The medieval Irish princess Isolde wants to poison the knight Tristan for wrongs he has done her, but falls in love with him instead when her maid, Brangäne, substitutes a love potion for the poison. Some time later Melot, another of Isolde s suitors, grievously wounds Tristan. Tristan returns to his home in Brittany, tended by his faithful knight Kurwenal. Isolde arrives, hoping to cure Tristan with her
magic herbs, but is too late. Holding Tristan in her arms, she sings a soaring hymn to the bliss of eternal passion.
Recorded live at Covent Garden in 1936, this is quite simply the greatest performance of Wagner s masterpiece to survive in sound. It captures the definitive coupling of Kirsten Flagstad and Lauritz Melchior as the doomed lovers, both singing with a sensuous ease, a purity of line, and a supreme voluptuousness of tone that eradicates all competition ... The visceral sexuality and the sense of neurotic
decadence that Fritz Reiner gets from every bar is overwhelming, while the LPO which doubled as the opera house s orchestra in the 1930s play with an electric excitement that no studio recording could ever quite capture. You emerge from the whole feeling elated and emotionally battered beyond belief. --Tim Ashley, The Guardian, December 2000