Simanaitis Says

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I ENJOYED WATCHING Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, part of the Metropolitan Opera’s free streaming. This opera generates ecstatic appreciation from some and bored derision from others. I place myself in the former group, though I grant that its intense sense of yearning can get on the nerves.

What with having seen two MET performances now, and listened to its EMI Classics CD on numerous occasions, I figure it’s time to share Tristan und Isolde tidbits here at SimanaitisSays in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow.

No doubt there are readers on either side of this T&I matter, but I’ll bet there are no “meh” feelings. It’s that kind of opera.

Tristan Und Isolde, Placido Domingo, Nina Stemme, Antonio Pappamo conductor, Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 3 CDs, boxed set, EMI Classic, 2005. This is my favorite T&I CD. Nina Stemme also sang Isolde in the Met’s fine 2016 production.

The T&I Plot. Sir Denis Forman is succinct describing T&I in his book A Night at the Opera: An Irreverent Guide to the Plots, the Singers, the Composers, the Recordings, 1994: “The one with two lovers, a love potion, and a love death.”

Granted, though it’s a bit more complicated.

Tristan and Isolde, by Herbert James Draper, 1901.

The T&I Legend. According to Wikipedia, T&I, alternatively known as Tristan and Iseult, “is a chivalric romance retold in numerous variations since the 12th century.… The narrative predates and most likely influenced the Arthurian romance of Lancelot and Guinevere, and has had a substantial impact on Western art and literature.”

As described by Nick Slonimsky in his Lectionary of Music, 1989, “King Mark sends his nephew Tristan to fetch his chosen bride Isolde, a princess of Ireland. During the sea voyage, Isolde falls so deeply in love with Tristan that only death can save her from disgrace. She asks her lady attendant to give her poison, but the woman prepares a love potion instead.”

It was so hard to get good help those days.

Isolde marries King Mark, yet she and Tristan are compelled to carry on. They’re found out. Tristan is wounded in the ensuing squabble. At the end, the Liebestod or “love death,” Tristan dies in Isolde’s arms and she appropriately follows suit. Curtain.

Tomorrow, we see how Wagner’s life mirrors art, he has tunes for every purpose, and his favorite conductor Hans von Bülow gets him into Munich hot water. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2020

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