OPERA NEWS - Metropolitan Opera Radio Broadcast: Tristan und Isolde
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Metropolitan Opera Radio Broadcast: Tristan und Isolde 

Saturday, April 8, 2017, 1:00 P.M. (ET)

Broadcast Tristan Isolde hdl 417
Isolde (Nina Stemme) and Tristan (Stuart Skelton) in Mariusz Treliński’s Met staging of Tristan und Isolde
© Johan Elbers
The 2016–17 Metropolitan Opera broadcast season is sponsored 
by Toll Brothers, America’s luxury home builder®, with generous long-term 
support from The Annenberg Foundation, The Neubauer Family Foundation, 
The Vincent A. Stabile Endowment for Broadcast Media, 
and through contributions from listeners worldwide.

Tristan und Isolde  

Libretto by the composer, after a Celtic romance 
(in order of vocal appearance)
Sailor           tenor, TONY STEVENSON 
Isolde  soprano, NINA STEMME 
Brangäne  mezzo, EKATERINA GUBANOVA 
Kurwenal  bass-baritone, EVGENY NIKITIN 
Tristan  tenor, STUART SKELTON  
Melot  tenor, NEAL COOPER 
King Marke  bass, RENÉ PAPE 
Shepherd  tenor, ALEX RICHARDSON 
Steersman  bass-baritone, DAVID CRAWFORD 
Conducted by SIMON RATTLE

The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus

Production: Mariusz Treliński
Set designer: Boris Kudlička
Costume designer: Marek Adamski
Lighting designer: Marc Heinz
Projection designer: Bartek Macias
Choreographer: Tomasz Wygoda
Dramaturges: Piotr Gruszczyński,
Adam Radecki
Chorus master: Donald Palumbo
Musical preparation: Robert Morrison,
Gareth Morrell, Carol Isaac, Jonathan C. Kelly
Assistant stage directors: Gina Lapinski,
Peter McClintock, Stephen Pickover

Stage band conductor: Gregory Buchalter
Prompter: Carol Isaac
German Coach: Marianne Barrett

Production a gift of the
Estates of Alan and Ruth Broder

Additional funding from
Marina Kellen French and the
Gramma Fisher Foundation, Marshalltown, Iowa

Coproduction of the Metropolitan Opera,
Festival Hall Baden-Baden,
Teatr Wielki–Polish National Opera, and
China National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) Beijing
Timings (ET)
(A warship)     
ACT I                                                  1:00–2:31 
ACT II    2:54–4:05 
ACT III     4:17-5:35 
 Host: Mary Jo Heath  
Commentator: Ira Siff 
Music producer: David Frost 
Producers: Ellen Keel, John Bischoff,  
William Berger 
Executive producers: Mia Bongiovanni, Elena Park 


ACT I. The knight Tristan, nephew and successor to King Marke of Cornwall, commands the ship that brings the Irish Princess Isolde against her will as a bride for Marke. Believing a Sailor mocks her with his song about an Irish girl, Isolde breaks the silence she has maintained since setting sail and calls on the elements to sink the ship. Her fury spent, she looks toward Tristan at the helm and muses on his inexplicable betrayal. Abruptly she sends her maid, Brangäne, to summon the knight. When Brangäne transmits the command, Tristan's servant, Kurwenal, intervenes with a lusty song of contempt for Isolde and her former fiancé, Morold, whom Tristan slew in battle. Brangäne returns, and the humiliated princess tells how she once cared for a wounded man, "Tantris," only to discover he was Tristan, the man who killed her beloved. She tried to kill him, but his plaintive look stopped her. Now she curses him—and herself for sparing him. Though Brangäne tries to calm her, the princess chooses a death potion from among the magic vials sent with her by her mother. Kurwenal bursts in to say land has been sighted. Isolde sends him back to Tristan with word that the knight must appear before her if he hopes to present her to King Marke. She bids the frightened Brangäne farewell, telling her to prepare the death draught. Tristan enters. Savagely ridiculing his chivalry, she makes him eager to drink the poison, and he hails the cup as the oblivion for which he longs. He drinks; she wrests the cup from him and drinks as well. The two wait for death. Instead, they rapturously fall into each other's arms, ignoring the sounds of landing and the crew's salute to the king. Brangäne has substituted a love potion for the poison. Tristan leads the fainting Isolde to the expectant King Marke.

ACT II. Outside Isolde's apartment in Marke's castle, she and Brangäne listen to the retreating sound of hunting horns. Isolde wants to extinguish the torch, a prearranged signal to Tristan, but Brangäne warns that Marke's night hunting party is a plot by the jealous Melot, Tristan's erstwhile friend, to expose the lovers. Isolde laughs at the girl's fears and, refusing to wait any longer, gives the signal. Brangäne goes to keep watch as Tristan appears and rushes into Isolde's arms. Their ardor gives rise to an expression of hatred toward the world's rules and obligations (day), and a glorification of their passion (night). Unnoticed, Brangäne softly calls a warning. Their desire for ultimate unity makes each ache for death, and their ecstasy soars until shattered by Brangäne's cry. Kurwenal rushes in, followed by Marke, Melot and the courtiers. Marke, distraught, wonders how Tristan—the very man who persuaded him to marry Isolde—could have betrayed him. The knight asks Isolde to follow him to eternal night, then challenges Melot, dropping his sword to allow his foe to run him through. 

ACT III. At his ruined ancestral castle in Brittany, Tristan lies unconscious. The mournful piping of a Shepherd, signifying that Isolde's ship is not in sight, wakens the knight. Kurwenal explains that he has brought his master home, and Tristan describes how Isolde's face, shining in the hated light of day, drew him back from the blissful night of death. Kurwenal tells him he has sent for Isolde, at which point Tristan is carried away by a delirious vision of her arrival. But the Shepherd's tune, associated with a lifelong search for death, plunges him again into despair. Cursing the false poison that failed to kill him, he collapses, only to revive at another vision of Isolde. The Shepherd, sighting Isolde's ship, plays a joyful tune. When Kurwenal goes to meet her, Tristan, in a frenzy, rips off his bandages, hailing his flowing blood as a greeting to Isolde, who enters as he falls dead. She collapses on his body, oblivious to the arrival of Marke and Melot. Kurwenal defends his knight against Marke's men, learning only after he has slain Melot that Marke has come to pardon the lovers. Kurwenal dies. The king can only lament, as Isolde describes her vision of the ascent of Tristan's soul. Transfigured, she dies, joining him in eternal night.


Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde was inspired by the composer's love for Mathilde Wesendonck, several of whose poems he set to music. Wagner temporarily abandoned work on the Ring cycle in order to express his burning feelings, which had as much to do with musical style and dramatic form as with Mathilde. His daring expansion of the borders of tonality, his use of restless, yearning chromatic suspensions and unresolved chord progressions, caused many musical contemporaries to judge him mad. 

Wagner completed Tristan in 1859, but it was not until June 10, 1865, that the work finally was produced in Munich's Hofund Nationaltheater, under the aegis of the composer's patron, Ludwig II of Bavaria. The cast featured the husband and wife Ludwig and Malvina Schnorr von Carolsfeld, conducted by Hans von Bülow. The American premiere, at the Metropolitan Opera on December 1, 1886, proved an outstanding success, with Lilli Lehmann as Isolde and Albert Niemann as Tristan. The Met's current production by Mariusz Treliński premiered in Baden-Baden and was first seen in the New York house on opening night of the current season.


Barry Millington's 1992 revision of his Wagner (Princeton) is a thorough yet reader-friendly introduction to the composer, as is his New Grove Guide to Wagner (Oxford). Charles Osborne's The Complete Operas of Richard Wagner (Da Capo) is eminently useful. Ernest Newman's Wagner biography, now out of print, remains a classic.

On CD, two superlative Tristan recordings lead the pack—Furtwängler's 1952 studio performance (EMI), with Kirsten Flagstad in glorious late bloom, and Karl Böhm's live recording from the 1966 Bayreuth Festival (DG), with Birgit Nilsson its transcendent heroine. Karajan's electric 1952 Bayreuth performance, available on several labels, boasts Martha Mödl's magnificently expressive Isolde. The transparent ecstasy of Carlos Kleiber's leadership makes his 1982 Tristan particularly compelling (DG).

On DVD, James Levine paces Ben Heppner and Jane Eaglen in the 1999 telecast of the Met's Dieter Dorn production (DG). Nilsson and Jon Vickers are the golden-age principals in Böhm's 1973 Orange performance (Kultur). spacer 

This performance is also being broadcast
on Metropolitan Opera Radio on
SiriusXM channel 74.
Send quiz questions to Metropolitan Opera Quiz,
Metropolitan Opera,
30 Lincoln Center,
New York, NY 10023,
or e-mail metquiz@metopera.org


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