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Radiant Loveliness

'Tristan and Isolde' at Los Angeles Opera,
reviewed by MARIA NOCKIN


Richard Wagner, who wrote both the words and the music of his operas, had a great love for Germanic legends. It is no wonder that he was inspired by the story of Tristan and Isolde as told by Gottfried of Strassburg who lived during the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. We know very little about Gottfried's life, but he was probably educated in a monastery. His nineteen-thousand-word courtly romance, Tristan, was expertly written in Middle High German rhyming couplets. The epic manuscript tells much more of the story than the opera does, but the opera eliminates some of the confusion in the original tale. It is thought that Gottfried may have abandoned his epic because he could not find an appropriate ending. While Gottfried brings in a second Isolde, Wagner simplifies the story with the original lover's journey to Tristan's side and the Liebestod.

A scene from Act I of 'Tristan'. Photo courtesy of San Francisco Opera
A scene from Act I of 'Tristan'. Photo courtesy of San Francisco Opera

On 27 January 2008, Los Angeles Opera revived its 1987 production of Tristan und Isolde, which has sets and costumes by famed artist, David Hockney. Hockney is known for his use of a bright palette and his reds, blues and greens lit up the stage. Judging by the amount of applause to be heard as the curtain rose, the audience seemed happy to see this outstanding production, with its realistic stage direction by Thor Steingraber, once again.

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Copyright © 19 February 2008 Maria Nockin, Arizona USA


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