At this time also he first began to lay out the plan of Tristan and Isolde, and to think over the possibilities of Parsifal.
In 1857 he completed the libretto of Tristan and Isolde at Venice, adopting the Celtic legend modified by Gottfried of Strasburg's medieval version.
Wagner now settled for a time in Vienna, where Tristan and Isolde was accepted, but abandoned after fifty-seven rehearsals, through the incompetence of the tenor.
On the 10th of June 1865 at Munich, Tristan and Isolde was produced for the first time, with Herr and Frau Schnorr in the principal parts.
The love that is disguised in the deadly feud between Isolde and Tristan, before the drinking of the fatal potion, rises even above the music; the love-duet in the second act depends for its greatness on its introduction, before the lovers have met, and its wonderful slow movement (shortly before the catastrophe) where they are almost silent and leave everything to the music: the intervening twenty minutes is an exhausting storm in which the words are the sophisticated rhetoric of a 19th-century novel of passion, translated into terribly turgid verse and set to music that is more interesting as an intellectual ferment than effective as a representation of emotions which previous dramatists have wisely left to the imagination.
In his next work, Die Meistersinger, Wagner ingeniously made poetry and drama out of an explicit manifesto to musical critics, and proved the depth of his music by developing its everyday resources and so showing that its vitality does not depend on that extreme emotional force that makes Tristan and Isolde almost unbearably poignant.
The overwhelming love-tragedy of Tristan and Isolde is hardly less perfect, though the simplicity of its action exposes its longueurs to greater notoriety than those which may be found in Die Meistersinger.
Tristan and Isolde; 3 acts (poem written in 1857; music, 1857-1859).
Thomas's work, fortunately, fell into the hands of a true poet in the person of Gottfried von Strassburg, whose Tristan and Isolde is, from a literary point of view, the gem of medieval German literature.
Like the story of Perceval that of Tristan has been made familiar to the present generation by Richard Wagner's noble music drama, Tristan and Isolde, founded upon the poem of Gottfried von Strassburg; though, being a drama of feeling rather than of action, the story is reduced to its simple elements; the drinking of the love-potion, the passion of the lovers, their discovery by Mark and finally their death.
Gottfried's Tristan and Isolde has been several times published; the best editions are those of Bechstein (1890) and Golther (1889); modern German versions by Kurz, Simrock and Hertz; English prose rendering, J.