Tristan und Izzy

by Susan Spector, oboist

There is no greater satisfaction for me than playing Wagner’s music, and Tristan und Isolde is my favorite of all of his operas. I find that the subtlety of the orchestral colors, the wide range of expression and dynamics required by this score, and the sheer virtuosity of the orchestral writing make Tristan as gratifying to play as it is to listen.

In 2008, I had the pleasure of performing this opera under Maestro Daniel Barenboim at the Met. I consider that run of performances one of the highlights of my twenty-five year tenure with the MET Orchestra. 

The cast, featuring Peter Seiffert, Katarina Dalayman, and René Pape, was as inspired as the conducting. When soprano Katarina Dalayman was forced to cancel a performance due to illness, we in the Orchestra and those in the opera house that night were treated to a singular performance in which Waltraud Meier appeared as Isolde, having flown over from Germany expressly for that single performance at Maestro Barenboim’s invitation.

These stellar musical memories alone would remain firmly entrenched in my memory, but I have additional associations with those Tristan performances.

The author's family with Maggie

The author's family with Maggie

Shortly after completing those performances, my family and I suffered the loss of our beloved West Highland White Terrier, Maggie. 

Maggie’s absence was very difficult for us. We wanted to have a dog in our home once again, but our search for another canine companion was proving to be frustrating. However, within that same opera season, we were successful in our search for a Westie puppy. 

Because the puppy had originally come from Limerick, Ireland - and was, thus, instantly dubbed our “Irish Princess” - it was a logical step to name her for the Irish heroine in Tristan, the performances of which had been so memorable to all of us earlier in the opera season. We shortened Isolde to “Izzy,” and for the past eight years, she has brought happiness and laughter to our home. She has also lived up to her namesake’s feisty Irish temperament and steadfast determination, as well as her tireless devotion and undying affection.

"Which one of you is our Tristan?"

"Which one of you is our Tristan?"

By sheer coincidence, during the time that Tristan is once again being performed at the Met, our family will again be welcoming a Westie puppy to our home. Izzy is still quite youthful and in excellent health; we just want an additional pet - a companion for her, if you will.

We have been promised a male puppy from a litter of six gorgeous Westie pups born on August 18th in Cornwall…er…Corning, New York. While we have entertained different possibilities for Izzy's new companion’s name (whom we will pick up after the pups are eight weeks old), it somehow seems preordained that he be given the name of Tristan. 

We look forward to life with two Westies, hopefully devoid of curses, potions, delirium, or any other such drama. And, hopefully, for many years to come, we may use Isolde’s own words, “dies süsse Wörtlein:und,’” (this sweet little word: “and”) with Tristan and Izzy together in our home.

Izzy, awaiting Tristan, with the author

Izzy, awaiting Tristan, with the author