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(Wagner: Tristan und Isolde). Sop. (but usually sung by mez.). Isolde's attendant and companion. She accompanies Isolde in the ship in which she is being taken by Tristan to meet and marry King Mark. Knowing nothing of Tristan's history (he killed Isolde's previous fiancé), Brangäne is puzzled by her mistress's obvious antagonism to Tristan. Sent to summon Tristan, she has to deal with Kurwenal, Tristan's loyal friend, and returns to tells Isolde that she has not been able to get a straight answer—he seems reluctant to come. At this point Isolde tells Brangäne the whole story, but fails to mention that, despite everything, she and Tristan have fallen in love. Brangäne is asked to fetch a box of potions and is horrified when Isolde takes out a death-potion. Isolde asks her to prepare this for her to drink, but Brangäne substitutes a love-potion: she at last knows that Isolde and Tristan love each other but cannot admit it, for she is the King's intended bride and he is the King's loyal nephew. Isolde shares the drink with Tristan and the two declare their love. As the ship arrives in Cornwall and King Mark's presence is imminent, Brangäne admits to her mistress what she has done. She now realizes that she has only made matters worse, as Isolde is not interested in the King. The lovers arrange to meet secretly while the King is out hunting. The signal that it is safe will be the extinguishing of a light at the door to their apartment. Brangäne is reluctant to extinguish the flame—she is worried a trap is being laid for the lovers and that Melot, Tristan's supposed friend, is at the bottom of it. She tries to warn her mistress, who will have none of it, and puts out the torch herself. While the lovers are together, Brangäne keeps watch, but when she tries to warn them that Mark and his men are arriving, they ignore her. Melot and Tristan fight and Tristan is badly wounded. He is taken back to his home by Kurwenal. Isolde is sent for and goes to join them. Brangäne realizes that the only way to make amends is to admit to Mark what she has done. He forgives everything. He will go with her to Tristan's estate and bless the couple's union. They set off for Brittany. On arrival, they find Isolde unconscious across Tristan's body. Aria: Einsam wachend in der Nacht (‘Keeping solitary watch in the night’).

Brangäne can be regarded as responsible for most of the action of the opera, for she it is who exchanges the potions, although only with the best of intentions, as she knows that the love between Isolde and Tristan should be fulfilled. And it is Brangäne who realizes that Melot is going to betray his master and inform on the young lovers to the King. She does her best to sort things out by confessing her actions to King Mark, but the damage has been done and all ends in tragedy. The role of Brangäne has attracted an impressive array of singers, including Anny Helm, Margarete Klose, Maria Olczewska, Grace Hoffman, Kerstin Thorborg, Constance Shacklock, Blanche Thebom, Kerstin Meyer, Regina Resnik, Christa Ludwig, Yvonne Minton, Della Jones, Jane Henschel, a Hanna Schwarz, Petra Lang, and Katerina Karneus. Created (1865) by Anna Deinat.


Subjects: Opera.

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