Musikdrama in three acts · Music and libretto by Richard Wagner
Premiere: Munich, 10th June 1865, Nationaltheater
Jay Hunter Morris
Eike Wilm Schulte
Josep Miquel Ramon
*Centre de Perfeccionament Plácido Domingo
Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana
Cor de la Generalitat Valenciana
23rd, 28th June 2012 · 6.00 pm
S Y N O P S I S
Tristan, the nephew and faithful subject of King Marke, is travelling from Ireland to Cornwall. He is escorting his uncle's fiancée, the Irish princess Isolde, on board his ship. The long time spent on the ship proves too much for Isolde to bear, as she is uncertain of her future in a marriage to an older man whom she does not love and does not even know. She wishes the ship would sink and never reach Cornwall. Her maid, Brangäne, tries in vain to calm her.
On deck, and not far from Isolde's awning, Tristan is accompanied by his companion Kurwenal. Isolde sends her maid to summon Tristan, but he refuses sending back evasive replies. Kurwenal rudely sends Brangäne away, and Isolde, who has overheard his comments, is furious. When she calms down, Isolde tells Brangäne how she met the knight who is now avoiding her: she had saved his life by curing his serious battle wounds with the miraculous potions her mother had taught her to prepare. While Tristan was still recovering from his wounds, Isolde had found out that he had killed her fiancé Morold. She then wanted to kill him too, but when he opened his eyes she felt a strange mixture of love and hate for him, as he lay wounded, and she was unable to kill him. When he had recovered from his wounds, Tristan swore he would always be grateful to her for nursing him back to good health. But instead he has offered her to his uncle in marriage.
Brangäne tries to convince her mistress that it is no dishonour to marry a king, but Isolde thinks differently: not only has Tristan not shown his love for her, but he has also offended her during the voyage. Prepared to put an end to her misfortune, Isolde asks Brangäne to fetch the deadly potion from the chest where she keeps the magic potions her mother prepared for her. Kurwenal interrupts the women telling them to prepare to disembark. Isolde says Tristan must come to apologise to her, otherwise she will not meet King Marke. Tristan receives the message and has no choice but to go to the princess. After reproaching him and expressing her resentment for having killed her fiancé Morold, she suggests they make peace and drink to friendship. Isolde offers Tristan the goblet that has been poured by Brangäne, with the intention of taking his life. Isolde also drinks from her goblet. But instead of them both dying, which is what Isolde expected, they both feel an uncontrollable passion that makes them fall into a passionate embrace. Brangäne had prepared a love potion, instead of the deadly poison that Isolde had told her to prepare. Sailors' voices announce they are to disembark in Cornwall.
A garden in the vicinity of King Marke's castle. Isolde has arranged a secret rendezvous with Tristan, taking advantage of the fact that the king is out hunting, and she waits impatiently. Brangäne warns her mistress that Melot, one of Marke's knights, is spying on the lovers in order to catch them out. Isolde does not take Brangäne's suspicions seriously as she believes Melot is Tristan's loyal friend, and she asks Brangäne to put out the torch so that her beloved will know there is no one around and can draw near. Afraid that the romance will be discovered, the maid is reluctant to put out the torch and regrets being responsible for the uncontrollable passion that has taken over the hearts of Tristan and Isolde. Not prepared to waste time arguing, Isolde puts out the torch and asks Brangäne to keep watch so that they are safe during their secret rendezvous.
Tristan approaches excitedly. A dreamlike atmosphere surrounds the romantic meeting, under the cover of the forest with the magical darkness of the night, protecting their secret and impossible love. The lovers feel a great happiness and do not want to part, despite the warnings from cautious Brangäne on the danger that lies in wait. But the idyllic atmosphere of the moment is broken when Kurwenal suddenly appears to warn Tristan that the king and his entourage are approaching. But it is of no use. Melot comes across the lovers, followed by Marke. The king cannot understand Tristan's betrayal, as it was Tristan who suggested the king marry Isolde. Tristan gives no explanation and asks Isolde if she is willing to follow him. Isolde accepts. Melot, who is secretly in love with Isolde, becomes jealous and draws his sword on Tristan. The two knights confront each other. Wounded, Tristan drops his weapon and falls into Kurwenal's arms. Marke stops Melot.
Tristan's castle on the top of a cliff in Kareol. Seriously wounded and tended by his loyal Kurwenal, Tristan desperately awaits the arrival of Isolde, the only person who can miraculously cure him with her magic ointments. The wait is endless and the fever causes him to faint and be delirious. A shepherd at last announces that Isolde's ship approaches. Tristan stirs and sits up to greet her. But he only has enough strength to utter the name of his beloved and then he dies in her arms. Another ship with King Marke and his entourage, which was following Isolde's ship, reaches the castle. The king is willing to bless and unite Tristan and Isolde, once Brangäne has told him about the love potion. Unaware of the good intentions of the royal visit and devastated by Tristan's death, Kurwenal attacks Melot and kills him. Kurwenal also dies in the confrontation. Oblivious to what is happening around her, Isolde is mesmerized by her lover's dead body. Liebestod. After serenely gazing at him for some time, she falls dead, as if transfigured, upon Tristan's body.