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The Story

Tristan and Isolde have fallen in love – but Tristan has promised that Isolde will marry his uncle, King Marke. Isolde offers Tristan a deathly potion. Rather than bring death, it binds them still closer together.

After her marriage to Marke, Isolde continues to meet Tristan in secret. One night they are betrayed, and Tristan allows himself to be wounded. King Marke permits the lovers to be reunited, but too late. Tristan dies on Isolde’s arrival and Isolde withdraws from the world.

Background

Richard Wagner described Tristan und Isolde as ‘the most audacious and original work of my life’. The opera is a landmark in Western music. Wagner’s musical innovations, daring use of harmony and depiction of extreme emotions have influenced generations of artists. The opera draws on the Celtic legend of Tristan and Iseult, and explores the theme of eternal love through sublime music.

The divide between the real and the metaphysical worlds is powerfully conveyed in Christof Loy’s contemporary production. King Marke’s court is depicted as an elegant dinner party, divided from the world of Tristan and Isolde’s transcendent love by a curtain. As the opera progresses, the characters move between the sphere of private emotions at the front of the stage and the artificial ‘public world’ at the back. Loy’s subtle staging draws attention to the beauty of Wagner’s score, highlights of which include the Act I Prelude, the lovers’ ecstatic duet in Act II and Isolde’s Act III aria ‘Mild und leise’, in which she bids farewell to the world.

News and features

  1. Winter Season 2014/15

    30 March 2014

    Highlights include a new production of Andrea Chénier starring Jonas Kaufmann, a new production of Verdi’s tragic Un ballo in maschera and The Royal Ballet in John Cranko’s emotionally charged Onegin.