If Kaija Saariaho’s Innocencewas the hit of this year’s Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, the company’s first ever staging of Tristan und Isoldewas by (mostly) common consensus its greatest miss. That’s perhaps surprising, given that both emerged from the fertile brain of the same director, but where the Finnish composer’s up-to-date dramatic interrogation of a school shooting responded brilliantly to Simon Stone’s uncompromisingly contemporary approach, in its modern, middleclass Parisian setting, Wagner’s masterpiece of German Romanticism, despite outstanding musical teamwork, flapped around like a fish out of water.

Nina Stemme as Isolde. All photos © Jean-Louis Fernandez, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence 2021

To explain. Stone opens on a lively Christmas drinks party at Tristan and Isolde’s swishly styled pad, the lights of the Paris cityscape twinkling in the background. (The sets, all of them meticulously observed and scrupulously reproduced are by fellow Australian Ralph Myers, superbly lit by James Farncombe and with glamourous modern costumes by Mel Page, who also gets an ‘original concept’ credit). Everyone, as we subsequently learn, is there, including Marke (who might be Isolde’s former husband and,...