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Virtual Vivace Book Club: The Romance of Tristan and Iseult
Monday, May 2, 6:00–7:30 PM
Check-in 5:50 PM
Special Guest Facilitator: David Hughes
Moderator: Bernadette Snider
Zoom Virtual Meeting Format
Registration link

TristanThe tale of Tristan and Iseult is one of the greatest and most retold legends in European history, with written versions dating from the mid-twelfth century. One of the most complete versions, Tristan, by Gottfried von Strassburg, served as the source work for Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, which will be presented this summer by the Santa Fe Opera. The book we will read and discuss in this session of Virtual Vivace –The Romance of Tristan and Iseult – was written in 1900, some 35 years after the opera premiered, by French author Joseph Bédier and subsequently translated to English. Bédier’s work sought to encapsulate and condense many versions of the Tristan legend, and it covers major events in Tristan’s life from birth until his and Iseult’s deaths. Although many of the details in von Strassburg’s lengthy work are omitted, Bédier’s work can be considered a summary of the legend upon which Wagner’s opera is based. The book is not Wagnerian length and is more reader-friendly than earlier recounts of the legend. The book stands on its own merits and was in fact later set to music by Swiss composer Frank Martin as the secular oratorio Le Vin Herbé (The Potion).

The book introduces us to Tristan’s parents, and then follows Tristan from birth through maturity. Along the way Tristan is captured by pirates, slays fearsome beasts, becomes a military hero, escapes death through remarkable strokes of luck, but never has a love interest. That changes when he slays a dragon in Ireland and is awarded the hand in marriage of Princess Iseult, whom he decides should instead marry his uncle, the King of Cornwall. Aboard his ship from Ireland to Cornwall, Tristan and Iseult accidentally drink a love potion, and the trajectory of both their lives is forever altered. Iseult marries the King, but she and Tristan secretly maintain their passionate relationship until death. Their ongoing tale deals with timeless themes of love, deception, adultery, doubt, separation, sacrifice, and belated forgiveness. Our discussion of the book will conclude with its differences from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.

The facilitator for this session of Virtual Vivace is David Hughes, a member of the Wagner Society of Santa Fe. He is also a member of the Wagner Society of New York and contributes to its bi-monthly publication Wagner Notes, and he has served as the New York society’s International Representative since 2019.

Bernadette Snider is the moderator for the evening. She is a member of the board of the Santa Fe Opera Guild, Coordinator of Vivace and Editor of the Operagram.

Copies may be purchased from Collected Works Bookstore, or online from Collected Works. We hope you will join the Santa Fe Opera Guild on Monday, May 2 at 6:00 PM MDT for Virtual Vivace. To register for this event, click here. We will email a link for the Zoom discussion the morning of May 2. If you have questions, please email

Carmen’s Path From Novella to Opera
Tuesday, May 10, 2022, 3:00 – 4:30 PM MDT
Virtual Check-In, 2:50 PM MDT
Presenter: James Keller
Zoom Webinar Format
Complementary for Guild Members
$10 Per Device for Non-Members
Registration link

CarmenJames Keller considers how composer Georges Bizet and librettists Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy put together their opera Carmen, drawing principally from Prosper Mérimée’s novella but from other literary and musical sources as well. He will discuss how political, social, and aesthetic concerns came to bear on their decisions as they labored during three years from the opera’s conception to its premiere, in March 1875, and how the results led to immediate failure and eventual triumph.

Click here to register for James Keller’s webinar about the opera Carmen on Tuesday, May 10 at 3:00 PM. You will receive confirmation of your registration by email and a link will be sent the day of the webinar. The webinar will be recorded for viewing later. A link will be provided via email once the event has been posted online and will be available only to those who were previously registered.

James M. Keller recently completed his 21st season as Program Annotator of the San Francisco Symphony. He is the author of Chamber Music: A Listener's Guide (Oxford University Press) and has contributed chapters to books including American Mavericks, George Crumb and the Alchemy of Sound, and Leonard Bernstein, American Original. In demand as a lecturer and interviewer, he was formerly Program Annotator of the New York Philharmonic, a writer-editor at The New Yorker, and critic at-large for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He has curated major museum exhibitions in California and New Mexico about historical popular music relating to those states.

The Medieval Origins of Tristan and Isolde
Tuesday, May 17, 2022, 3:00 PM MDT
Virtual Check-In, 2:50 PM MDT
Presenter: Mary Springfels
Zoom Webinar Format
Complimentary for Guild Members
$10 Per Device for Non-Members
Registration Link

Mary SpringfelsWe are fortunate to be able to offer a second opportunity for our members to hear Mary Springfels talk about medieval music. Richard Wagner may have made Tristan and Isolde a household name for modern audiences, but the story has a long history, dating back to Celtic times. Ms. Springfels, a specialist in early music and one of the leading players of the viola da gamba, will present “The Medieval Origins of Tristan and Isolde” as part of the Santa Fe Opera Guild’s series, “Laughter and Love, Lying and Loss: 2022 Season Preview.” The reshowing of Mary’s talk will take place on Tuesday, May 17 at 3:00 PM MDT via Zoom webinar.

Ms. Springfels will talk about the literary source used by Richard Wagner, a novel in verse by Gottfried von Strassburg, in a lecture that is illustrated with beautiful images from the Codex Manesse, a document compiled around 1340. She will also play examples of early music on instruments that were familiar to von Strassburg such as the harp, vielle, and medieval bagpipe. You can register for the talk by
clicking here. Once the video has been posted online, a link will be sent to all those who registered.

Mary Springfels describes herself as a “veteran of the early music movement in America.” In addition to being co-director of the performing group Severall Friends, she maintains an active practice teaching the viola da gamba and plays with New York Pro Musica, the Folger Consort, Ars Lyrica of Houston, and the Texas Early Music Project of Austin.

Tristan Und Isolde: Love, Longing and the Tristan Chord
Tuesday, May 24, 2022, 3:00 – 4:30 PM MDT
Virtual Check-In, 2:50 PM MDT
Presenter: Desirée Mays
Zoom Webinar Format
Complementary for Guild Members
$10 Per Device for Non-Members
Registration Link

Tristan und IsoldeFrom Troubadours to Schopenhauer, Tristan und Isolde is a paean to love and longing, themes immortalized in Richard Wagner’s monumental opera. Bryan Magee, author of The Tristan Chord, suggests the opera is an “exploration of longing at the deepest levels of unconscious feeling” in which Wagner gives expression to “a highly erotic longing for the unattainable.”

Ms. Mays’ talk will introduce the sound world, the essence of the work, in music that guides Tristan and Isolde away from the dangers of treacherous Day to the rapture of Night. Isolde sings: “From the light of day I wanted to flee and draw you with me into the night, illusions would end there...” while Tristan sings later: “Now we have become night’s devotees. To us who have looked lovingly on the night of death, the day’s illusions have the glitter of mere dust in the sunlight into which it disperses...”

This ancient tale tells of the Irish princess who is taken from her land by the knight she loves to be wed to his uncle; the opera explores all the troubles that ensue from this scenario.

The Tristan Chord, a chord that changed the course of music, anchors this tale of doomed love throughout in terms of indescribable longing from the opening bars to the final moments of extraordinary resolution.

Click here to register for Desiree’s talk on Tuesday, May 24 at 3:00 PM MDT. You will receive confirmation of your registration by email and a link will be sent the day of the webinar. The webinar will be recorded for viewing later. A link will be provided via email once the event has been posted online and will be available only to those who were registered.

Desirée Mays is an international speaker on opera, a radio producer, and author of the Opera Unveiled book series. She is known locally as the preview speaker for twenty seasons at SFO's Cantina Preview Dinners. In the time of Covid, Desirée has given talks on Zoom for the San Francisco and Los Angeles Wagner Societies. She presented a 3-hour seminar on Die Meistersinger live at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and was the guest Spring speaker for St. Thomas Episcopal Cathedral in New York discussing “Opera and Religion.”

2022 Season Preview: Opera: Telling Stories Through Music
Wednesday, June 14, 3:00–4:30 PM
Check-in 2:50 PM
Presenter: Maestro Joe Illick
Zoom Webinar Format
Registration link
$20.00 Per Device for Guild Members
$25.00 Per Device for Non-Members

Joe IllickFor many years, Maestro Joe Illick has entertained our members by playing excerpts from the Santa Fe Opera’s upcoming seasons. His vast experience as a conductor and composer makes him uniquely qualified to provide valuable insight into each of the operas. On April 27, 2022 Maestro Joe Illick will perform virtually and preview the five scores from the Santa Fe Opera Season 2022: Bizet’s Carmen, Falstaff by Verdi, Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, The Barber of Seville by Rossini, and the world premiere of M.Butterfly by Huang Ruo and David Henry Hwang.

Maestro Illick is the Music Director and Principal Conductor of Fort Worth Opera and former Artistic Director of Performance Santa Fe. He also conducts leading orchestras worldwide.

Maestro Illick’s performance on April 27th was recorded at the Ranch Lounge at the Santa Fe Opera and will air on Zoom at 3:00 PM MDT. A recording via secured link on YouTube will also be available for anyone who registers for this event. Tickets may be purchased here for $20.00 per device for Santa Fe Opera Guild members, and $25.00 per device for non-members.

Looking Ahead

We are all looking forward to attending performances of the five operas being presented this summer at the Santa Fe Opera: Carmen, The Barber of Seville, Falstaff, Tristan und Isolde, and M. Butterfly. The Santa Fe Opera Guild has created a slate of programs whose main purpose is to help enhance our members’ enjoyment of the upcoming productions. The Virtual Vivace Book Group will study the origins of the stories that inspired the operas, while a series of webinars presented by subject matter experts will examine multiple aspects of the five operas.

We began the year with a wonderful Virtual Vivace meeting in January that was facilitated by Dr. Robin Williams, who discussed The Merry Wives of Windsor, the inspiration for Verdi’s Falstaff. The following is a list of programs scheduled through June 2022. There may be other events added as we get closer to the opening of the opera this summer.

  June 20: Virtual Vivace, Liaisons, (the non-fiction source for M. Butterfly) facilitated by Bernadette Snider
  June 27: “Monsieur Butterfly, a Tale of Elusive Love, Mistaken Identity, Spying and East/West Relations”: Desirée Mays

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