P R O G R A M
Born May 22, 1813, in Leipzig, Germany
Died February 13, 1883, in Venice, Italy
parenthetical dates represent: C (Completed) and FP (the first public
(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
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.