Yesterday there was a very fine performance of Tristan and Isolde in the National Opera, the last of five. I was very pleased with every aspect of it, except the opera itself. The music of course is wonderful, but Wagner really should have left philosophy to those who could think.

"An opera about the ecstasy of love," says the text on the FNO web site, and that has also been my impression before, never having seen it. But now I'd say "an opera about the ecstasy of Self-Destruction and Martyrdom" (to use Michaelese). If the protagonists hadn't found each other, they'd have found another reason to die, all the while praising themselves for their perceptiveness, depth of feeling, and nobility.


The third protagonist, Flu, could be heard hear and there in the auditorium in the form of sneezes, coughs, and noses blown. I was very near causing a scandal in the middle of the first act, trying to control an enormous cough I felt coming, spluttering and gagging noisily as a result. Fortunately a doorman helped me out inconspicuously, and another brought me a glass of water. Drinking water and breathing quietly I spent ten minutes sitting and watching geese swooping and circling past the windows, and waiters laying tables. When I felt my respiratory organs could take the rest of the act, the second doorman let me in a box with an empty seat. The rest of the evening went without incident.