Don't miss: The Love Potion
Almost as engrossing as the very old story of Tristan and Isolde, is the tale's far-reaching lineage. The 12th-century story has roots has origins in literature across Europe and the Middle East, and over nearly a millennium it has been referenced and retold in everything from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, to Joyce's Finnegan's Wake to Matt Groening's Futurama.
Long Beach Opera is set to present perhaps a lesser-known operatic adaptation of the famous love story, in Frank Martin's 1942 chamber opera, Le vin herbé (The Love Potion), running May 13 and 19 at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro, CA.
Martin's opera is based on Le roman de Tristan et Iseut, published by French medievalist Joseph Bédier in 1900. "[Martin] always described it as a 'scenic oratorio'," says LBO Artistic & General Director Andreas Mitisek, who directs this production of The Love Potion. It is certainly a different construction than Wagner's operatic telling of the same story; Martin employs a Greek-style 12-voice chorus, out of which eventually emerge the individual characters.
The tellings may vary, but the story of Tristan and Isolde has always been about love, and love's limits. Those limits are stretched with the love potion itself, creating what Mitisek sees as a "more interesting" story where we see Tristan and Isolde experiencing not only their love for each other, but wrestling with the knowledge that they are affected by the potion. Would they fall in love without the magic of the potion? Does the potion stand for something that eliminates our natural inhibitions, and allows us to embrace love?
"As social beings, we depend on love and being loved," says Mitisek, explaining our fascination with love stories - even those that end in death. An opera like The Love Potion tells us about the possibilities and the limits of love, and we can experience its extremes through catharsis.
It's an impressive thought, to consider that a story like that of Tristan and Isolde has permeated multiple cultures over centuries, largely because humans' need for love has remained constant.
"Love, or whatever you want to call that emotion, that trait that we as humans carry, starts with the moment we are born," says Mitisek. "We all hope that we become such an important person to someone, some time in our life."
Long Beach Opera's production of The Love Potion plays May 13 and 19. For details and ticket information, click here.