Very few notes very late at night after la prima of Barenboim's Tristan Und Isolde -- full review tomorrow because, really, our McQueens are soaked (it went on so long that the mildly cold afternoon -- the performance started at 5PM -- turned into a wet rainy messy Milanese horror winter night by the time we exited la Scala). The paparazzi frenzy + endless Wagner + 40-minutes-long intermissions + the usual horrible hangers on that plague every Prima here + rain on the way to dinner then home = not good.
Daniel Barenboim gave -- as expected -- a textbook performance on how you conduct a classic Wagner (with an orchestra that doesn't really play Wagner more than once every 20 years or so), a delicately precise, loving, warm and muscular piece of conducting. If Barenboim were a watch he'd be one of those beautifully sturdy submarine Rolexes from the 70s.
Waltraud Meier, as expected, showed everybody that no matter how old she gets, time isn't taking her Isolde away -- a crystal clear first act, much trouble in the second, an earth-shattering third, and a death scene that almost paralyzed the entire house with its intensity.
Ian Storey, all ears on him, started out pretty weak and gained confidence in the course of the performance -- a crescendo that saved Barenboim, and the Scala management, the embarrassment of having to explain to pitchfork-wielding Milanese opera lovers why they had chosen someone who hadn't really sung Tristan before and had to learn the part in six months. Nice acting, but how do you avoid being owned by Meier? You don't.
Patrice Chéreau's staging -- his Wagner comeback after his historic Ring 31 years ago -- was surprisingly static and drab, all slate gray sets and gray walls and those horrendous heavy gray overcoats for everybody -- Tristan in the DDR, only even more glum. Like a black and white movie from the old Eastern bloc shot on expired Russian film or something.
The chorus? Maestro Bruno Casoni does not make mistakes. He doesn't. No, he doesn't. That's the Coro del Teatro alla Scala, period -- and he runs it beautifully. He may be the best out there, seriously. It's what he does.
Now OC needs to go to baed; it was a long long night for us who don't worship Wagner.