This audiobook investigates the revolutionary character of Wagner's opera Tristan and Isolde. Author and narrator Christopher Cook combines historical, musical, and critical information. He presents nuanced guidance to this stunning opera. Pointing out the radical nature of its composition in the context of western classical music, Cook leads listeners deep into the psychological heart of this tragic love story. Listeners will be shocked to learn some of philosophy that went on in the composition of the opera - for example, that the stage represented consciousness for Wagner, while the pit orchestra was supposed to be the "deep unconscious" of man. Cook's clear, engaging narration, combined with generous clips from the opera itself, will keep listeners from being pressing pause on this audiobook.
Tristan und Isolde centers around two lovers who dream of romantic love and yearn for oblivion. No composer had written such a work before. Turning his back on traditional tonality, Wagner changed the course of Western music with Tristan und Isolde. But there’s also fact behind the fiction: while he wrote his opera, Wagner was in love with another’s man’s wife, Mathilde Wesendonk. So Tristan and Isolde are also Richard and Mathilde.
Christopher Cook explores the making of a masterpiece, the story of lovers gripped by a passion that can only be consummated beyond the grave, a forbidden love that is blind to duty, honor and social obligation.
©2006 Naxos AudioBooks (P)2006 Naxos AudioBooks
Painter, musician, bibliophile...
If "Der fliegende Holländer" is Wagner 101, "Tristan und Isolde" is a graduate course.
Travel, magic, mystery, turmoil, torment, deception, love, desire, denial, consummation, and death: all these elements and more are present in this opera. And as author Christopher Cook rightly says, the work which was "never intended to be a romantic love story" also "refuses to conform to any single meaning."
The author presents his intriguing insights with contributions from additional narrators and musical excerpts. He discusses the details of Wagner's initial inspiration, including his tempetuous affair with Mathilde Wesendonck.
Wagner said he embarked on the work because "never in my life having enjoyed the true happiness of love," he would create this opera as "a memorial to this loveliest of all dreams, from which, from first to last, love shall for once find utter repletion."
The music of "Tristan und Isolde" was nothing less than revolutionary with its (now-famous) "Tristan chord," and the prolonged unfinished cadences and harmonic suspensions which reflect the interior drama of the characters. From the first notes to the final "Mild und leise wie er lächelt," Wagner presented innovations that did nothing less than change the course of western music forever. With our modern ears, all too used to movie soundtracks and dramatic effects, we might not realize just how provocative these musical effects were in Wagner's day.
Friedrich Nietzsche was moved to write that the opera expressed "the insatiable and sweet craving for the secrets of night and death." Clara Schumann called it "the most repugnant thing I've ever seen or heard."
One thing is certain: it is not an opera which provokes indifference. And for all that it contributed to the development of music, it's worth at least one listen, if not one hundred. May you find magic in it.
"A good place to start"
A marvellous and informative introduction to this opera. Well read, intelligent and insightful. The mix of story, comment and music works very well. If Wagner has always felt inaccessible to you then this is a good place to start. Highly recommended.
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