“Tristan” in Houston

Tristan und Isolde 1865 In June of 1857, Richard Wagner reluctantly suspended work on Der Ring der Nibelungen, his projected cycle of four operas based on Norse mythology. As usual, he was having money problems. The Ring would have to wait. Meanwhile, he would compose a potboiler—a simple love story with a small cast, modest scenery and costume requirements, easy to stage. In short, wrote Wagner, “a thoroughly practicable work” that “will speedily yield good revenues, and help keep me afloat for awhile.”

Poor Wagner. Did he really think that he was capable of composing opera on a small scale? The “thoroughly practicable work” he envisioned soon morphed into Tristan and Isolde, a four-and-a-half-hour-long epic music drama that made such unheard-of demands on both the singers and the orchestra that it was widely dismissed as unperformable. Continue reading “Tristan” in Houston