The project, a collaboration between Salonen, director Peter Sellars, and video artist Bill Viola, combines a semi-staged performance of the opera with video art about the themes of the opera: betrayal, transformation, rebirth, memory, and time. Each act is performed on a different evening, paired with a musical work influenced by Tristan und Isolde.
Tonight, Act I is performed with Berg's Lyric Suite; on December 4, Act II is presented with Debussy's Suite from Pelleas and Melisande; on December 5, Act III is paired with Kaija Saariaho's Cinq reflets. The three programs are repeated on December 10, 11, and 12, respectively. The Paris Opera, a co-producer of the project, presents a fully staged version in April 2005, with Salonen conducting.
"Since my early 20's, Tristan has been on the list of operas I wanted to conduct," Salonen said in a statement. "When one decides to take on an iconic piece of the repertoire, it's more fascinating‹in my opinion‹to put it into a new context and to illuminate it from various angles."
The cast of Tristan und Isolde includes Christine Brewer as Isolde and tenor Clifton Forbis, making his Los Angeles Philharmonic debut, as Tristan. Soprano Heidi Grant Murphy and bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen appear on December 5 and 12 in Saariaho's Cinq reflets.