Read: "The Critical Reception of Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde in the English-Speaking World"

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday, 17 May 2012 | 6:15:00 pm

Salvador Dalí:  Tristan and Isolde
I found the following Master's thesis while looking for something completely different. In it's simplest form it is a hundred page history of Tristan und Isolde and its "progress" though the English speaking world - and critical  responses to  both the work and Wagner.

Concise and a suspiciously easy to  read. Preview below. Clicking the link will open/download the full PDF depending on how you have set your bowser. Although I have only skimmed it at the moment it seems well worth a read - especially if you have no desire to pursue "denser" analysis.

The Critical Reception of Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde in the
English-Speaking World

Thomas Rizzuto

Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree
Master of the Arts in Musicology
at the City College of the City University of New York

May 2010

Few operas have sparked as much controversy, in as many places, as Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. History shows that during the latter half of the 19th century spirited discussion and outright debate followed the work to every new city that dared to produce it. This paper will focus on the critical reception of the Wagner’s historic music drama in two such cities: London and New York. By examining newspaper reviews, journal articles, and other musical writings of the time, we will develop an understanding of the divergent reactions to each premiere. We will examine the cultural and musical factors that may have contributed to the vehemence of both sides of the dispute. Most of all, we will evaluate the enduring effect that Tristan und Isolde, and Wagner himself, had on the English-speaking world.

Prelude: The Music of and Initial Reactions to Tristan und Isolde

While still completing the third act of Tristan und Isolde in April of 1859, a weary and troubled Richard Wagner wrote a short note to his friend, lover, and confidant Mathilde Wesendonck. The letter, which is translated in Elliot Zuckerman’s The First
Hundred Years of Wagner’s Tristan, reads as follows,

Child! This Tristan is turning into something dreadful
[ fruchtbares]!
That last act!!! — — — — — — —
I’m afraid the opera will be forbidden—unless the whole
thing is turned into a parody by bad production—: only mediocre
performances can save me! Completely good ones are bound to drive
people crazy, —I can’t imagine what else could happen. To such a
state have things come!!! Alas! —
I was just going full steam ahead!1