Archive for the Opera Category

Liebestod, and the doomed Tristan and Isolde-in gratitude

Posted in 19th Century, August Spiess, burges, Jessye Norman, Jon William Waterhouse, Opera, Recquiscat in Pace, Tristan and Isolde, Wagner, William Burges on September 5, 2011 by babylonbaroque

This past Saturday evening we had dinner with our dear talented  friends, the  designer Jonathan Fong and his partner the playwright Greg Phillips.

As is so often the case with these fine gentleman they came bearing gifts, in this case a novel  The Metropolis Case by Matthew Gallaway. The novel is centered upon Wagner’s opera Tristan and Isolde; my thoughtful friends knowing of our love for opera, Wagner in particular, thought it would make a fine gift.

It is indeed, thank you fellows.

Always in search for a topic to explore, I found myself revisiting this opera, the Liebestod of course in particular.

John William Waterhouse

Tristan and Isolde with the Potion


private collection

Having in my youth read the Loomis edition of Medieval Romances I was as hooked as dear Ludwig II on the legend of our doomed lovers. It was not until my young adulthood that I finally heard the Liebestod. Like those before me I too fell under its spell.

The dog-eared volume that started my romance.

Edmund Blair Leighton

Tristan and Isolde


Herbert James Draper

Tristan and Isolde


A very curious window, by an unknown artist, the doomed lovers portrayed by Lillie Langtry and the future Edward VII, 1890.

Of course one cannot think of the Tristan-Isolde myth without thinking of Ludwig II and his dream castle Neuschwanstein. Often disparaged as a pastiche chock-a-block with second rate decorative paintings and overblown mock Medieval decor;  from my perspective, it is amazing.

Just as my heart sings at the rich allegory so dear to William Burges, Ludwig’s medievalism speaks to my soul. The decorative panels by the overworked and under-rated artist August Spiess of particular interest. 

August Spiess

Tristan and Isolde




Typical of the thorough attention to detail is this incredible Tristan and Isolde stove found in Ludwig’s bedroom.

Ceramic Stove with Carvings

Bedroom -Neuschwanstein


I frankly cannot resist popping in this image of the well known Burges “fire-castle” found at Cardiff Castle.

William Burges

Cardiff Castle, Cardiff Wales

renovated 1868

It was with great difficulty that Wagner’s poem finally found its way to the stage.

Ludwig II through his devotion, purse and mad infatuation for  his “Holy One” was finally able to swoon in solitary royal splendor to the Liebestod on July 10th 1865.

Although I  of course do not have a recording from that premier, in which Malvina Schnorr was Isolde; I offer the divine Deborah Voigt.

The following performance is quite moving and poetic-stunning.

Malvina Schnorr von Carolsfeld

b. 7th December 1825

d. 8th February 1904

Following opening night a limp Ludwig gushed to his beloved Richard:

“Unique One! Holy One!

How glorious!- Perfect. So full of rapture!… To drown…to sink down- unconscious- supreme joy.

Divine work!”

(I could not have expressed my sentiments more eloquently, though perhaps I would have added a few more exclamation points.)

The tenor,who personified Tristan to Wagner and to Ludwig, tragically died after only four performance of the roles he and his wife Malvina created.

Ludwig Scnorr von Carolsfeld was only 29 when he died. 

His final words:

” Farewell, Siegried! Console my Richard!”

Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld

b. 2nd July 1836

d. 21st July 1865

Recquiscat in Pace

I of course adore Voigt,

I adore Jane Eaglen,

but my heart will always remain true to Jessye, she is my Isolde.

Thank you Ludwig

M. Jacob

Ludwig II


And of course thank you oh Unique One, oh Holy One

Richard Wagner ca. 1868

Until next time,

 take care,

Babylon Baroque

Dame Joan Sutherland, a belated tribute

Posted in 20th century, Joan Sutherland, Opera, Recquiscat in Pace on October 13, 2010 by babylonbaroque

I read yesterday’s paper with a degree of sadness as the esteemed Mr. Tommasini chronicled the passing of the great coloratura soprano Joan Sutherland and  details of her memorable career.

It is a worthy article if you haven’t read it, the link is above.

Recquiscat in Pace

Dame Joan Sutherland

b. 7th November 1926

d. 10th October 2010

“La Stupenda” was my generation’s answer to the great Callas, Joan Sutherland’s death is a loss .

Perhaps best remembered for her thrilling role as the mad Lucia,

I will always love her best as the noble Norma, her “Casta diva ” was thrilling me all of yesterday as I battled Los Angeles traffic.

Thank you dear Joan, we will miss you.


Respectfully submitted,

Babylom Baroque

Caruso, the one , the only Canio

Posted in 20th century, Boardwalk Empire, Commedia dell'arte, Enrico Caruso, Opera, Pagliacci/Canio on September 26, 2010 by babylonbaroque

In anticipation of this evening’s episode of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire”, I am prompted to post about dear Enrico Caruso.

In one of many beautiful scenes, we find an Italian mobster in a pool of blood as Caruso crackles on the gramophone. Prior, we had the chance to see one of my favorite images of Caruso, framed as if he were a saint. The mobster so loved Caruso;it was fitting he met his end in the thrall of his voice.

Image similar to what was featured on “Boardwalk Empire”

Caruso as Canio, ca. 1905

Such attention to detail drew me in, but the NY Times , thought otherwise. Alessandra Stanley felt that “sometimes exactitude verges on pedanticism”. I’ve been known to be pedantic.

I’m pleased with the details, I relish the little flourishes. As any good Italian boy from New Jersey knows, Caruso was God. My Italian grandfather, a man with  very little cultural sophistication, adored Caruso. I present this little collection in his honor.

as Canio, ca. 1904

The following clip has wonderful images of Caruso in action.

Caruso’s “Una Furtiva Lagrima”,(Donizetti’s “L’elisir d’amore”, a furtive tear) ca. 1904, always a crowd pleaser. It has been digitally remastered , something my Grandpop Greco would have enjoyed;the purists, probably not so much.

As any  Italian American knows, “Ave Maria”, is a perfect blend of art and devotion; this rendition ca. 1913-15.

Enjoy tonight’s episode.