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date: 06 June 2020

Tristan und Isolde (‘Tristan and Isolde’)locked

  • Barry Millington

Extract

(‘Tristan and Isolde’)

Handlung (drama) in three acts by Richard Wagner (see Wagner family, §1) to his own libretto; Munich, Königliches Hof- und Nationaltheater, 10 June 1865.

The ancient Tristan legend, probably of Celtic origin, achieved its first literary form in the 12th century. The version used by Wagner as the basis for his drama was that of Gottfried von Strassburg (fl1200–20). Wagner conceived the idea of writing an opera on the Tristan subject in the autumn of 1854, but the earliest dated surviving sketch (an elaboration of two fragments) is from 19 December 1856, at which point he was still engaged on Act 1 of Siegfried.

Wagner began his prose scenario the following summer, on 20 August 1857, and the poem was completed on 18 September. Like Siegfried – but unlike all the other music dramas – each act was drafted and elaborated, in sequence, the full score being reached before the next act was embarked on in sketch. Indeed, because Breitkopf & Härtel were eager to have the new work ready for public consumption, the score was actually engraved one act at a time. The fair copy of the full score of Act 1 was completed on ...

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