Tristan and Isolde

Neal Cooper as Tristan and Lee Abrahmsen as Isolde - photo by Jodie HutchinsonFollowing the great critical and public success of Tannhäuser and Lohengrin, Melbourne Opera is once again turning its attention to Wagner’s rich repertoire. From 2-10 February, the company will stage the dramatic and passionate masterpiece Tristan and Isolde, not seen in Melbourne for 17 years.

Lauded as Wagner’s greatest ever opera, Melbourne Opera’s new production of Tristan and Isolde sees a thrilling international tenor and globally acclaimed Wagnerian maestro come together with lauded Australian singers and musicians at St Kilda’s majestic Palais Theatre.

In a major coup, internationally acclaimed Wagnerian specialist, Anthony Negus will make his Australian debut conducting Melbourne Opera’s Tristan and Isolde. Celebrated as one of the great Wagner interpreters of his generation, Negus recently spent more than ten consecutive years conducting Wagner’s Ring, while last year he was awarded the Wagner Society’s Reginald Goodall Memorial Award for outstanding services to Wagner’s music and musical life.

“We are all very excited to be presenting the Australian debut of one of the world’s great Wagnerians, Anthony Negus,” says Melbourne Opera Director Greg Hocking. “With maestro Negus at the helm, this promises to be a truly memorable production.”

Tristan and Isolde will star English opera sensation Neal Cooper as Tristan. Neal comes to Melbourne following a string of successful international starring roles from the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden to the Metropolitan Opera in New York. An accomplished Wagnerian tenor, Cooper performed a title role in the Wagner 200 Celebrations at the Royal Festival Hall.

Cooper will be joined by acclaimed Australian opera star Lee Abrahamsen who returns to Melbourne Opera to perform the romantic lead, Isolde. Abrahamsen will take the Palais stage following a dazzling 2017, which saw her make her Opera Australia debut as the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro, sing Puccini’s Tosca with the Australian Discovery Orchestra, and round out the year by singing the national anthem to a stadium sized audience from the roof of the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Boxing Day.

Other cast include Sarah Sweeting (who received a Green Room Nomination for her performance as Venus in Tannhäuser) as Isolde’s handmaid Brangäne, while Australian baritone Michael Lampard will perform the role of Kurwenal. Celebrated Melbourne Opera regulars Steven Gallop and Jason Wasley will perform the roles of (King) Marke and Melot respectively.

Melbourne Opera’s new production of Tristan and Isolde is in the inspired hands of director Suzanne Chaundy, whose award winning productions of Tannhäuser and Lohengrin were lauded so widely. Her production is set in a poetic and symbolic world, realised by a combination of epic scale scenic elements, macro video design, advanced digital mapping and extreme slow motion footage.

Tristan and Isolde is far more than a love story. Time stops as we explore the inner lives of the characters. As they are taken to the outer limits of love, it becomes an ecstatic expression of the human condition,” says Chaundy. “As an opera, Tristan and Isolde is led by emotion and sensuality, rather than narrative logic.”

“The miasmic, restless shifting and questioning of the music leads the audience into an altered state. Our staging will enhance this altered universe. I’m so looking forward to Melbourne experiencing our new interpretation of Wagner’s eminent work.”

Digital artist Yandell Walton, who stunned with her arresting video and projection art in Lohengrin, will transform the Palais into a seductive, elemental universe. Yandell’s work has been exhibited at Melbourne Festival, VIVID Festival Sydney, White Night Melbourne and internationally. For Tristan and Isolde, Yandell has collaborated with visual artist and filmmaker Keith Deverell, whose video art for the production includes macro photography shot in remote regions of Tasmania.

Tristan and Isolde famously possesses some of history’s most important operatic music, including the stirring Prelude to Act 1 and one of opera’s longest and most famous love duets, O sink hernieder, Nacht der Liebe.

Tristan and Isolde
Palais Theatre, Lower Esplanade, St. Kilda
Performances: 2, 5 & 7 February 2018 – 6.30pm

Robert Blackwood Hall – Monash University, Clayton
Performance: Saturday 10 February 2018 – 6.30pm

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Neal Cooper as Tristan and Lee Abrahmsen as Isolde – photo by Jodie Hutchinson