Claudio Abbado

We publish an exclusive page about the Premiere and second performance of Tristan und Isolde in Tokyo, on 23th november 2000. A great success and an incredible emotion, as wrote our friend Kimitoshi Sato, our friend and member of the CAI in Japan!

As official representant of the CAI, Guy Cherqui, member of the board of CAI and responsible of the site, will be on the third performance of Tristan, and will meet the japanese members of CAI, for the first time. Its for us very important to create a net of abbadians around the world !! Our japanese friends are for the CAI a great symbol of this net of music lovers and friendship.

First performance: first impressions

First performance: the stage direction

Second performance

Tristan und Isolde in Tokyo News of the two performances


Stupendous success

A few words to inform you of what took place in Tokyo on 23rd Nov.
Expectant music lovers who made pilgrimage into the theatre were greeted with the notice of everybody planned being in his or her right place. Conductor: Claudio Abbado, of course.
The house was full packed. Kyoko and I were at the fifth row in the orchestra and could not see Maestro coming in, so we had to guess: the heated applause was to greet Maestro Abbado. Yes, he was there. He saluted to us and the performance started.
It was marvellous, indeed. Every detail in music and drama was chiseled into a convincing whole. How delicately and eloquently lighting was executed! The riddle was solved: we saw Grueber coming on the stage, hand in hand with Maestro Abbado, who has become thin, but in full vigor, in all smile.
I want to write more about the performance later. Now I just tell you in
haste:When at the end of act 3 the stage and the whole theatre fell into a pitch darkness, the audience missing the last resonance of the music, Isolde dissolving and transforming, we all sat agape stupefied, transferred for a little, almost long while, thirty seconds, one minute, two minutes, I don't know, until someone awoke to clap hesitantly. A clapping surged into an almost furious surge of bravos and storms of applause. No people left, but everybody stood in ovation. Every singer received his or her due applause, and Maestro received the biggest applause of all. He looked very happy at the result and response from the audience.I saw every face radiant with pure joy when they bagan to go home. A group of young people said to one another: It was great indeed. It's the most wonderful performance we have had this year. I miss it already.
Yes, it was a stupendous success. Maestro Abbado let us see and hear in the ideal form the most metaphysical and romantic drama Wagner brought into the world.
Thank you, Maestro Abbado!

This is enough for the night.

Our friend sent us a second letter, more dedicated to the stage direction: The Wanderer agree completely: the production is very delicate, following the text with great precision and great sensibility and intelligence. But let us read the letter of Kimitoshi:
As you (...) know, the production was already made public in Easter Festival 1998, and Japanese music critics and amateur connoisseurs made a number of reports on music making and drama making. They were all negative!
Abbado conducted Tristan like a sort of Pelleas, and he failed in intoxicating us with Wagner's magical music. Too thin in texture. They also criticized Grueber as a mediocre producer. Nothing inspiring, they said.
In my opinion his production is among the best we have ever had. I can imagine how inspirational Wieland's one was when I view the video of the Osaka performance with Boulez conducting. Even after seeing it, I declare his production is a masterpiece. How eloquently light and shadow speak! As orchestra and human voice are expressing an ode to Night, truly animated shadow and shade make their presence felt through subtle and deliberate use of the finest lighting devices.
When I viewed the video of the opera "From the House of the Dead" I recognized Grueber as a good producer. But now I am happy to say he is one of the genius producers.
And he worked successfully with Maestro Abbado, and he proved a great aid to
Maestro's penetrating insight into the music and drama almost enhanced to the mythological level.
Second Performance

a text of Kimitoshi Sato

The second performance of "Tristan und Isolde" took place as scheduled. A lot of gingko tress around the theatre greeted the audience in their full glory of golden yellow. Very ancient tree species originating in China. The gingko is Maestro Abbado's favorite tree.
The premiere evening tickets were terribly difficult for ordinary music lovers to obtain because many celebrities were invited on the special occasion. In a sense the Monday evening was their 'premiere.' The singers were more relaxed, and the orchestra played a little bit suppler. I was on the right end of the orchestra, so I looked askance at the stage. From my seat the statue of the naked goddess on the bow of the ship was invisible.
The statue was the symbol of Isolde about to sacrifice herself to the cause
of the peace between Ireland and Cornwall. To compensate for the limited vision, I was endowed with a free view of Maestro Abbado conducting within the pit, with his profile lit. We all know his versatile, almost imaginative gesture language to conduct the orchestra. Especially his left hand and arm movement! Sometimes soothing, sometimes supporting the sound, sometimes moulding the melodyline, to mention a few. He deliberately chose to control the volume of voices of both the singers and orchestra, in most cases, but at the proper passages they made the best they could offer. A miraculous
interpretation: metaphysics visible to the eye. Yes, it is also very romantic, but it urges us to awake to the higher awareness, indeed.
The subtle interplays of light and shadow enable us to feel the presence of elements; earth, water, wind and fire; especially water and wind. Needless to say, the music was quite eloquent in expressing them. For instance, we could almost smell of the sea salt and feel the sea breezes on the cheeks!
Isolde's transfiguration was so breathtaking and we were face to face with the ripples or waves of shades and lights, or more exactly we felt we were at one with All-Being.
The moment the theatre was in complete darkness, everyone started a big applause and clamours of bravos and bravis, jumping up from the seat.
It was a big success, but I miss the silence where everything remains dormant, but very charged, electrifying, the silence that follows the music, the silence that precedes the music.
Of course Maestro Abbado was happy with the result. He received the biggest cheers. Coming onto the stage he looked down to the orchestra to express his sincerest thanks, only to hear tremendous foot thumpings from the depth. They congratulated him on the great achievement. I remeber the same happened on the first night.
It was so illuminating in interpretation that I have more to say about Tristan than before.