TRISTAN AND ISOLDE AT WIENER STAATSOPER
Tristan, the adopted son of King Marke of England, is at the helm of a ship. Tristan is bringing Isolde, the daughter of the king of the subjugated Irish, to England. There he will marry her with the widowed King Marke, strengthening the alliance of both peoples - and his own position of power. On board he keeps far away from Isolde. Instead of treating her with due respect, he ridicules her in a mocking song, and the entire crew joins in. Isolde reveals the prior history to her confidante Brangäne: during the war, Tristan killed Isolde's fiancé Morold, but during the duel he was inflicted yet with a poisoned wound. The ailing Tristan let himself be marooned in a boat near Ireland's coast acting as the minstrel »Tantris« in order to receive Isolde's care, because only by her healing powers could he hope to recover. Isolde recognized him as the murderer of her fiancé and yet was not able to take vengeance because the sick man looked her in the eyes. »Tantris«, who had been cured and released, returns using his true name as the courtship knight for King Marke. The defeated Irish had no choice but to accept this proposal. As Brangäne reminds her of the magic potions she has smuggled on board, with the help of which she hopes to be able to turn everything around for the better, the deeply humiliated Isolde decides to poison Tristan and herself. But instead of the poison, Brangäne mistakenly gives both mortal enemies a love potion, that will damn them with delights and torments of insatiable longing.
With this opera, Richard Wagner created the key work of musical romanticism, as sworn by E. T. A. Hoffmann exclaiming: »Glowing rays shoot through this realm of deep night, and we become aware of giant shadows that billowed up and down, lock us in closer and closer and destroy us, but not the pain of infinite longing.« At the same time Wagner opened the door to musical modernity, because through the independence of chromaticism and the emancipation of dissonance, the harmonic tension - emblematic of erotic tension - prolongs and refuses its resolution. This will only be reached in the love-death, in which the dying hallucinating Isolde imagines the resurrection of the dead Tristan.
Calixto Bieito, one of the most impressive music theater directors of the past decades, tackles this work for the first time. His works always thematize the fragility and decaying mortal corporeality of his actors. It should be exciting to experience this view in conflict with Wagnerian Tristan theories.