Reliving Tristan und Isolde at Bayreuth, 2009

Click here to stream Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at Bayreuther Festspielhaus on

The year is 2009, Barrack Obama has started his first term as president of the United States, Serena Williams has won her 10th Grand Slam and the first episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race has just aired… and I’m in one of the most extraordinary places on earth for an opera singer… Bayreuth of course!!

Bayreuth is and remains unlike anywhere else on earth. Everything and everyone there is somehow connected to the Festspiele. And it’s WONDERFUL.

One example of this sticks out in my mind. There was a bakery there I used to go to everyday during rehearsals. I only ever exchanged pleasantries with the shopkeeper but one day, when I bought two rolls (instead of my usual one) he said, “Oh, you must have a performance today.” I was quite taken aback that he knew who I was, but that’s how it is there!

I’ve done many seasons at Bayreuth, but this Isolde was extra special. I remember the audition in 2006 like it was yesterday… I had yet to sing the role of Isolde in a full production, but my first Ring was behind me in Copenhagen. I was so nervous before hand, but I also knew that I was going to feel very at home in this role. As soon as I started to sing, everything felt right.

Developing the part with such a solid and consistent team at Bayreuth really was amazing. The production was so well thought through that all of us in the cast knew exactly what we were doing. With Wagner, and especially the role of Isolde, you benefit so much from taking your time. I was fully ingrained into the production, which meant I could play with my intuition in the part and the capabilities of my voice. There are so many colours in this piece, and it’s quite something to do it in the house that Wagner built. You can feel the tradition in every corner of the theatre.

And now, years later with many Isoldes under my belt, I still recall those days preparing Isolde at Bayreuth. It’s all about the tiny details, every feeling in every word. I debuted the role in 2006/7 season at La Monnaie De Munt in Brussels, and then for the first time in Bayreuth in 2008. Then again at the Festspiele in 2009, 2011, 2013 (in the Kinderoper)…

I recall that after one of the performances at Bayreuth, it was customary to go to the local bookshop and sign autographs. I loved doing that and chatting with the audience, and apparently the queue for me was as long as they’d ever seen, equaling Waltraud Meier’s record… that was cool 😉

I highly recommend you watch the full production on Medici TV now (subscription required)!

It’s so amazing to be invited back again this summer, you can never take these opportunities for granted, especially in these times! To return to this coveted stage as Brunnhilde will be one of those *pinch me* moments. See you there…

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