Well, it took three replacement Tristans (one of whom rolled off the stage) a pair of nights that required two Isoldes, and countless doses of Sudafed, but Ben Heppner and Deborah Voigt finally made it from ship’s deck to "Liebestod" together. I had the good fortune to be at the Met last night, and I can’t remember a more consistently mesmerizing performance of Tristan und Isolde. Heppner has lost a bit of the superhero ease he once had, but with his warm, elastic voice and controlled fervor, he insinuated himself so thoroughly into the role that it became hard to imagine wanting to hear it any other way. Perhaps to show what fine form she was in, Voigt hammered the odd high note with a little more gusto than strictly necessary, but you can’t begrudge her the pleasure she takes in producing that fine, rich blang! Heppner’s and Voigt’s timbres harmonized gorgeously, and in spite of these weeks of separation, their sense of breath and phrasing merged. They sang Act II in silhouette against a luminous, abstract backdrop, their voices bobbing on the surface of a dark orchestral tide controlled by James Levine.
You can have a magical Tristan und Isolde even if only Tristan und Isolde sing really well, but happily that wasn’t the case last night. Michelle De Young stepped back into the role of Brangaene, which she had planned to sit out in order to give Margaret Jane Wray a crack at it. Wray was sick (Curse you, Influenza!); De Young was splendid. So were Eike Wilm Schulte as Kurwenal, Stephen Gaertner as Melot, and the great Matti Salminen as an especially harrowed King Marke.