The Program

Born May 22, 1813, in Leipzig, Germany
Died February 13, 1883, in Venice, Italy

All parenthetical dates represent: C (Completed) and FP (the first public performance).

TRISTAN Synthesis
(C—Aug. 8, 1859/FP—June 10, 1865)

O König! dass kann ich dir nicht sagen [“O my King ! That I am unable to explain”]
Tristan, crestfallen and ashamed that he has misled his monarch and close friend by conspiring with Isolda for their love-making tryst, nevertheless entreats Isolda to follow him, as he chooses death for his escape from the conventions of the mundane world.

Isolde kommt! Isolde naht! [“Isolda comes! Isolda nears!”]
Tristan, learning from his aged manservant-friend Kurwenal that Isolda has left Cornwall and King Mark to join her lover in Kareol, Brittany, in a cathartic paroxysmal outburst of exhilaration ecstatically and jubilantly cries out “Isolda comes!!” [Nowhere in opera is there a greater intensity of raw emotion, distilling the whole persona of the protagonist in a single outburst. The roles of Florestan and Parsifal have similar outcries. ]He extols the loyalty of Kurwenal. Tristan’s unbearable sensual yearning for Isolda has him hallucinating that, in his mind’s eye, he sees her aboard a vessel with sails, billowing with the gathered wind, skirting the ocean with surpassing speed, soon to reach shore, to return to his side and restore his health, as she had done earlier just after his confrontation with Morold..

Die alte Weise [“The ancient strain”]
The shepherd’s horn continues its sad refrain indicating that there is no sighting of Isolda’s ship. Tristan blames his unrelieved torment on the Love Potion, supposedly brewed by Brangäne for Tristan and Isolda to drink as a symbolic solemn lovers’ pledge.

Und drauf Isolde . . . [“And On Board the Ship, Isolda . . .”]
Wie sie selig, hehr und milde wandelt durch des Meer’s Gefilde! [“How happily, how seething with rapture she travels over the sea’s expanse!”]
In his reverie, he sees Isolda as soon arriving. He entreats Kurwenal to help her ashore.

O diese Sonne! Ha! diese Tag! . . . Isolde! [“O this Sun! Ha! this Day!”]
(Tristan’s Death) Tearing off his bandages he attempts to meet her half way, as Tristan the hero, no longer concerned that his wound again spurts blood at his strenuous movements, he rejoices that she will indeed restore him to the Tristan of old. As he reaches out to her, he slumps in her arms. With a final gasp, he caressingly utters her name,” Isolda” in a long-drawn-out, suspended-in-air exhortation that expresses his love, yearning, contentment and ultimate resignation to his Fate.