Last night the Boston Public Library had their first Opera Night. The theme of the night was Tristan and Isolt, as the Boston Lyric Opera is going to putting on a production of The Love Potion in November. One of my professors, Robert Stanton, was giving a lecture about the story of Tristan and Isolt so his students turned up in force to giggle at his references to Freud and nod sagely at all his brilliant points.
Interspersed throughout his talk were dramatic reading from various source material for the legend and songs from both Wagner’s famous version of the story and the newer production The Love Potion. Afterwards we got some pretty decent Thai food at Bangkok Blue and chatted about the lecture and about literature and polydactyl cats and churches made of bone. You know, the usual.
But, a little about Tristan and Isolt, just in case you are interested in turning up for The Love Potion November 19-23. There are lots of versions with little variations but the main gist is this: Tristan is a nobleman that ends up being commissioned to transport the lovely Isolt (Isolde, Iseult, Yseult etc.) to her marriage with King Mark. Isolt’s mother liked to mix up potions for some reason and gives her faithful servant a love potion to give to Mark and Isolt on their wedding day so they will fall madly in love and her daughter will be happy.
As you can probably guess, that is not King Mark sipping the roofie with Isolt. No that is Tristan who is accidentally given the potion by the faithful (but apparently somewhat dim) serving woman. Tristan and Isolt fall madly in love, carry on a protracted adulterous affair after she has married King Mark, are found out multiple times and exiled multiple times. Finally, the potion wears off and they both regret their actions. Here it gets really interesting. Was their love only because of the potion or have they grown to love each other genuinely?
It ends in tragedy, of course. But it is a foundational story of love and death and Professor Stanton’s talk illuminated how the variations in the story have been extremely telling of what the teller privileges. But don’t take my word for it. Check out The Love Potion and let me know what you think. Happy Wednesday all!