Alright, I will deal with the bad things first and in doing so, rid myself of them.
1. Try again, Barbara Willis Sweete. I occasionally saw your point with the split screens. But save them for DVD. They ruin a live broadcast. I may be mistaken, but it's my impression that the appeal of these broadcasts for most people is that they give some sense of what's it's like to attend an opera at the Met. Fifty million little boxes don't achieve that. Quite the opposite. She said something to Peter Gelb about allowing the audience to choose what to see, but in fact, her direction gives us less choice — we have her vision imposed upon us instead. She also said something about offering "relief" from a "static" production. Excuse me? How dare you? Plenty of people have managed to film plenty of similarly "static" operas without resorting to all this ridiculousness. I took to closing my eyes as soon as the frame started shrinking, which worked relatively well but I still resent being obliged to shut my eyes to Debbie. Others were angrier even than I was; I witnessed quite a heated discussion among five women waiting for the loos, all of whom hated in the direction to varying degrees.
2. To the man beside me who started picking, pontificating and finding fault less than a second after the music had ended — have you no soul? It's Tristan und Isolde, for god's sake; is that seriously your immediate response? Also, nobody asked you to interject loudly during Susan Graham's conversation with Sarah Billinghurst. It's a moviecast, not a town hall meeting. Also, if you're going to ridicule Natalie Dessay, at least get her surname right.
3. I bought one of the Chauvel's famous ice cream sandwiches. When I opened the packet, it went flying, rolled under five rows of seats and ended up at the front of the theatre, coated with fluff and dust and totally inedible. This made for exactly the combination of tragedy and comedy you'd expect. I wasn't about to buy a second.
The all-encompassing good thing is, of course, Tristan und Isolde itself. And I am in my usual Wagner predicament — the kind of elated rambling I lavish upon everything else seems irrelevant and inappropriate in the face of this sort of music. Experiencing Wagner isn't like experiencing opera, it's a trip to another world. My usual concerns disappear and I'm transported and transfixed. I'm sure I've said these things before, but that's inevitable. My encounters with Wagner are infrequent but as a rule transcendent. And this was Tristan und Isolde, for heaven's sake. My very first Tristan und Isolde ever. Imagine that. As always with Wagner, I just wish it was longer and that there weren't intervals. Although really, I'm not sure Wagner and time have much of a relationship. Objectively the operas are long, but to me it always seems that they just take as long as they need to in order to be what they are, which is perfect. Neither fast nor slow paced, just Wagner paced. I really don't know if this makes sense. Wagner does not make me make sense.
I love Deborah Voigt for various reasons but still didn't know quite what to expect from her Isolde. She was beautiful. No, maybe there isn't quite so much billowingly silky voice to get lost in now, but I don't care. And never having seen her in action before, I was surprised by her grace and simple, believable stage presence. At the end of the Liebestod I would have preferred the theatre to stay dark and silent for a good five or ten minutes, to let me have a bit of a cry and gather myself back together.
As for, in the words of Gilligan's Island, "the rest" — Robert Dean Smith sang a good Tristan, and that in itself is no mean feat. He was really quite jawdropping in the last act. I would have liked to have seen Ben Heppner or Gary Lehman, but no matter. Matti Salminen was amazing as King Marke. Michelle de Young was a pretty wonderful Brangaene. Oh, look, I don't have a word to say against any of the cast, that's so not the point.
Susan Graham lacks the slightly mad adorability of Renée Fleming as intermission host, but still did a pretty charming job of it. The interview with Debbie was the best; Debbie is a very funny woman, as I already knew.
Despite the split screens, I would almost go back for a second helping. Debbie's Liebestod would be reason enough. But the encore screening is, of necessity, on a weekday morning, so out of the question. Anyway, I've finally had my first Tristan. More, I suppose, will have to follow.