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Death and the Maiden 

Tristan und Isolde, Richard Wagner's monolithic opera about love and death, is renowned for its prescient use of dissonance, the circumstances of its creation (Wagner wrote much of it while obsessed with a woman who was not his wife), the dangerous strain of performing it (Joseph Keilberth died onstage during the second act — while conducting it) and its use of the so-called "Tristan Chord." It all makes for interesting reading, but reading about Tristan und Isolde is no substitute for hearing it. Wagner focused all of his considerable talents on creating a moving version of the medieval tale of a warrior (Tristan) who falls in love with the woman (Isolde) whose fiancé he just killed and who is now set to marry Tristan's overlord. The longing, the sexual tension, the deep and profound tragedy of sworn enemies falling in love and yet unable to have one another — it's all captured in Wagner's epic, slowly shifting music that builds and pulls back again and again, until we reach the aching beauty of Isolde's final song wherein she goes to join (at last!) the dead Tristan. The Metropolitan Opera simulcasts its current production of Tristan und Isolde (all five-plus hours of it), conducted by James Levine, at 11:30 a.m. in the auditorium of the Saint Louis Art Museum in Forest Park ( Tickets are $15 to $22 and available by calling 314-534-1111.
Sat., March 22, 2008

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