Isoldens Liebestod - Live performance in Oslo

June 6, 2012

Of course, I'm not an Irish Princess engaged to the King of Cornwall although dramatically in love with his nephew.

 

But we do share a name.

 

Therefore, my favourite final piece (or in this particular case, encore) involves dying tragically on a stage. I hope to finish it off with a stage fall as soon as I learn how to. 

 

Isoldens Liebestod is originally the final aria of - you guessed it - Isolde, from  Wagner's famous opera "Tristan und Isolde". 

By the time the aria comes around, the story has almost finished - Tristan, who in true opera style has been severely wounded by his best friend Melot, has been transported to his home where he dies roughly half a minute before Isolde arrives. She has just thrown herself unto his corpse in grief when King Mark, who has been hot on her heels for an entire act, arrives - only to tell her that he'd finally learned the entire story and he wanted to release her from their engagement. 

 

This, as one can imagine, doesn't really help Isolde's mental stability.

 

Thus, again in true opera style, she dies of grief, but sings about it before she falls over. In the aria, she describes to the people that have gathered around her how Tristan is standing up and beckoning her, and wondering why no-one else seems to see it; roughly in the middle of the piece (when the famous "Tristan" chord is played, at 2:30 in this recording) she decides that she doesn't really care as long as she can be with Tristan. She proclaims her undying love in glorious extasy for about two minutes, and then collapses gracefully.

 

Liszt, drama queen that he was, loved it, and finished his piano reduction of the aria within a year of the opera being premiered, to the great delight of swooning females all over Europe.

 

For me, it's one of those pieces I just háve to have in my repertoire. Liszt can be so fantastically loud sometimes - and with the Isolde thing, I have the most wonderful excuse to play it as often as I can!

 

This particular recording was made in the Lindemansalen of the Norges Musikkhøgskole in Oslo, on the 6th of June 2012.

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