Wagner's Tristan und Isolde occupies a singular position in the history of Western culture. What Nietzsche called the 'sweet and terrible infinity' of its basic nexus of longing and death has fascinated audiences since its first performance in 1865. At the same time, its advanced harmonic language, immediately announced by the opening 'Tristan chord', marks a defining moment in the evolution of modern music. This accessible handbook brings together seven leading international writers to discuss the opera's genesis and the libretto's relationship to late Romantic literary concerns, present an analysis of the Prelude, the music of the drama itself, and Wagner's innovative use of instrumental timbre, and illustrate the production history and reception of the music-drama into the twenty-first century. The book includes the first English translation of Wagner's draft prose of the libretto, a detailed discussion of Wagner's orchestration, and rare pictures from important and influential productions.
Arthur Groos is Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Cornell University, where he has taught since 1973. A member of the departments of German Studies, Medieval Studies and Music, his musical interests focus on issues of music and culture, and opera, especially Wagner, Puccini and modern opera. His books include Giacomo Puccini: La boheme (with Roger Parker, 1986), Romancing the Grail: Genre, Science, and Quest in Wolfram's Parzival (1995), as well as the collections Reading Opera (1988), Madama Butterfly: Fonti e documenti (2005) and seven other edited volumes. Founding co-editor of the Cambridge Opera Journal, he has served on the editorial/advisory boards of JAMS and Opera Quarterly. He is also general editor of Cambridge Studies in Opera and co-editor of Transatlantische Studien.
Introduction Arthur Groos; Synopsis: Wagner's prose draft (1857); 1. Public and private life: on the genesis of Tristan und Isolde and the Wesendonck Lieder John Deathridge; 2. Between memory and desire: Wagner's libretto and late Romantic subjectivity Arthur Groos; 3. The Prelude and the play Joseph Kerman; 4. In the realm of the senses: sight, sound, and the music of desire in Tristan und Isolde Thomas Grey; 5. A mantle of sound for the night: timbre in Wagner's Tristan und Isolde Jurgen Maehder; 6. Staging Tristan Stewart Spencer; 7. Tristan's traces Steven Huebner; Select bilbiography.