Music: Tristan und Freud

"This Tristan is becoming something terrible!" wrote Richard Wagner while working on the third act of what was to become his most famous opera. "I fear the opera will be forbidden unless the whole thing becomes a mere parody by bad performance. Completely good ones will drive people insane."

For a time Wagner's fears seemed justified: at a turn-of-the-century Tristan performance the orchestra poured out music of such passionate urgency that one panting English critic found that he was "no longer artistically and morally a responsible being." The surging erotic melodies of the second act's Liebesnacht moved strong men to tears, and...

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