Tristan und Isolde (Anticipation)
RW, bedecked in purple

Wednesday July 28th would be Tristan day and having awoken later than is my wont on vacation there was little time to do anything other than eat in the sunshine for a couple of hours and give myself a Mimosa bath.

With performances given at 4pm one has to sometimes curtail the desire to shop and sightsee for at 2pm I needed to be in my hotel room, showering and freshening up and at 2.50 precisely I needed to be in the car and ready to go.  There was to be no last minute dashes to the opera house in Bayreuth:  rather we aimed to arrive one hour before the curtain and enter the theatre in a relaxed frame of mind, or as relaxed as one can be holding a ticket that reads "Tristan und Isolde".

There are no bars within the theatre:  no lobby full of people, shouting to be heard above the din, which one has to struggle through to use the bathroom or gain access to the outside world for a cigarette or some fresh air.  Everyone goes outside to the restaurants and snack stands or makes a picnic on the grass in the beautiful tranquil gardens.  All is calm and unhurried, as it should be.

Although some of the singing one hears there may not be ideal, the conditions in which one sees and hears such hoarse wailing are indeed hard to imagine being bettered.

A theatre specifically designed for the purpose of seeing and hearing Wagnerian opera!  Thanks to the ingenious sunken hooded pit, one can clearly hear the singers over the rumble of the band and see them without having the flailing arms of the conductor distracting the eye.  Nor are there side boxes such as in the NY Met which have caused me grief in the past as I shuffled past the knees of people too infirm or rude to stand and let me pass and, looking up toward the boxes, noticed buxom ladies in low cut evening dresses, leaning over to call to friends below, at which time, my brain already taxed by walking and the chewing of gum, became discombobulated and I lost my balance and crashed headlong into the row in front, my feet in the air performing a cycling motion like a beetle on his back.  This happened maybe six or seven times until I stopped chewing gum.

There is nothing to distract the eye in the Festspielhaus, nor the ear, as the audience forgoes conversation for a couple of hours which was a new experience for me.  I had gotten so used to having to punch slow-candy-unwrapping dowagers during Met performances that I used to wrap my fists in tape and bandages before a show.  This not only protected my manicure but softened the sickening "THWACK!" as bone met the enamel of their false teeth at high speed.

There are no surtitles in the Festspielhaus and yet, strangely, no one felt compelled to explain what was happening onstage to their partner.  After witnessing this odd phenomenon during the course of Parsifal I decided to leave my bag of blunt cudgels behind at the hotel.

The Festival "programme", as one might call it, is a huge, soft cover coffee-table type book which is so heavy at over 200 pages that they give you a nice white bag with a string handle to tote it back to your room in.  It was too heavy to take on the flight home and is presently being towed across the Atlantic by a sea-going tugboat.  It is written in German, French, and English, and once you get past the scholarly articles on "Wagner and Goethe", for example, you come upon cast and staging photos for each of the dramas.  It also has photos of each member of the orchestra and chorus and the technical staff.

Leafing to page 152 I came upon the cast for Tristan und Isolde and saw some names that made me feel a little uneasy.......

To be continued......

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