Supertitling for Tristan (2)

The 'Liebestod', the final moments of this work, Isolde transcendent, elevated...alone?...aware of others? speaking to them?

With all this, what does it help the English speaker to see as supertitled text?

Here is the complete German for this final utterance, arranged in sentences.

First Brangäne's final line:

Hörst du uns nicht? 

Isolde! Traute! 

Vernimmst du die Treue nicht? 

Don't you hear us? 

dearest...your faithful maid...?

then Isolde, in ecstasy:

Mild und leise wie er lächelt, wie das Auge hold er öffnet, -seht ihr's, Freunde? 

Säht ihr's nicht? 

Immer lichter wie er leuchtet, Sternumstrahlet hoch sich hebt? 

Seht ihr's nicht? 

Wie das Herz ihm mutig schwillt, voll und hehr im Busen ihm quillt? 

Wie den Lippen, wonnig mild, süßer Atem sanft entweht?



Fühlt und seht ihr's nicht?

Höre ich nur diese Weise, die so wundervoll und leise, Wonne klagend, Alles sagend, 

mild versöhnend aus ihm tönend, in mich dringet, auf sich schwinget, hold erhallend um mich klinget? 

Heller schallend, mich umwallend, sind es Wellen sanfter Lüfte? 

Sind es Wogen wonniger Düfte? 

Wie sie schwellen, mich umrauschen, soll ich atmen, soll ich lauschen? 

Soll ich schlürfen, untertauchen? 

Süß in Düften mich verhauchen? 

In dem wogenden Schwall, in dem tönenden Schall,in des Welt-Atems wehendem All, ertrinken, versinken, unbewußt, höchste Lust! 

look at his gentle smile, 

his eyes opening...

...his inner light growing stronger! 

do you not see...

his firm heartbeat? 

the sweet breath from his lips? 

am I the only one to see and feel this?

wondrously soft, releasing all...

pain in delight...


entering me... 

are these waves of soft air?


should I breathe? 

succumb? the breath of the universe... 





supreme bliss

Supertitling for Tristan (1)

Over and over I find myself thinking about each line of the great Wagner texts that we are working on 'Aha! this line is the key, the heart of the drama!' then the same thought for the line that follows, then the next... This continuum of intense revelation, with no pause except between acts, combined with the time-scale of the unfolding, starts to suggest a style required for the titling text to make that unfolding available to the English-speaking attendee. There might be a balance (also likely the wrong word) to achieve in searching for the English, between packing each line with maximum impact and significance, and quite the opposite: draining the line of all distraction, the burden of 'thought' for the audience member, so that it can be registered and dismissed in a flash, without inviting any comparison or internal debate: all eyes and engagement right back to the stage.

Here's a test case to play with: the times when Tristan and Isolde say each others' names to one another

Act I scene 5 once, as they discover and express the love that they have, then upwards of four times, singing over one another in wild passion, more or less in public; Act II scene 2 (once); Act III (once, as Tristan dies.)

So, as Wagner wrote, and the characters sing: 



....what should we see on the screen? Put yourself there in the theatre as a spectator, what would you see that best allows trouble-free engagement with the stage?

New Year 2019 

It's Tuesday January 2, and my mind is on summoning our performance forces for Tristan (we have all our wonderful principals!), expanding the communities who are interested in us (send along ideas to; also on the English re-imagining of Wagner's punchy, poetic German that we will provide as supertitles. Acts I and III are complete in draft form; Act II, with its fierce, evasive, discursive poetry as T&I approach their Night of Love, barely begun. I am doing my best to avoid the word 'translation' in order to find a new context-and then describe it-for what English supertitles for a work conceived and performed in German could usefully provide. -Hugh Keelan, Music Director