The Santa Fe Opera proved it was possible to stage a high-quality Tristan und Isolde at an elevation of nearly 7,000 feet with its new production of Richard Wagner’s vocal behemoth, which opened Saturday.

It’s just the second Wagner opus to be staged here — The Flying Dutchman was given in 1971, 1973 and 1988 — and almost certainly the longest piece in company history at four hours and 30 minutes.

Tristan is more about the ideas underlying the plot than the action itself, but it could be summarized as follows: Although he killed her fiancé in battle, Tristan and Isolde fell deeply in love. Nevertheless, as the opera begins, he is bringing her to Cornwall as a trophy wife for King Marke. When their illicit passion is discovered, Tristan is fatally wounded; he and Isolde find eternal union in the never-ending night of death.

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