Thu November 16 | 7:30 PM
Tristan und Isolde
Our three-year deep dive into Wagner’s tragic and romantic opera comes to a close with Act III, featuring Isolde’s famous “Liebestod.”TICKETS
November 16, 2023 7:30 PM
Tristan und Isolde
Nina Warren, Isolde
Roy C. Smith, Tristan
Gary Simpson, King Marke
Ola Rafalo, Brangäne
Philip Horst, Kurwenal
Joplin | Overture to Treemonisha
Wagner | Act III of Tristan und Isolde
The third and final act of Tristan und Isolde, the conclusion of our three-year exploration of Richard Wagner’s operatic masterpiece, reminds us that the transformative power of love conquers all, even death. American composer Scott Joplin, the “King of Ragtime,” was among the many inspired by the opera. The overture to Joplin’s opera Treemonisha, placed in a former slave community in 1884, opens the concert after Francesco shares his thoughts about the enduring significance of Tristan und Isolde.
Join us at 6:30pm for the Guild Legacy Pre-Concert Talk, a casual 30-minute talk with Music Director & Conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong and guests. Location: Hult Center Studio. Free for all ticketholders.
[ VIEW THE DIGITAL PROGRAM BOOK ]
This concert will be broadcast on KWAX 91.1 on Friday, December 1, at 10 am.
- Listen to the below Spotify playlist, curated by Music Director & Conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong, for a preview of Scott Joplin's Treemonisha and Act III of Tristan und Isolde.
- Read this article from classical-music.com about why the Tristan chord is so important
- Read our First-Timers Guide to brush up on orchestra vocabulary and find out what to expect from a concert at the Hult Center
About Nina Warren
Nina Warren is an internationally acclaimed artist known for her interpretations of the most demanding dramatic soprano repertoire. This is illustrated by her recent triumphant return to the Teatro Colón as Turandot where she also had debuted Brünnhilde in Die Walküre with Charles Dutoit and starred in Konig Kandaules(recorded on the Capriccio label). Further Wagnerian roles include Brünnhilde in Götterdämmerung at the Teatro Petruzzelli, her MET debut as Gerhilde and then eight consecutive seasons there inclusive of the LePage Ring.
Her career highlights include: Turandot with Los Angeles Opera, Sinaloa Festival of the Arts Mexico, Teatro Colon and Köln, Minnie in La fanciulla del West, with Los Angeles Opera and Essen Opera, Marie in Wozzeck with San Diego Opera, Leonore in Fidelio in Essen, Bonn and Nice, Tosca with Teatro Municipal in Santiago and New York City Opera, Emilia Marty in The Makropolous Case at the Janáček Festival Brno and Köln, Kostelnička in Jenufa in Sao Paolo and Essen, Jonnie Spielt Auf with Köln Opera, Chrysothemis with Baltimore Opera, Schoenberg’s Erwartung with Canadian Opera, Lavinia in Mourning Becomes Elektra with Seattle Opera, Marie/Marietta in Die Tote Stadt in Köln and Spoleto, Senta in Frankfurt and Palm Beach, Salome in such theaters as Deutsche Oper Berlin, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Dresden, Ghent, Antwerp, Trieste, Seattle Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Opera Pacific, and Baltimore Opera. She reprised her world premiere roles in Tan Dun’s Marco Polo (recorded on Sony Classics) with the Bergen National Opera and made her Lyric Opera of Chicago debut in The Passenger. Her orchestral collaborations include the Kölner Rundfunk Symphony in a live broadcast and the Royal Flemish Orchestra.
About Roy C. Smith
American tenor Roy Cornelius Smith has established himself among the ranks of the finest tenors of his generation through his voice of exceptional color and beauty, his compelling dramatic interpretations, and outstanding musicianship. He has already been heard on some of the world's great operatic stages including the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Salzburger Festspiele, Norwegian National Opera, Royal Danish Opera, and the New Israeli Opera. He has also appeared with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Orchestra del Teatro Carlo Felice, Orchestre Métropolitain du Grand Montréal and the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, to name but a few.
During his tenure as an ensemble member with the Nationaltheater Mannheim, Mr. Smith appeared as Calaf, Cavaradossi, Don Jose, Siegmund in Der Ring an einem Abend, Pinkerton, Turiddu, Canio and Otello with Krassimira Stoyanova conducted by Dan Ettinger. He also premiered numerous new productions including Dick Johnson in Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West directed by Tilman Knabe, the title role in Don Carlo directed by Jens-Daniel Herzog, Max in Der Freischütz directed by Armin Holz, Hagenbach in La Wally directed by Tilman Knabe, Dionysus in Die Bassariden by Henze directed by Frank Hilbrich, and Eléazar in La Juive directed by Peter Konwitschny.
Recent and current projects include his return to the roster of the Metropolitan Opera as Des Grieux in Manon Lescaut and as Florestan in Fidelio. He also performed Faust in Boito's Mefistofele with Teatro del Giglio di Lucca and returned to the Deutsche Oper Berlin for performances of Calaf. In Mannheim, he could be heard in Verdi's Messa da Requiem and Aida as well as in Der Ring an einem Abend. At the Teatro Sociale di Rovigo he sang Faust in Boito's Mefistofele. Furthermore, he made his debuts as Eléazar in La Juive with the Opéra National du Rhin in Strasbourg and Der Kaiser in Die Frau ohne Schatten at the Oper Leipzig. At the Royal Danish Opera in Copenhagen he had a huge success as Verdi’s Otello. He also sang his first Tristan in concert performances in San Francisco, had a huge success reprising the role of Eléazar in La Juive in Antwerp/Ghent and made his impressive debut as Peter Grimes in Mannheim. In the season 2021/22 he made his debut as Arindal in Wagner’s early work Die Feen at the Leipzig Opera and also made his debut as Tristan in a staged production at the Nationaltheater Mannheim.
Engagements of the current season include Siegfried in the Der Ring an einem Abend in St. Gallen and Tristan in a new production at the Opera Vlaanderen in Antwerp/Ghent. Other recent higlights include Florestan in a new production of Fidelio directed by Markus Bothe and conducted by Julia Jones; Canio in I Pagliacci with the Norwegian National Opera and Opera Las Palmas; his debut with the Royal Danish Opera in Copenhagen where he sang Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana, directed by Kasper Holten and Canio in I Pagliacci, directed by Paul Curran under the baton of Stefano Ranzani; Dick Johnson in La Fanciulla del West with Lyric Opera of Chicago opposite Deborah Voigt, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis; the title role in Andrea Chenier at the Bregenzer Festspiele; Des Grieux in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at Oper Graz; Calaf in Turandot with New Orleans Opera opposite Lise Lindstrom and Deutsche Oper Berlin opposite Maria Guleghina; Dick Johnson in La fanciulla del West with Nashville Opera; Haman in Esther with New York City Opera; Radames in Aida with Opera Birmingham, Erik in Der fliegende Holländer with New Orleans Opera, and Pollione in Norma at the Chautauqua Institution.
A past winner of the New York Metropolitan Opera Auditions, his international debut occurred in 1998 at the prestigious Salzburger Festspiele, where he sang Fatty, the Bookkeeper, in Kurt Weill's Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny. (Available on Kultur DVD/Video with Catherine Malfitano and Dame Gwyneth Jones, conducted by Dennis Russell Davies). Later that same season he reprized the role in English for the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Mr. Smith hails from Big Stone Gap, Virginia, and received both Bachelor's and Master's degrees in music from the University of Tennessee and a Doctor of Musical Arts from the American Conservatory of Music and currently resides in Vienna Austria.
Learn more about additional cast members
Dramatic mezzo-soprano Ola Rafalo, has been called a “vocal powerhouse,” and “the next Cossotto.” She has earned critical acclaim in a variety of roles and venues with her “voluptuous,” “deep contralto sound” and mesmerizing acting. Rafalo has performed Azucena in Il Trovatore, Maddalena in Rigoletto, Fenena in Nabucco, as Amneris in Aïda, and Ulrica in Un Ballo in Maschera. Her most celebrated role is Carmen, which she has sung with Syracuse Opera, the Lyric Orchestra, Gulfshore Opera, New Jersey Verismo Opera, and highlights with the Pacific Symphony. Other roles performed include Charlotte in Werther, Fricka in Die Walküre, and Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana. She has been featured at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Opera Tampa, Springfield Symphony, Orlando Opera, Baltimore Lyric, Opera Carolina, Teatro Curci di Barletta, Paderewski Symphony, and Chicago Opera Theater.
Postponed appearances from 2020 include her debut with the Israel Philharmonic as Emilia in Verdi’s Otello under Maestro Gianandrea Noseda, followed by the role of Mamma Lucia in Cavalleria Rusticana at Teatro Voghera, and concerts in Sirmione Italy for the Maria Callas Festival, as the winner of the Maria Callas prize at the Giulio Fregosi competition. Upcoming engagements include a debut at the Teatro di Bibiena in Mantova, Beethoven Ninth with the Evanston Symphony, and the Mother/Chinese Tea Cup/Dragonfly in L’enfant et les Sortileges with Florentine Opera. Also upcoming, Rafalo will sing the role of Santuzza in Japan, in the world premiere of a newly discovered unabridged version of Mascagni’s masterpiece, Cavalleria Rusticana.
Gary Simpson is a Metropolitan Opera Principal Artist, SAG/AFTRA member, and an Actors Equity and AGMA member. Simpson sang in the new production of The Merry Widow with Renée Fleming at the Metropolitan Opera during the 2015 season, directed by Susan Stroman. He returned in 2017/18 to the Metropolitan Opera to again perform the role of Pritschisch in The Merry Widow with Susan Graham as The Widow. Simpson can be seen as a recurring character, Hobert Showalter, in the Cinemax show The Knick, directed by Steven Soderbergh.
In 2021, Simpson reprised the role of Dulcamara with Opera Maine. He also sang Dulcamara in 2019 with the Indianapolis Opera. Simpson sang Gianna Schicchi with the LA Opera and as Artist in Residence with Odessa College’s production of Gianni Schicchi in April of 2018. He sang the American premier of the opera Matsukaze in the role of The Monk at the Spoleto Festival. Simpson also performed The Monk at the Lincoln Center Festival.
He has sung Miguel de Cervantes from Man of La Mancha multiple times as well as Miles Gloriosus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Simpson performed with Phillip Bosco for the Shakespeare Marathon with the New York Shakespeare Festival, singing the Falstaff aria. Simpson sang Scarpia in Tosca at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Holländer in Der fliegende Holländer, his fifth production, in Cape Town, South Africa. He sang Holländer at the BNO, Bucharesti Romania; the Statni Opera, Prague; and the Manaus Opera Festival, Brazil, directed by Christoph Schlingensief, as well as with the Hawaii Opera Theater.
Simpson sang at Carnegie Hall with the Opera Orchestra of New York as Roger in Verdi’s Jerusalem and as St. Brie in Les Huguenots, both available on FIORI Records. He sang Pizzaro in Beethoven’s Fidelio at the summer Musikfest in Frankfurt, and Sweeney in Sweeney Todd at the Globe Theater in Odessa Texas, Nevada Opera, and Augusta Opera. Simpson sang Scarpia in Tosca and Amfortas in Parsifal with Seattle Opera. Simpson has sung Iago in Verdi’s Otello with the Kalamazoo Symphony, Arizona Opera, Minnesota Opera, Hawaii Opera Theater, The Otello Project, and the Opera Orchestra of New York.
Simpson has been invited to act and sing in Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Mexico, Portugal, Romania, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Spain. Simpson worked for two seasons as a firefighter for the US Forest Service, Payette Forest, in New Meadows, Idaho. A proud graduate of the North Carolina School of the Arts, Simpson makes his home in Knoxville, Tennessee.
California native and baritone Jared Bybee is a graduate of the prestigious Academy of Vocal Arts where he performed ten leading operatic roles under the tutelage of Christofer Macatsoris, including Guglielmo (Cosi Fan Tutte), Prince Yeletsky (Pique Dame), Germont (La Traviata), Marcello (La Boheme), Valentin (Faust), Don Giovanni, Manfredo (L'Amore Dei Tre Re), Michele (Il Tabarro), Rigoletto, Enrico (Lucia di Lammermoor) and covered the roles of Lescaut (Manon) and The Demon by Rubenstein. In The Santa Fe Opera’s 2017 festival season, Jared covered the role of Steve Jobs in the world premiere of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs written by composer Mason Bates and librettist Mark Campbell. In March of 2018 Jared made his debut as Figaro (Il Barbiere di Siviglia) with Arizona Opera and in June made his European debut as Lescaut (Manon Lescaut) with the Gran Teatre Del Liceu, both to great critical acclaim. This year Jared made his debut with Utah Opera as the Pilot in a new production of The Little Prince composed by Rachel Portman and returns to Philadelphia in October to perform in his second season with the Lyricfest recital series.
While in his residency at AVA, Jared reached international attention by participating in some of the world's most renowned vocal competitions. He was an Encouragement Award winner at the 2016 George London Foundation Vocal Competition, a Fifth Prize winner at the 2016 Licia-Albanese Puccini Foundation International Vocal Competition, a Finalist in the 2015 International Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition held at the Dutch National Opera, a Fifth Prize winner at the 2015 Giulio Gari Foundation International Vocal Competition, nominated for a 2015 and 2016 Sarah Tucker Study Grant by the Richard Tucker Music Foundation, a Fourth Prize winner at the 2015 Loren L. Zachary Society National Vocal Competition, a First Prize winner at the 2015 Gerda Lissner Foundation International Vocal Competition and a Grand Finalist in the 2015 Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions, where he performed with maestro Fabio Luisi and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.
In addition to such prestigious venues as the Metropolitan Opera and Dutch National Opera, Jared has made concert appearances as a soloist at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center and the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra with maestro Yu Long. He was a soloist at the BrAVA Philadelphia! 80th Anniversary Gala Concert held in Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center in the spring of 2015. In October of 2016 Jared opened the George London Foundation Recital Series with mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard at the Morgan Library & Museum. In December of 2016, Jared made his debut with the Voices of Ascension Chorus and Orchestra at the Church of the Ascension as a soloist. In 2017 Jared organized and performed in a fundraising concert in collaboration with the Independence foundation to benefit the Broad Street Ministry Charity in Philadelphia which he continues to produce annually. He has also presented recitals organized by Daisy Soros and Richard Gaddes.
Before his residency at AVA, Jared was an apprentice singer with The Santa Fe Opera during the 2013 festival season where he performed the role of Baron Grog (La Grande-Duchesse De Gerolstein) alongside Susan Graham and covered the roles of Colonel Isaacson and Justice Wills in the world premiere of Oscar and the title role in Le Nozze Di Figaro. In 2016, Jared returned to the Santa Fe Opera for a second apprenticeship to perform the role of Bello (La Fanciulla del West) featuring Patricia Racette and cover the roles of Olivier (Capriccio) and Don Giovanni. He was also awarded the Donald Gramm Memorial Award.
Jared received a Bachelor's Degree in Economics from the University of Utah in 2010, minoring in music and completing a full pre-medical curriculum. After receiving his degree, Jared shifted his focus from medicine to voice and performed his first role as John Brooke in Mark Adamo's Little Women with the University of Utah Lyric Opera Ensemble. He also covered the title role of Don Giovanni with the Lyric Opera Ensemble and made his company debut with Utah Opera as the Second Prisoner (Fidelio) and the Usher (Rigoletto).
Learn more about Act I
The sonic identity of Tristan und Isolde begins immediately in its Prelude with a quiet line by the cellos, who leap up an interval, and slither down chromatically into a dissonant chord with the woodwinds. Particularly effective in these opening measures is Wagner’s use of silence — even when sound is not present, tension is building. The orchestral introduction feels as though it is constantly building, heading towards a resolution that it never reaches. We will hear this music again at the end of this first Act.
The first scene opens on a ship, with a sailor’s song. Isolde and her handmaiden Brangäne are being transported by Tristan to be married to his uncle, King Marke of Cornwall. Isolde is furious at the loss of control of her own fate, particularly directed towards Tristan who has refused to interact with her during the journey. Isolde’s bursts of anger are heard in blaring brass and trembling strings, with interludes of calmer music as Brangäne attempts to console her.
We meet Tristan, along with his faithful but nasty servant Kurwenal. Isolde sends Brangäne to instruct Tristan to come to her, an order he ignores. Kurwenal mocks Isolde with the death of her fiancée, Morold, who was killed by Tristan. Kurwenal’s indecent boastfulness is underscored by the rustic nature of the music, with plucking strings and bouncing brass. The servant’s gleeful mocking of Isolde is taken up by the entire crew of the ship, with the men’s chorus joining in, laughing and celebrating their hero Tristan. Brangäne returns to Isolde who, trembling with rage, recounts the story of how a wounded Tristan, disguised as a man named “Tantris,” came to her to be healed and how she recognized him as the killer of her betrothed. She took up his sword, intending to avenge Morold, but is stopped as Tristan looks into her eyes. As she recounts the story, we hear the music transform from anger to hints of music from the Prelude, now filled with longing. Isolde allows Tristan to leave with the promise that he will never come back, a promise he breaks when he returns to deliver Isolde to his uncle. She is snapped back to reality, regretting that she allowed the sword to drop and did not slay Tristan. Brangäne, continuing her attempts to console her mistress, reminds her of magic potions Isolde’s mother made, suggesting that a love potion could bring Tristan over to her side. To Brangäne’s horror, Isolde chooses the death potion instead.
Kurwenal appears, commanding the women to prepare for the voyage to end. Isolde says she will not leave the ship and meet the King unless Tristan agrees to meet with her, drink atonement, and ask for her forgiveness for breaking his promise. As Tristan arrives, Isolde orders Brangäne to prepare the death potion, ignoring the handmaiden’s protestations. A music interlude ensues as Tristan approaches — there is a sense of impending doom in the foreboding sound of the horns and trombones. Hints of the Prelude’s music are heard in the strings.
Upon his arrival, Isolde tells Tristan that she saw through his disguise as “Tantris” and demands revenge for his treachery. Tristan offers her his sword, inviting her to kill him. Isolde refuses, insisting he must drink atonement and that doing so will cleanse him of any guilt. Tension builds as offstage sailors’ voices announce that the journey is almost at an end. Tristan drinks half of the potion and Isolde drinks the rest, but instead of bringing death, the two are consumed by rapturous love for each other. The music from the Prelude makes its full return as the potion’s effects consume the two characters, building into a frenzy. At the same moment, Kurwenal and the sailors announce the arrival of King Marke. Isolde asks Brangäne which potion she prepared, who confesses that in her desperation, she switched out the death potion for a love potion.
SCORED: In addition to the cast of vocalists, scored for three flutes, piccolo, two oboes, English horn, three clarinets including bass clarinet, three bassoons, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones including bass trombone, tuba, timpani, percussion, harp, and strings, as well as an off-stage banda of three trumpets and three trombones.
HISTORY: This is the first complete performance of Act I. The Prelude and Liebestod were first performed in January 1982 under the direction of William McGlaughlin and last performed in October 1999 under the direction of Miguel Harth-Bedoya.
DURATION: Approximately 75 minutes.
Learn more about Act II
Tristan und Isolde is a work whose impact and controversial nature matches that of its creator. Like Wagner, the music drama has had the capability of drawing extreme reactions from those who have encountered it. Clara Schumann, a contemporary of Wagner and a leading pianist and composer, wrote of it as, “… the most repugnant thing I have ever seen or heard in my life… in which every feeling of decency is violated and by which not only the public but even musicians seem to be enchanted — that is the saddest thing I have ever experienced in my artistic life…”
After seeing a performance of it in 1933, British composer Benjamin Britten would record in his diary, “Dwarfs every other creation save perhaps [Beethoven’s] Ninth. The glorious shape of the whole, the perfect orchestration: sublime idea of it and the gigantic realisation of the idea. He is master of us all.”
Whether positively or negatively, experiencing Tristan und Isolde makes the heart race, eyes widen, and stomach drop.
The work’s story is based on the ancient Tristan legend (likely of Celtic origin), specifically the telling by Gottfried von Strassburg, an author of 11th-century Germany. Another source of inspiration were the events of Wagner’s own life—the composer had participated in the failed May Revolution in 1849 and, in order to avoid arrest, was forced to flee Dresden and took refuge in Zürich.
While there, he befriended a retired silk merchant, Otto Wesendonck, who supported Wagner for several years, relieving the composer of financial concerns and allowing him to dedicate his time to composition and performing his music around Europe. While living on the Wesendonck estate in 1857, a love affair developed between Wagner (a married man) and Wesendonck’s wife, Mathilde.
That year, Wagner set aside work on what would become his fabled Ring cycle in order to begin working on Tristan und Isolde, which he completed two years later in 1859. Every aspect of the work, including its poetry, music, orchestration, and story, was laid by the composer’s hand.
It is difficult to fully capture the impact of the opera, not only on music but on art as a whole. Before this, composers had followed rules grounded in logic and carefully maintained relationships between tonal centers. Tristan und Isolde completely disregarded these rules, which had been followed for hundreds of years, laying the foundation for the dissonant and atonal music of the 20th-century.
The result is a feeling of constant striving that never reaches a resolution, conveying the psychological state of the two titular characters and their unfulfilled desire for each other. The demands upon the singers and their voices were unprecedented, making these roles some of the most difficult to execute in all of operatic canon.
Beyond music, it was greatly influential in the work of theater, poetry, and visual art into the late 19th and 20th centuries. Author Alex Ross describes Tristan und Isolde as having, “set the course for an avant-garde art of dream logic, mental intoxication, formless form, limitless desire.”
It is difficult to point to a singular work that changed the course of western classical music more than Tristan und Isolde. Whether this change was for the better or for the worse depends upon whom you ask. Even without a knowledge of music and its history, the gravity and chaos of its presence is undeniable—one only needs to listen.
Following their arrival at the court of King Marke, the unknowing consumption of the love potion, and their subsequent rapturous duet, Tristan and Isolde plan a secret rendezvous in the garden of the castle. The Prelude to the second act is impatient, featuring driving rhythms and sweeping melodies of uncontrollable longing—the lovers’ yearning for each other has intensified. Far-off horns signal the departure of the King and his court on a hunting trip and Isolde excitedly observes how distant they sound already, knowing that her meeting with Tristan is near approaching. Her handmaiden Brangäne contradicts her, nervously stating that she can still hear the horns clearly. Each observes how the others’ emotions are clouding their ability to perceive reality clearly.
Brangäne warns Isolde that her restlessness to see Tristan has blinded her to the possibility of spies. A possible culprit, she warns, is Melot, a knight in the service of King Marke and a supposed friend of Tristan’s. Brangäne suspiciously points out the convenience and speed with which this royal hunt was organized, implying that it is a trap to catch Isolde and Tristan in the act. Isolde brushes aside Brangäne’s concerns and the music surges as her excitement builds. She instructs the handmaiden to extinguish the torch in the garden, the predetermined signal for Tristan to approach. Brangäne objects, bemoaning her decision to switch the death potion originally requested by Isolde for the love potion. Isolde states that the switching of the potions was the work of the Love Spirit; as she sings, a new theme to represent the Spirit is introduced, one that Wagner would later use again to represent love in his Ring cycle.
Isolde extinguishes the flame and the music dies as darkness envelops the garden. Slowly, the music begins to build again, signaling Isolde’s impatience and Tristan’s approach. The music approaches a frenzy until Tristan finally arrives and the two greet each other with a fervor and an ecstasy that is almost disturbing. They breathlessly speak to each other, sometimes alternating and at other times overlapping, exclaiming their passion for one another. They praise the darkness and the security it affords them to be with each other, condemning the light and the false appearances they have needed to maintain in it.
Traditionally in Western classical art, light has represented knowledge and enlightenment, while darkness has been associated with ignorance. The lovers’ praise of darkness and ignorance and shunning of light and truth draws a direct line between their passion and their madness. Brangäne’s distant voice warns that it will be daylight soon, but Tristan and Isolde are oblivious to the danger. They begin to speak of death and the union it would allow them to have, introducing the idea and the theme of the Liebestod, or Love-Death, that will manifest itself at the end of the opera.
The music builds and is interrupted by the entrance of Tristan’s servant, Kurwenal, as he shouts a warning before the King and his men burst in, led by Melot. Rather than displaying anger, King Marke is moved, albeit disturbed at what he has witnessed. Singing of Tristan’s loyalty and friendship, the King laments that it was Tristan himself who urged him to marry Isolde. The King is accompanied by a bass clarinet, the instrument that will be associated with him in the story. He asks Tristan how he could betray him in this way, but Tristan has no answer. Tristan sings that he is no longer of this world, no longer bound by honor, duty, or any of the earthly obligations he once felt indebted to — now, there is only love and Isolde. He invites Isolde to join him, to escape into the world of darkness, which she accepts. Furious at this betrayal, Melot draws his sword. Tristan mocks him, implying that Melot’s anger is not due to fidelity to the King, but because Melot wishes to have Isolde for himself. Tristan draws his own sword, but allows himself to be wounded. The music comes to a thunderous and tragic close as he collapses to the ground and Isolde looks on in despair.
SCORED: In addition to the cast of vocalists, scored for three flutes, piccolo, two oboes, English horn, three clarinets including bass clarinet, three bassoons, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones including bass trombone, tuba, timpani, percussion, harp, and strings.
HISTORY: This is the first complete performance of Act II by Eugene Symphony. The Prelude and Liebestod were first performed in January 1982 under the direction of William McGlaughlin and last performed in October 1999 under the direction of Miguel Harth-Bedoya. Act I was performed in April 2022 under the direction of Francesco Lecce-Chong.
DURATION: Approximately 75 minutes
Health & Safety
The health and safety of Eugene Symphony audience members, musicians, and staff members has been and will always be our top priority. We strongly welcome and encourage patrons who wish to continue wearing masks while attending performances to do so. We want all of our attendees to feel comfortable and accepted in your choice. You take care of you, we'll take care of the music and ensuring that your experience attending a Eugene Symphony concert remains exceptional.
For the most up to date health and safety protocols for our concerts, visit our Eugene Symphony Safety page.
LOCATION: Hult Center for the Performing Arts
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