One Hundred Twenty-Second Season Chicago Symphony Orchestra Music Director Pierre Boulez Helen Regenstein Conductor Emeritus Yo-Yo Ma Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant Global Sponsor of the CSO

Thursday, February 21, 2013, at 8:00 Saturday, February 23, 2013, at 8:00 and Isolde Music and Words by Richard Prelude to Act 1 Act 2 Esa-Pekka Salonen Conductor Isolde...... Linda Watson Soprano Brangäne...... Michelle DeYoung Mezzo-soprano Tristan...... Stefan Vinke Tenor Melot...... Sean Panikkar Tenor King Mark...... John Relyea Bass-baritone Kurwenal...... Daniel Eifert Bass

There will be no intermission.

Performed in honor of the bicentennial of ’s birth.

Supertitles by Sonya Friedman

These concerts are endowed in part by the Kirkland & Ellis LLP Concert Fund. The CSO thanks Julie and Roger Baskes for their generous support of this concert series. This program is partially supported by grants from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Comments by Phillip Huscher

Richard Wagner Born May 22, 1813, , . Died February 13, 1883, Venice, Italy. Music from Tristan and Isolde Prelude to Act 1 Act 2

ristan and Isolde towers over the Ages for its subject, Tristan cast its Thistory of music—more than long shadow far into the future— 150 years after it was written, it’s stretching across the twentieth still a work of unsettling power and century’s first modernist masters, influence. With this one composi- from Debussy to Berg, all the way tion, Wagner revealed the scope to Radiohead, the radical rock of his vision and guaranteed that band that quoted the ’s plush music would never be the same. in its blockbuster Kid A. Reaching back to the Middle At once mythical and modern,

Composed Most recent CSO Approximate 1857–1859 subscription concert performance time performances Prelude: 12 minutes First performance Prelude: April 29, 2008, Act 2: 72 minutes Prelude: March 12, 1859, Orchestra Hall. Kent Prague Nagano CSO recordings Opera: June 10, 1865; Opera: October 16, 2001, of Prelude , Germany Orchestra Hall. With 1947. Artur Rodzinski Christian Franz (Tristan), conducting. RCA First CSO Waltraud Meier (Isolde), 1976. Sir Georg Solti subscription concert Nadja Michael (Brangäne), conducting. London (video) performances Andreas Schmidt (Kurwenal), Prelude: December 18, John Tomlinson (King Mark), 1977. Sir Georg Solti 1891, Auditorium Brian Davis (Melot). Daniel conducting. London Theatre. Theodore Barenboim conducting 1994. Thomas conducting conducting. Teldec Instrumentation Opera: November 21, 1935, three flutes and piccolo, two A 1958 performance Orchestra Hall. With Lauritz oboes and english horn, conducted by Fritz Reiner Melchior (Tristan), Dorothee two clarinets and bass is included in From the Manski (Isolde), Kathryn clarinet, three , Archives, vol. 3. A 1966 Meisle (Brangäne), Fred four horns, three trumpets, performance conducted by Patton (Kurwenal), Chase three trombones and tuba, Rafael Kubelík is included in Baromeo (King Mark), timpani, harp, strings, six From the Archives, vol. 16. Howard Preston (Melot). offstage horns Frederick Stock conducting

2 symphonic and operatic, immense generosity—Otto’s money paid for and intimate, Tristan and Isolde is three concerts of Wagner’s music the kind of masterpiece that wipes in 1853—and out all the familiar distinctions as it he would maps out its own new territory. soon test their It began, innocently, in marriage December 1854, when Wagner as well, for wrote to , “Since I Wagner now have never in my life enjoyed the had his eye true happiness of love, I intend on Mathilde. to raise a monument to this most That August, beautiful of dreams.” More than a after nearly decade would pass before Wagner a decade of presented Tristan and Isolde, and, work, Wagner in the meantime, he used those put aside nearest him to work out his artistic the Ring at fantasies, straining his relationship the end of Minna Wagner, Richard’s first wife, with her lapdog, with Liszt to the breaking point. , 1853 Wagner became so intimately act 2, to involved with the creation of devote himself Tristan and Isolde—and with the to a tale of idea of love as a natural force so unquenchable uncontrollable that it could upset passion and social conventions and ruin lives— longing. On that it’s difficult for us today, as August 20 he it was for Wagner, to distinguish began a prose between art and everyday life in draft of his this music. new music drama, Tristan he first musical sketch for and Isolde. TTristan and Isolde is dated On December 19, 1856. Wagner was September 5, then at work on Siegfried, the third 1857, two installment in his enormous Ring newlyweds by Karl Ferdinand Sohn, 1850 cycle, and he was at something of entered this a crossroads in his life. His mar- picture of riage meant nothing to him; his domestic work, too, seemed to have reached unrest: the a dead end. In April 1857, Wagner distinguished conductor Hans and his long-suffering wife Minna von Bülow and his young bride, rented a small house in the Cosima Liszt, daughter of the great suburb of Enge from Otto and composer. Wagner had met Cosima Mathilde Wesendonk, who lived before, and remembered her only in the new villa next door. Wagner as a shy fifteen-year-old, tagging had already tested the Wesendonks’ alongside her famous father. She

3 made a scarcely better impression Wagner read aloud the finished this time, yet she would eventually poem of Tristan. There, gathered become the most important person at his feet, were Minna, his wife; in Wagner’s life. Certainly Hans Mathilde, his muse and perhaps his von Bülow never suspected that lover; Cosima, who would one day music students would one day find become his second wife; and the his wife in all the standard music two husbands—Hans von Bülow, texts under Wagner (née Liszt). who was destined to conduct the The cast was now assembled for premiere of Tristan and Isolde; and Wagner’s private drama, and the Otto Wesendonk, whose money participants all had roles in the never did run out. creation of Tristan and Isolde. For The Bülows—a “most hap- three weeks the scene was remark- pily matched” young couple, ably cozy; this astonishing world in Wagner’s words—left the of art and intellectualism created Wagners to the Wesendonks in a soap-opera setting still strains on September 28. Within days, credibility. Each morning dur- Wagner began writing the music for Tristan, Mathilde becoming Isolde to Wagner’s Tristan as they themselves con- ducted— but evidently never consum- mated—a love affair A musical evening at : Liszt is at the piano; Wagner follows of extra- the score ordinary passion. ing the Bülows’ visit, silence was Mathilde made frequent visits demanded so that Wagner could to Wagner’s workroom to hear finish the text for Tristan and Isolde. the latest sketches for “their” new Later in the day there was music opera, or to show Wagner the making—Hans, a fine pianist, modest poems she was writing. played through the first two acts Wagner set five of them to music of Siegfried, with Wagner taking that winter, giving lasting stature to all the vocal parts—and seemingly mediocre poetry. Two of the songs innocent entertainment. One night were subtitled studies for Tristan

4 and Isolde, and in one, “Traume” he began writing in a journal (Dreams), Wagner discovered the which she saw only years later. famous, slowly shifting colors he He visited the Wesendonks in needed for the great act 2 love September 1859, just after finishing duet. On April 7, 1858, Minna the full score of Tristan and Isolde, Wagner intercepted a letter headed and concluded another financial “Morning confession” from her arrangement with Otto, this time husband to Mathilde; it was rolled for the Ring, but his affair with inside a sketch for the Tristan Mathilde was over. By now Wagner prelude. Minna was so inflamed had separated from Minna, and in that she didn’t care—or notice— November 1862 he saw her for the that the confession dealt with an last time. She died four years later. interpretation of Goethe’s Faust, Now Wagner’s personal drama which Wagner had denounced the moved into high gear. To her night before. Minna confronted husband’s surprise and her father’s her husband first, then Mathilde. disgust, Cosima Liszt von Bülow Wagner insisted on the purity of entered the scene. In the relationship; Mathilde said (My life), Wagner’s preferred Otto had long known about it and version of his life, he says that he accepted it for what it was. The proof, as such, was there in Minna’s hands, for the music of Tristan and Isolde is an ironclad testament of unfulfilled love. Despite the claims of innocence, Wagner broke off relations with the Wesendonks—although Otto’s fortune remained in favor for years. In August, the Wagners gave up the house on the Wesendonks’ grounds—the house he had always called his “Asyl,” or “refuge,” for it clearly was that no longer. Wagner moved on to Venice, and there, in the large, silent rooms of the Palazzo Giustinian on the Grand Canal, he wrote act 2 of Tristan and Isolde. Often he found that he couldn’t bear to compose for more than a few hours each day. Wagner finished the full score of act 2 of Tristan and Isolde on March 18, 1859. He continued Richard and , 1872 writing to Mathilde, and when she returned his letters unopened,

5 and Cosima swore eternal fidelity Mein Leben, ensuring that a life in November 1863. It’s more likely larger than fiction would itself that their relationship began in be polished into a work of art for June or July of 1864, when Cosima eternal contemplation. visited Wagner at Lake Starnberg. Hans von Bülow arrived there lthough it opened the door to on July 7, just in time to realize Athe future of music, Tristan that his devotion to Wagner now and Isolde is a work grounded in required forfeiting his own wife to tradition. Wagner’s literary source the cause. Plans for the premiere is the ancient legend of Tristan, of Tristan and Isolde, which Bülow first written down in the twelfth was to conduct, went forward, century, but originating centuries undeterred even by the news that earlier in Celtic lore. Wagner pre- Cosima was pregnant. On the ferred the early--century morning of April 10, 1865, Cosima version by the German poet gave birth to Wagner’s child while , although her husband conducted the first he further telescoped the action and orchestral rehearsal of Tristan. In combined characters. Still, unlike a gesture of almost unfathomable all Wagner’s other mature works, taste, the girl was named Isolde; she Tristan began as music, not poetry. was registered as the daughter of In November 1856, Wagner could Hans and Cosima von Bülow, and write of its “music without words Wagner participated in the public for the present,” the reverse of his deception by officially serving as usual working method. And the godfather at his own daughter’s finished product, more than any christening. Even in later years, other in his output, is dominated by Cosima referred to Isolde as its music, despite the subtlety of the Bülow’s daughter, although by then musical and dramatic synthesis. it was apparent that the child was Tristan and Isolde is much more the first of Wagner’s offspring to than a love story—and it’s not carry his great, beaked silhouette simply Wagner’s own love story, into the future. despite the biographical evidence. The premiere of Tristan and Wagner thought it “quite ridicu- Isolde was scheduled for May 15; lous” when the German emperor that afternoon, Malvina Schnorr, commented on “how deeply the Isolde, lost her voice, so it was Wagner must have been in love postponed until June 10. There at that time.” It has long been were four performances, the last on argued that Mathilde Wesendonk July 1. Within three weeks, Ludwig didn’t inspire this music, but, Schnorr, who sang Tristan to his rather, it was Wagner’s fixation wife’s Isolde, died of indeterminate with the subject and its ultimate causes, fanning speculation that need to be experienced that fired the demands of his last and most his infatuation for her. Wagner famous role had done him in. In later wrote, “In Tristan I had to July, Wagner began to dictate portray the all-consuming anguish

6 of love’s longing, inconceivably we are capable of achieving in intensified to a pitch of the most this field. painful desire for death.” It’s no coincidence that, as the opera was The rhetoric is classic Wagner, taking shape, Wagner regularly but one can’t take issue with his read Schopenhauer’s words on verdict. Wagner wasn’t alone in suffering and the struggle to attain seeing the brilliance and daring of nirvana, the cessation of individual the work. Nietzsche spoke of the existence. Not for the last time, music’s “dangerous fascination.” Wagner’s music rose above his Brahms, though regularly cast as muddled (and sometimes suspect) Wagner’s archenemy, studied the ideals and transfigured the mun- score with enormous admiration. dane mess of his own existence. And Giuseppe Verdi, whose own Wagner’s musical achievement popular grew from a radi- was so radical that even he was cally different tradition, said that stunned by what he had written. “I he stood “in wonder and terror” had the prelude to Tristan played before Tristan. to me for the first time,” he wrote The music has always been to Mathilde in January 1860, controversial. When the prelude only months after he had finished to act 1 was played in concert in the opera, Paris, five years before the opera was staged, it left many listen- and it was as though the scales ers bewildered, including Hector had fallen from my eyes, allow- Berlioz, whose understanding of ing me to see how immeasur- modern music was unsurpassed. ably far I have traveled from But the poet Charles Baudelaire, the world during the last eight who attended the same perfor- years. This short prelude was mance, was so excited that he wrote so incomprehensibly new to the to Wagner “of being engulfed, musicians that I had to guide overcome—a really voluptuous my people through the piece sensual pleasure, like rising into the note by note, as if to discover air or being rocked on the sea.” precious stones in a mine. The musical advances of this score can’t be overstated. It’s surely And the following August he no coincidence that Wagner first wrote to Mathilde again: used the famous term “infinite melody” while at work on Tristan Tristan is and remains a miracle and Isolde, for many passages, to me! I find it more and more including the great span of the act 2 difficult to understand how I love duet, define that term to per- could have done such a thing: fection. Wagner’s use of when I read through it again, looks far into the future—the music my eyes and ears fell open is saturated with , the with amazement! . . . I have far use of dissonant and unresolved overstepped the limits of what chords is bold and unprecedented,

7 and harmonic tensions are stretched in the second act, and the arrival to unimagined lengths. In Wagner’s of Isolde in act 3. The high point hands, unresolved dissonance occurs in act 2, and this climax, becomes a powerful metaphor with which the whole arch begins for unrequited love. The famous to crumble, is the most wrenching “,” the first harmony moment in the opera. The passage in the score, contains just four tones that builds to that point, from the (F, B, D-sharp, and G-sharp), yet low hush at the beginning of the their unsettling combination casts lovers’ duet, through the stillness a cloud of instability and anxiety of Brangäne’s distant warnings, to over the music that pervades the the full ecstatic cries of love, is one entire drama. Eventually, Tristan of the most magnificent canvases was understood as the seminal in all music. The entire score of work in freeing harmony from the Tristan is characterized by music of traditional tonal system. It has been ceaseless motion and transition—a described—without exaggeration— completely new understanding as the first piece of modern music; of musical continuity over long in fact, music written at the begin- stretches of time. If Wagner had ning of the twentieth century is deliberately set out to change the inconceivable without its example, course of music, he couldn’t have whether as a model, a point of succeeded more brilliantly. departure, or as an invitation to open rebellion. Phillip Huscher is the program annota- tor for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Each act of Tristan and Isolde revolves around one central Supertitle system courtesy of Digital dramatic incident—the drinking Tech Services, LLC, Portsmouth, VA of the love potion in act 1, the English supertitles by Sonya Friedman king’s interruption of the lovers © 2013

8 Synopsis of Tristan and Isolde

Act 1 mother’s magic potions; Isolde, At sea, on the deck of Tristan’s ship, however, has only vengeance in during the crossing from Ireland mind, and she selects the draught to Cornwall of death. Kurwenal calls the ladies to make ready, but Isolde insists A young sailor sings about the Irish on speaking to Tristan before they lover he has left behind. Isolde, land, in order to “forgive” him. who is being brought from Ireland Tristan approaches. Isolde tells him to Cornwall by Tristan as a bride that she saw through his disguise for his uncle, King Mark, jumps as Tantris and demands vengeance. up, assuming that the reference to Tristan offers her his sword, but an Irish maid is an insult to her. Isolde signals to Brangäne for When her maid and confidante the potion. Isolde hands Tristan Brangäne tells her that they are the cup. Tristan lifts the cup and soon to land in Cornwall, Isolde drinks. Fearing further betrayal, launches into a furious outburst Isolde wrests the cup from him and against her own “degenerate race,” drinks in her turn, but Brangäne, which has succumbed so easily to in desperation, has substituted the the enemy. Brangäne attempts in love mixture for the death potion. vain to calm her. Tristan and Isolde embrace ecstati- Isolde now tells Brangäne to cally, while Brangäne looks on instruct Tristan to attend her. in horror. Brangäne’s timid request to Tristan is courteously turned aside, but Act 2 when she repeats Isolde’s command, In King Mark’s royal castle Tristan’s retainer, Kurwenal, makes in Cornwall his own bluntly negative reply. He goes on to revel in the slay- A volley of horn calls gradually ing by Tristan of Morold, Isolde’s receding into the distance signi- betrothed, who came from Ireland fies the departing hunt of King to exact tribute from Cornwall. Mark and his courtiers. The cau- Brangäne returns in confusion tious Brangäne warns her mistress to Isolde, who is barely able to that the horns are still audible, but control her anger. Isolde tells how all Isolde can hear are the sounds the wounded Tristan, disguised as of the balmy summer night. Tantris, came to her to be healed Brangäne further warns Isolde and how she recognized him as that in her impatience to see Morold’s killer. Isolde’s determi- Tristan, she should not be oblivi- nation to slay Tristan in revenge ous to the devious Melot, Tristan’s dissolved as he looked pitifully supposed friend, who, she alleges, into her eyes, but now she bitterly has arranged the nocturnal hunt regrets that she let the sword drop. as a trap. Isolde brushes these Brangäne reminds Isolde of her fears aside and requests Brangäne

9 to extinguish the torch, which is is. Kurwenal replies that he is in his the signal for Tristan to approach. family castle, Kareol. Tristan returns Brangäne demurs, bewailing her slowly and painfully to conscious- fateful switching of the potions. ness. He is dimly aware that he has Isolde throws the torch to the been brought back from the distant ground and, sending Brangäne to realm of endless night, where he had keep watch, she waits impatiently glimpsed oblivion. Isolde remains in for Tristan. He finally enters and the bright light of day, but he looks they greet each other ecstatically. forward to the final extinction of the Tristan draws Isolde to a flowery torch and their union. bank for their love duet, which is Kurwenal tells him that he has punctuated by Brangäne’s watch sent for Isolde, and Tristan, in his song from the tower. At the critical fevered imagination, sees the ship juncture, a scream is heard from approaching. Tristan sinks back in Brangäne in the watchtower, as a faint. Tristan revives and in the King Mark, Melot, and the court- final, sublime phase of his delirium, iers burst in on the scene. King he imagines Isolde coming to him Mark, much moved, addresses across the water. The shepherd’s Tristan and, receiving no direct spirited tune confirms that the answer, embarks on a monologue ship has indeed been sighted. of questioning reproach. To King Kurwenal rushes to the watchtower Mark’s questions there can be no and reports on its progress. He reply, Tristan responds. He feels sees Isolde come ashore and goes that he no longer belongs to this to assist her. Tristan, meanwhile, world and invites Isolde to follow anticipates her arrival in feverish him into the realm of night; she excitement, tearing the bandages assents and he kisses her on the from his wounds. forehead. At this, Melot, whose Isolde enters in haste, but Tristan actions, according to Tristan, have expires in her arms. The shepherd been motivated by his jealous love tells Kurwenal that a second ship is for Isolde, draws his sword. Tristan arriving; they try to barricade the also draws, but allows himself to gate. Brangäne appears and then be wounded. Melot, whom Kurwenal strikes dead. King Mark and his followers Act 3 also appear and, oblivious to the Tristan’s castle in Brittany king’s pleas, Kurwenal sets upon them, sustaining a fatal wound; he Tristan lies asleep under a lime tree, dies at Tristan’s feet. King Mark, with Kurwenal bending over him who had come to yield Isolde to grief-stricken. A shepherd appears; Tristan, laments the scene of death Kurwenal tells him to play a merry and destruction. In her , melody if Isolde’s ship should come Isolde sinks, as if transfigured, on into sight. To the joy of Kurwenal, to Tristan’s body, mystically united © 2013 Chicago Symphony Orchestra © 2013 Chicago Tristan revives and asks where he with him at last.