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Tristan und Isolde
Tristan und Isolde is an opera in three acts by Richard Wagner. It was composed between 1857 and 1859, and received its first production in Munich on June 10, 1865. In the principal parts of this opera Wagner followed the romance of Gottfried von Strassburg, which in turn is based on the story of Tristan and Isolde from Arthurian legend. Many Wagnerian critics of the time claimed that the musical portion of the opera attained the highest summit of all music; on the other hand, an equally influential group of critics, centered around Eduard Hanslick, condemned the work as being incomprehensible.
- Place, Act I, on board a ship. Act II in Cornwall, at the castles of King Mark. Act III, in Brittany, at Tristan’s castle.
ACT I. A vessel. Tristan has been charged with the duty of bringing Isolde, the intended bride of King Mark, from Ireland to Cornwall. Isolde and her companion, Brangane, are seated amidships of the vessel, which is divided by a curtain for privacy. The princess recognizes Tristan as a wounded knight whom she nursed when he was wounded, but who dispatched her betrothed Marold in combat. After vacillating between love and hate, Isolde finally resolves to kill Tristan, and commands Brangane to prepare a posionous potion to do the deed. Isolde's mother, a wily wench versed in sorcery, gives Brangane several magic drugs. By mistake, Tristan and Isolde are both given an enchanting philtre. They gaze upon one another in wonder, and under the influence of the draught they sink into each other's arms in an ecstacy of love.
ACT II. King Mark’s castle. Tristan and Isolde plan a secret meeting while the king is away hunting. Brangane cautions Isolde to be vigilant lest the traitorous Melot apprise the king of their assignation, but Isolde gives Tristan the signal to draw nigh. An enchanting love duet follows, the longest ever written for an opera. The faithful Kurwenal comes to warn Tristan of King Mark's return, but it is too late, for he is closely followed by Melot, bringing King Mark and his attendants. The chivalrous Mark, however, despises Melot for his treachery. Tristan draws his sword upon the traitor, but is defeated in combat and sorely wounded.
ACT III. Tristan’s castle in Brittany. Kurwenal has brought the wounded Tristan to the castle. He grows rapidly worse and Kurwenal sends for Isolde to heal him. A shepherd stands on the ramparts to watch for her ship, the coming of which he announces by a strain on his pipe. When she approaches, Tristan tears the bandages from his wounds in an effort to go to her, and after recognising her by name, dies in her arms. Mark has followed Isolde to unite her to Tristan. Kurwenal, who thinks he has come with evil intent, slays the false Melot and is himself slain. Isolde dies of grief by the side of Tristan, and in sorrow Mark remains in prayer beside the dead.
Reference: Plot taken from The Opera Goer's Complete Guide by Leo Melitz, 1921 version.
In the Japanese animation sci-fi series, Kidou Senshi Gundam SEED Destiny, or Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, Tristan and Isolde are used as the names of the weaponry of the Zodiac Alliance of Freedom Treaty's new spacefaring battleship, the Minerva. Numerous other names in the series, such as Lohengrin and Tannhauser are also references to the works of Richard Wagner.
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