tristan is an emotional furnace of an opera, driven by existential yearnings, morbid eroticism and, at times, scrunching dissonance.”


Mail on Sunday ★★★★

“Even if this Tristan & Isolde wasn’t half as good as it is, it would still be a remarkable achievement that an unsubsidised country house opera can put on such a strong account of one of the most challenging operas in the repertory.”

“Well done Wasfi Kani, a woman who never thinks any task is too big for her to accomplish, because all this could be listened to in comfortable seats, in a magnificent auditorium with first class acoustics, which she planned, created and funded.”

“The standout man for me was Matthew Rose’s darkly dramatic King Marke. Marke is often, in truth, a rather boring presence. Rose made much of his music memorable. How good to hear this excellent singer back to near his best.”

“This exceptional advertisement for country house opera shows how far it has travelled in the last couple of decades. What a shame Covent Garden and ENO make such a fuss about putting on a show like this. Kani’s team just get on with it, and, as so often, excel.”


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The Spectator 

Edwards draws the characters with a febrile intensity

“Nicholls was magnetic”

“She’s throwing off sparks like a roman candle. You’d die for this Isolde; but then, she wouldn’t give you much choice.”

“Gwyn Hughes Jones’s Tristan, by contrast, is the rock against which Isolde crashes.”

“Rose filled his few lines with such sonorous dignity and such aching, wounded despair that you truly felt (and this isn’t always the case in Tristan & Isolde) the devastation that had been wrought on the world of day by the lovers’ dreams of eternal night.”


The Stage ★★★★★

Sensational singing and sensitive orchestral playing in a thoughtful new staging

“The Gascoigne Orchestra is directed with great warmth by Stephen Barlow, who swaps sheer homogenous heft (no doubt preferred by some Wagner lovers) for the ear-tickling, colourful detail of inner lines.”

“And then there’s the cast, with no hint of a weak link. Rachel Nicholls is a superhuman Isolde, not only showing remarkable stamina in a punishing role, but allying shifting colours alongside an impressively ample and unforced tone. Just as she steals the first act, tenor Gwyn Hughes Jones dominates the third as the mortally wounded Tristan, himself singing with passion and without straining. Christine Rice and Matthew Rose also give standout performances as Brangäne and King Marke respectively, Rice smoothly warm in tone and Rose devastating on discovering he has been betrayed by Tristan.”


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The Article ★★★★

A magnificent new production

“As a musical experience this was mesmerising under the baton of Stephen Barlow with the Gascoigne orchestra. The magnificent cor anglais solo in Act III showed the splendid acoustics of this newly-built opera house, and the whole evening was a musical treat, well worth the short drive down the A3 from London.”

“The designs and staging by Charles Edwards were excellent.”

“Matthew Rose as King Marke showed outstanding gravitas, both vocally and in his stage presence. His beloved friend and trusted heir Tristan was superbly sung by Gwyn Hughes Jones”


Music OMH ★★★★

Grange Park Opera brews potions of love and death at its opening night.

“Rose’s portrayal of the king was an object lesson in nobility, every line infused with pathos.”

“Christine Rice was the epitome of warmth and sincerity as Brangane, with her lovely rich tone and empathetic acting. ”

“David Stout had clearly been listening carefully to Fischer-Dieskau’s recording of Kurwenal; you can sense this in his intense phrasing and the ‘cello-like tone of his singing. A very fine assumption of the role.”

“Charles Edwards’ designs made striking use of backdrops which would have been familiar to Wagner, finely suggesting both the ship’s interior and the castles.”


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Peerless Singing Dominates in Charles Edwards’ Smart Production

“Nicholls shines in this role.”

“Nicholls’ technical security is remarkable across the long-haul flights of Acts one and two, always singing right in the middle of the note, and with steely strength above the stave with top notes that are never snatched but bloom.”

“Gwyn Hughes Jones is untiring – no faltering at the final hurdle of Act three – in both definition, intonation, and requisite power (he even opens up the infamous cut in Act two). As a tenor who has plenty of experience in the meaty roles of Puccini and Verdi there is a strong underlying legato that means Act two unfolded with sensuality and ardor. ”

“David Stout sings Kurwenal with swagger and heft – top notes soared and rang with a kind of desperate strength in the final Act. Christine Rice is luxury casting as Brangäne. Her contrasting richness with Nicholls’ soprano suggests a character more in touch with and at home in the world Isolde so thoroughly rejects, though her own fearsome top notes channeled the distress and fury both characters feel.”

“Matthew Rose sang a profoundly humane account of King Mark. Phrases started with a raw, straight tone that captured the wounded, tired quality of the character exactly; as a line furled upwards, the vibrato widened, and the anguish came out; there was a trace of gravel and grit in the voice that suggests a hard-won worldliness. It was first-class singing in the service of rounded characterization.”


British Theatre Guide

A vocal tour de force, bursting with outstanding soloists.

“Conductor Stephen Barlow ran a very tight ship, from which true moments of beauty sailed out across the auditorium.”

“Wagner constantly proves that it is possible to create a musical climax which never resolves, leading to truly fiendish vocal lines for Tristan (Gwyn Hughes Jones) and Isolde (Rachel Nicholls) which were delivered with an outstanding range of vocal colour and finesse. Teamed with David Stout’s frustrated Kurwenal, Matthew Rose’s utterly devastated King Marke, Christine Rice’s troubled Brangaine, this is a superb cast, neatly topped off with a lustily sung chorus of sailors.”

“The theatre’s size, teamed with it’s superb acoustics gives license to a performance with moments of great tenderness and beauty. A wonderful choice for the 2023 season, magnificently executed.”


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Bachtrack ★★★★

Death-devoted duo: a superb new Tristan und Isolde at Grange Park Opera

“Director and designer Charles Edwards directs his characters so they are at one with both text and music.”

“The Brangäne of Christine Rice rudely stole the vocal honours; as if it was not enough to be given the plumb number of her exquisite Act 2 warning, she sang with such tone, control and phrasing that one understood Tristan’s response in his following line, “Now let me die”.”

“David Stout was sturdy as his devoted servant Kurwenal, and on ringing form vocally. Matthew Rose, who has few peers among operatic basses, was simply magnificent as King Marke, noble and sorrowing in his Act 2 lament.”

“The chorus of sailors, apparently singing from the foretop, was thrillingly present in this space.”


Opera Scene ★★★★★

A Pre-Raphaelite searing delight

“Take singers in fabulous voice, the Gascoigne orchestra luxuriating in Wagner’s exquisite music and a visually and theatrically intelligent and beautiful production and you have Grange Park Opera’s life-affirming Tristan und Isolde.”

“This was an event to savour.”

“Combining musicality and dramatic performance Gwyn Hughes Jones has possibly never been better as in his vast Act Three monologue. The Welsh tenor is often at home with Puccini romantic roles or Verdi’s heroes and victims but here he embraced Wagner and staked a claim to the demanding challenges. ”

“Here Rachel Nicholls is magnificent. A thrilling voice and a vibrant actress, eyes as flaming as her red hair as the incendiary Irish princess wreaks havoc to mere mortal men.”

“Aided by an excellent David Stout as Kurwenal and, as a marvellously sung Brangäne, Christine Rice, this is a Tristan und Isolde team to travel far to hear and with sumptuous designs and costumes, to see. There are no weak members of this team and as King Marke we had a delicious performance from Matthew Rose, the first choice for an intoxicating bass.”


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