Tristan und Isolde

Wagner finished the music of Tristan und Isolde in 1859. Tristan und Isolde had its premiere at the Königliches Hof- und Nationaltheater on 10 June 1865.


In the tenor Ludwig Schnorr Wagner found his ideal Tristan. However, Schnorr died only two weeks after the premiere. Wagner declared that he never would allow the opera to be performed again. The next time Tristan und Isolde was produced was in 1876 in Berlin. The first performance of Tristan und Isolde in Bayreuth was in 1886.




Tristan und Isolde productions the first years after the world premiere in 1865

1876 Berlin
1882 London
1883 Wien
1886 Praha and
Bayreuth Festival (Felix Mottl)
See all those who have conducted Tristan at Bayreuth here
1903 Wien (Gustav Mahler)
1909 Petersburg


Said about Tristan und Isolde

"I fear the opera will be banned – unless the whole thing is parodied in a bad performance – only mediocre performances can save me! Perfectly good ones will be bound to drive people mad, – I cannot imagine it otherwise."
Richard Wagner to Mathilde Wesendonck

My great love is Tristan und Isolde, and for that Wagner will have his place in the history of European culture because there he drops all his ideological bullshit, and all his dangerous sides. And finally he is really concentrating on his music and his poetry. And here he develops all his greatness. There is the Wagner that I am looking for.
Gottfried Wagner, TV documentary

"Tristan is not about 'being', it’s about 'becoming'. And it’s not an opera about love, but about death. The fear of death. This is the motor of the opera. There’s nothing more democratic than death."
Daniel Barenboim before his Met debut with Tristan und Isolde



Christoph Marthaler: Tristan und Isolde (Bayreuth Festival) on DVD and Blu-ray

Singing Isolde

"Singing Isolde requires a sort of state of being. You have to enter the Tristan und Isolde world completely. You have to give it 100% all the time. It's a big journey. It's a marathon."
Nina Stemme (The Guardian)

"You have to work yourself up into a lather at the start. But other times it's like flying. It's my favourite Wagner role, but you have to know what you're doing. You can blast yourself into bits in the first act and have nothing left for the third. It's very varied. It's like owning a huge chest of drawers and opening the one you need at each different stage."
Anne Evans (The Guardian)

"It's not one of those roles where you can just come on stage and turn on like a tap. You have to be revved up well before it starts. She goes off like a firecracker. But you still have to be focused at the end, when you have to produce your best singing of the evening."
Susan Bullock (The Guardian)


Waltraud Meier and Jon Fredric West as Isolde and Tristan


Fun Facts about Tristan und Isolde


Vorspiel Tristan und Isolde

Leonard Bernstein is conducting The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (Symphonie-Orchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks). Herkulessal, Munich.


Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde, Vorspiel Act 3 Leonard Bernstein Symphonie-Orchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks Herkulessal, München

Isolde's Liebestod: Hildegard Behrens, Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein is conducting The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (Symphonie-Orchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks). Herkulessal, Munich.


Part 1: Waltraud Meier as Brangäne in Tristan und Isolde (Paris, 1985)


Part 2: Waltraud Meier as Brangäne in Tristan und Isolde (Paris, 1985)


O sink hernieder from Tristan und Isolde. William Johns (Tristan), Gwyneth Jones (Isolde), Waltraud Meier (Brangäne) Paris, 1985. TV recording



Wolfgang Windgassen in Osaka, Japan, 1967. From Tristan und Isolde, Act 3. Pierre Boulez conducting.


Wieland Wagner's production of Tristan und Isolde. Bayreuth Festival on tour in Osaka, Japan, 1967. Ein Hirt: Sebastian Feiersinger Kurwenal: Hans Andersson Conductor: Pierre Boulez



Siegfried Jerusalem as Tristan in Heiner Müller's production at Bayreuth (1993-99).


Robert Dean Smith as Tristan in Christoph Marthaler's production at Bayreuth (2005-2012).