Wagner: Tristan und Isolde - Nilsson, Windgassen, Hoffman, Talvela, Neidlinger; Böhm. Bayreuth, 1970
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This performance of Tristan und Isolde is all the more poignant because it marked the last time that either Birgit Nilsson or Wolfgang Windgassen would sing their respective roles at Bayreuth. Nilsson and Windgassen virtually owned these parts for over a decade. Birgit Nilsson once quipped that whenever she sang Tristan with anyone else she felt as if she was committing an adulterous act. So in a way this performances marks the culmination of a collaboration that had evolved since the 50s resulting in an onstage chemistry that is quite rare. Despite the fact that both singers were in their 50s, both sing with remarkable freshness. In particular, Nilsson's top gleams like I have never heard it. Windgassen also seems quite self-assured during the marathon of singing that Wagner inflicts upon his tenor in Act III. All in all, this performance comes across as much more satisfying than the legendary DGG release from a few years earlier both from a vocal and interpretive standpoint for both of the singers. Perhaps the knowledge that this was the last time inspired them to even greater heights. Karl Böhm's approach is also a little more relaxed than his usual fast-paced approach. In the supporting roles Grace Hoffman is a very good Brangäne and Martti Talvela makes a stoic, yet sensitive Marke. The sound is very good.