Music by Frank Martin
Love Potion casts a haunting spell. Mitisek's austere production is like a mystical ritual that exists beyond time. -Chicago Tribune
Haunting. Mystical. Eternal. The epic story of Tristan and Isolde is told through Martin’s mystical and haunting score. The fateful lovers meet by deception; fall in love by magic; and pursue their love in defiance of heavenly and earthly power. They “loved each other, and at last, they died of that love together upon one day; she by him and he by her.”
Le Vin Herbé (The Love Potion) premiered in 1942 and is based on The Romance of Tristan & Iseult, a retelling of the Tristan legend by historian and medievalist Joseph Bédier (published 1900). Martin uses 12 singers as both the soloists and as chorus, much in the manner of ancient Greek tragedy. A small ensemble of 7 strings and a piano support the mood and action of the drama. Martin fashioned a work in the greatest possible contrast to Richard Wagner's opera by using older text sources (including two Isoldes) and by creating an intimate chamber work with an medieval feel.
The Story of Tristan
Tristan and Iseult is a tale made popular during the 12th century through French medieval poetry, inspired by Celtic legend. It has become an influential romance and tragedy, retold in numerous sources with many variations. The tragic story is of the adulterous love between the Cornish knight Tristan (Tristram) and the Irish princess Iseult (Isolde, Yseult, etc.). The narrative predates and most likely influenced the Arthurian romance of Lancelot and Guinevere, and has had a substantial impact on Western art, the idea of romantic love, and literature since it first appeared in the 12th century. While the details of the story differ from one author to another, the overall plot structure remains much the same.
Frank Martin about Love Potion
I truly found myself very late […] it was only towards the age of forty-five that I discovered my true language […] And I can say that my most personal output begins around the age of fifty. If I had died then, I could never have expressed myself in my true language. In the spring of 1938 I wasn’t working on any major composition, but I busied myself with the saga of Tristan and Isolde, […] when Robert Blum asked me to write a half-hour piece for twelve solo voices and a few instruments for his Madrigal Choir. I took another at the novel by Joseph Bedier and realized immediately that I could not find a better story for my purposes. I found that the chapter Le Philtre (The Potion) provided a complete narrative for the half hour commission. The text naturally separated into Solos and Ensembles. The instruments, when not accompanying the singers, are supposed to act like the scenery in a theater piece.
The text naturally divided into scenes, which called for a simple musical structure, […] After I finished, I decided to add two more parts: as the second La Fôret du Morois (The Forest of Morois), where the lovers decide to part, and as the third La Mort (The Death) […]. I felt I needed more time to tell this tale of love and death. It seemed unavoidable that not only love is represented, but also death, bringing relief after all the ecstasy and dread of passion.
Frank Martin (1890-1974)
Martin was a Swiss composer who spent a majority of his life in the Netherlands. He studied composition and piano with Joseph Lauber, as well as mathematics and physics at the Geneva University.
Active as a teacher and lecturer, he was also a pianist and harpsichordist and toured widely, performing his own music. Martin evolved a strong personal style that incorporated elements of German music, particularly that of Johann Sebastian Bach, and the expanded harmonies associated with early 20th-century French composers. His major works include Le Vin herbé (1942; "The Love Potion"), the opera Der Sturm (1956; "The Tempest"), the oratorio Golgotha (1949), and Requiem (1973). He also produced a large quantity of instrumental music, including orchestral works and chamber music. He wrote two piano concertos, a harpsichord concerto, a violin concerto, a cello concerto, a concerto for seven wind instruments. Perhaps his best-known work is Petite symphonie concertante (1946).
1150 The Old French Estoire is the first mentioned version of the Tristan myth.
1165 Anglo Norman Thomas von Bretagne adapts Estoire into a chivalrous courtly version, emphasizing the love story.
1180 Eilhard von Oberge creates first German popular version of Estoire.
1190 Béroul creates a similar French manuscript Le Roman de Tristan.
1210 Gottfried von Strassburg creates Middle High German courtly romance Tristan. His work is regarded, alongside Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival and the Nibelungenlied, as one of the great narrative masterpieces of the German Middle Ages.
1391 Popular Tristan stories are created all over Europe, often combined with the Arthurian Legend, (Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur in 1470).
1785 Christian Heinrich Myller publishes a new edition of Gottfried’s Tristan and Isolde. Multiple medieval narratives are reprinted in Germany, England and France.
1813 Richard Wagner is born in Leipzig.
1844 First complete translation of Gottfried’s Tristan into High German of by Hermann Kurz.
1846 Robert Schumann considers composing a Tristan opera, but does not follow through. Wagner hears from Schumann about his plans.
1864 Historian and medievalist Joseph Bédier is born in Paris.
1865 Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde is premiere in Munich. Wagner was familiar with Gottfried’s work and other contemporary adaptations. Wagner libretto emphases the love potion, the discovery and Liebestod (love death).
1890 Frank Théodore Martin is born in Geneva as the youngest of ten children.
1900 Bédier’s Roman de Tristan et Iseult is published. Starting with Bédier the focus turns now to old French versions such as Béroul (1190) and Eilhard (1180).
1938 Martin reads Joseph Bédier’s Tristan, receives a commission for a 30 minute work and sets one chapter of Bédier’s work to music for the Zurich Madrigal Choir.
1939 On September 1. Germans attack Poland, WWII starts. Frank Martins wife Irène Gardian dies.
1940 World premiere of Le Vin herbé in Zurich, Martin decides to extend the work with 2 additional chapters.
1942 The extended version of Le Vin herbé premieres in Zurich.
1948 Premiere and first staged version of Le Vin herbé at the Salzburg Festival, conducted by Ferenc Fricsay.
1961 Le Vin herbé is recorded with Frank Martin at the piano and Victor Desarzens as conductor.
1974 Frank Martin dies on November 21st at the age of 84 in Naarden, Holland.
The opera begins with Tristan as he retrieves the reluctant Isolde so that she may marry his uncle, King Mark. Isolde's mother has brewed a love potion meant for King Mark to fall in love with her daughter. Tristan and Isolde mistakenly drink the potion when their maid confuses it for wine and they fall irrevocably in love.
King Mark discovers Tristan and Isolde's love and declares vengeance. The lovers are able to escape the King and flee to the forest where they are quickly discovered. King Mark spares them from death with the vow that they remain apart and pure.
Following orders, the lovers remain apart and Tristan marries Isolde of the White Hands. Wounded during a battle, Tristan asks his friend Kahedin to bring his first love, Isolde, back to him but his wife is unhappy with his desire and tricks the unlucky lovers.
Favorite engagements: Otello in Rossini’s Otello (LoftOpera), Alfredo in La traviata (Pine Mountain) Tristan in Le vin herbé(Chicago Opera Theatre), Sportin’ Life/Crab Man in Porgy & Bess (throughout the United States, Russia, Poland, Greece, Latvia, Estonia, Germany, and Hungary). NYC theatre credits: Collins in RENT and Thomas in the Off-Broadway premiere Whiskey Pants: The Mayor of Williamsburg. Upcoming début at Seattle Opera in Porgy & Bess. Training: Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Center, Eastman School of Music (B.M.), University of Michigan (M.M.). Winner: Metropolitan Opera National Council (Michigan District).
Soprano Jamie Chamberlin, recognized for her “shimmering tones” (Opera News) as Marilyn Monroe in Marilyn Forever, and for her “jaw-dropping” Cunegonde in Candide (both at LBO). 2017-18 season highlights: Chicago Opera Theater (Hazel George,The Perfect American), Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor (Pacific Opera Project), and three new roles at LBO. She has sung with LA Opera, LA Phil (world premiere, Wing on Wing), Merola Opera Program (SFO). Jamie’s one of a kind voice can be heard in the Coen Bros. film Hail Caesar!, and as a Delos Recording Artist. www.jamiechamberlin.com
Venezuelan American lyric baritone Bernardo Bermudez Is delighted to be back at LBO, roles include Diego Rivera in last years production of Frida with LBO, Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire, Silvio in Pagliacci, Escamillo in Carmen, Valentin in Faust, Belcore in L’elisir d’amore, the title role in Don Giovanni, Papageno in Die Zauberflöte, Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, Vidal Hernando in Luisa Fernanda, Aeneas in Dido & Aeneas. He participated as a voice fellow in Summer Festivals at The Music Academy of the West, as well as Opera North. Awards include Opera Buffs Grant recipient, semifinalist in the Loren L. Zachary Vocal Competition.
Alexandra Martinez-Turano, "smoldered sexily in her dancing and singing" as Helena/Dancer in The Fairy Queen with Chicago Opera Theater and Long Beach Opera. She has performed the roles of Adele, Anna, Despina, Echo, Julie Jordan, Pamina, Sandrina, Sharon Disney, and Suor Genovieffa. She has performed with Opera Southwest, OperaWorks, Landmark Musicals, UNM Opera Theatre, USC Opera Theater, and La Mirada Symphony. She is a young artist with Chicago Opera Theater. She is earning a Professional Diploma in Opera Studies at Roosevelt University and earned an MM from the USC Thornton School of Music. Alexandramartinezturano.com
Alejandra Villarreal Martinez
Alejandra Martinez, soprano, is from Southern California. Concert credits include performances at the National Council de la Raza, Juan Orrego-Salas' Ash Wednesday, Beethoven's Mass in C with Joseph Flummerfelt, and Penderecki's St. Luke Passion. Favorite opera roles have been La Contessa (Le nozze di Figaro), Salud (La vida breve), and Cristi Kahlo in Long Beach Opera's 2017 production of Frida. She was recently honored by the National Society of Arts and Letters and is currently developing a new opera, ¡La Capitana!, with composer Germaine Franco, which was awarded an OPERA America Discovery Grant.
Alto/Isolde w/white hands
Mezzo-soprano Kira Dills-DeSurra has recently been seen at LBO as Vera Boronel (The Consul), Nurse/Secretary (The Perfect American) and Madame Trixie (Fairy Queen). At Chicago Opera Theater, she performed the roles of La Ciesca (Gianni Schicchi), Cecilio (Cover)/Chorus (Lucio Silla), and Mary (Cabildo). Other role highlights include Stéphano (Roméo et Juliette) and Mercédès (Carmen). She looks forward to reprising her role of Zweite Dame (Die Zauberflöte) as well as covering Ines (Il Trovatore) at Central City Opera this summer. Ms. Dills-DeSurra hails from Petaluma, CA and is an alumna of Roosevelt CCPA (MM) and USC (BM). kiradillsdesurra.com
Lindsay Patterson Abdou is honored to be returning this season to Long Beach Opera. Recent LBO roles include the Old Woman in The Difficulties of Crossing a Field and Leila in I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Saw the Sky. Her other roles include the Bicyclist in the Industry LA’s production of Hopscotch, the Mother in Amahl and the Night Visitors, the Mistress of the Novices in Suor Angelica, Zita in Gianni Schicchi, and the Third Lady in Die Zauberflöte. For more information visit LindsayVoice.com.
Danielle Corella is an Arizona native known for her colorful and expressive voice. She began her studies at Westminster Choir College, which gave her the opportunity to perform in Spoleto Festival USA. Corella earned her Master of Music at the University of Southern California. There, she sang multiple roles in the premiere of Frau Schindler in concert by Thomas Morse. She also performed the quirky role of Bettina from Lee Hoiby’s Something New for the Zoo. This past summer she explored several operatic roles in Angels Vocal Art Summer Opera Intensive. She is excited to make her Long Beach Opera debut with this haunting and magical story.
John Kun Park
Tenor John Kun Park is thrilled to be making his first appearance at Long Beach Opera. John is a native of Southern California, and recently finished the winter season at Sarasota Opera as an Apprentice Artist. This past summer, he covered and appeared as Don José in Carmen at Central City Opera, and closed the spring season as Anatol in Barber’s Vanessa with Mannes Opera in New York. His other roles include Des Grieux Manon, Lysander A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and B.F. Pinkerton Madama Butterfly. John is an alumna of the Mannes School of Music (PSD), SUNY Purchase (MM), and CSU Long Beach (BM). www.johnkunpark.com
Tenor Gibran Mahmud is excited to make his debut with LBO and to join their Education Artists for the 2017-2018 season. Gibran has sung in the opera choruses of LA Opera, Cincinnati Opera, and Dayton Opera. Recent roles include Goro, Arbace, Scaramuccio, and Marius. Gibran was recently a Professional Fellow at SongFest. He has placed in the Center Stage Opera Vocal Competition and Classical Singer Competition. Gibran also world premiered the role of George Power in Hail Poetry! with Opera A La Carte. Mr. Mahmud hails from Dayton, OH and is an alumnus of USC Thornton (MM) and Miami Universty (BM). www.gibranmahmud.com
Roberto Perlas Gomez
Roberto Perlas Gomez has performed over one hundred roles with many of the international and regional opera companies throughout the United States. He sings many standard leading baritones roles in Italian and French opera especially his signature role of Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia. He performed Rizal in Manila during the centennial year of the Philippine national hero and Marcello in La Bohème in Shanghai. Mr. Gomez made his European debut at the Arena di Verona as Chou en-lai in Nixon in China.His many roles with LBO include the title characters in Vivaldi's Motezuma and Ullmann’s The Emperor of Atlantis, Rambo/First Officer in The Death of Klinghoffer, and Chou en-lai in Nixon in China.
Baritone Scott Ziemann is “a vocal talent worth catching” and has sung roles in Carmen, Gianni Schicchi, Hansel & Gretel, Susannah, The Old Maid & the Thief, H.M.S. Pinafore and The Merry Widow. Scott sings in Long Beach Opera’s [email protected] education program and is excited to make his Mainstage debut. As a concert performer Scott has sung the Baritone solos in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Orff’s Carmina Burana, and Fauré’s Requiem and starred in musical theater and operetta concerts. Scott’s next engagement in June is singing the role of Monsu Traversen in Rossini’s rarely produced comedy La Gazzetta. www.scottziemann.com
Director/Video and Production Designer
is Artistic & General Director of LBO (since 2003) and held the same position at Chicago Opera Theater from 2012-2017. He is conductor, stage director and designer of over 100 productions. His site-specific productions in underground parking garages, swimming pools, night clubs, warehouses and the Port of Los Angeles have become a successful hallmark of his work. He served on the Board of Directors for OPERA AMERICA. He was honored by the Chicago Tribune in 2014 as the Chicagoan of the Year in Classical Music. He has been named by Opera News as one of the 25 people that will be a major force in the field of opera in the coming decade. The Chicago Reader included him in the 2013 Top 50 Chicago People. Mitisek was named LA Tastemaker by LA Times Magazine in 2009, Arts Leader of the Year by the Long Beach Arts Council in 2009 and was highlighted as one of the “2012 People” by LA WEEKLY. www.andreasmitisek.com
Conductor Ben Makino is a musician known for his thoughtful interpretations and versatility in broad repertoire. Previously Music Director at Opera Memphis, during his tenure the company was recognized locally for its high artistic standards, and nationally for its accomplishments in community outreach and innovative programming. From 2009-2013 he was Assistant Conductor at the Long Beach Opera, where he conducted productions of The Difficulty of Crossing a Field, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Macbeth, Van Gogh and the US premieres of Gavin Bryars’ The Paper Nautilus and Stewart Copeland’s Tell-Tale Heart.
Dan Weingarten has designed Hydrogen Jukebox, Marilyn Forever, Macbeth, The Paper Nautilus, Ainadamar, Maria de Buenos Aires, The Difficulty of Crossing a Field (2011), Akhnaten, Orpheus and Euridice, Nixon in China, The Good Soldier Schweik, The Cunning Little Vixen, Winterreise, Anne Frank, and Macbeth for Long Beach Opera. He has designed numerous other plays, musicals, operas, and ballets around the country. He is the recipient of the LA Drama Critic's Circle Angstrom Award, the LA Weekly Award, the Garland Award, and the Dramalogue Award. He is also on the faculty at California State University Northridge.
This activity is supported in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency. Learn more at www.arts.ca.gov
Supported in part by a grant from the Arts Council for Long Beach and the City of Long Beach.
Long Beach Opera events are supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission