Thursday, 17 July 2014

Tristan and Isolde: Coitus Interruptus

Wagner’s thrilling Tristan and Isolde is being performed in Auckland on Saturday, the first time ever in New Zealand! This is the third post getting ready for the great event! (Part One; Part Two.)

What happens on stage in opera is mostly not as important as what happens in the music. The music is telling you the real story.

On stage, characters might only be having a bit of a cuddle, but the music reveals much more is going on under the covers.

The music of Act II is the emotional core of Tristan and Isolde. It grows organically from the Tristan chord right at the very start. It’s the only time this star-crossed couple are alone, can declare the love they must not have, the love they know will kill them, the love so impossible it can only manifest at night. In the dark. Or in death.

It’s erotic to the bone – or it would be, literally, if not for the way it ends.

Think Romeo and Juliet. Think Romeo and Juliet, except a love that was much more inconceivable – and those two at least had the full night together (“is that the lark?”). And they were never interrupted right. At. The. Crucial. Moment.

Coitus interuptus has never sounded so sumptuous.

After all the angst of the first six minutes 30 seconds, listen to the way the ‘act’ almost happens.  The rising, and rising , and rising, and …

Here’s the always magnificent Waltraud Meier making musical love to (an unfortunately inert) Siegfried Jerusalem.

Four-and-a-half hours of this? No wonder audiences are an emotional wreck by opera’s end!


  1. I feel like a neanderthal. I got invited to come along to that concert this morning for free. Initially I accepted. Never have been to such a concert before. Sounds fun, dress-up and all. Then I found out it starts at 4pm and finishes at 10pm. 6 Hours! even with the 90 minute break, that is murder!

    No matter what they put on stage, I'd be an emotional wreck too simply because of a sore ass and back. Tx for posting the video. That sealed the deal. "No thanks". I presume it sounds better live but that kind of noise does my head in.

    I might try a nice short introductory concert sometime. Let's say 20 minutes.

  2. Yup, it's sad. I get given a ticket with good company to boot and I still won't sit through 6 hours of that.
    I'm a lost cause.

  3. There is a cure. It mostly involves buying me a lot of beer...

  4. Your not alone Dinther, I got dragged along to Mamma Mia once, and I have managed to evade any sort of opera or stage show ever since.

    B Whitehead

  5. Um, I'm pretty sure even a neanderthal would notice some fairly stark differences between 'Tristan & Isolde' and 'Mamma Mia.'

  6. Yes, your right, Peter, they are quite different, however, the end result is still the same.

    B Whitehead


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