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Tristan + Isolde David Dawson

Tickets on sale
01 Jun 12:00


The love between the knight Tristan and the princess Isolde is one of the great classic love tragedies. In Tristan + Isolde, choreographer David Dawson breathes new life into the timeless love story, with his abstract narrative and elegant dance style. He has created a ballet of great poetic and physical beauty.


In short

‘Tristan and Isolde’ has the same ingredients as ‘Romeo and Juliet’: a passionate and doomed attraction between two young people who come from historical and socially opposed camps and who die a tragic death for love. In Tristan + Isolde, David Dawson demonstrates a refined use of symmetry and order, continually giving them another twist. The ballet is a feast for the eyes, filled with kaleidoscopic shapes and unpredictable combinations: solos arise from a quartet, duos combine to form a quartet or sextet and then resolve into a trio or quintet.

  • © Ian Whalen / Semperoper Ballett
  • © Ian Whalen / Semperoper Ballett
  • © Ian Whalen / Semperoper Ballett
  • David Dawson

    Associate Artist

    David Dawson (1972, London, United Kingdom) was resident choreographer with Dutch National Ballet from 2004 to 2006. Since 2015, he has held the position of ‘artistic associate’ with the company.


    Tristan has to fetch the virgin Isolde from Ireland as a bride for his uncle, King Mark. On the way, they drink a magic potion that makes them fall in love for ever. Their love is impossible, as Queen Isolde must remain faithful to her husband and the knight Tristan has sworn fidelity to his uncle, the king. Tristan is banished and dies. Isolde kills herself beside the body of her lover.


    The sets for Tristan + Isolde, by Eno Henze, are simple and abstract, with mobile black columns, making it a timeless story. This love story could be situated anywhere. Bert Dalhuysen’s lighting designs add atmosphere, and the costumes by Yumiko Takeshima are universal and colourful.

    There are many versions of the mediaeval story of Tristan and Isolde, the most famous of which is probably the opera of the same name by Richard Wagner, which will be presented by Dutch National Opera in January 2018. Dawson wanted to do something with the magical story for a long time. His ideas for Tristan + Isolde only really took off when he decided not to follow the original score by Wagner, but to commission a totally new composition from Szymon Brzoska. The collaboration between the choreographer and composer is an intensive and extremely creative one.


    Choreography, concept and staging

    David Dawson


    Szymon Brzoska

    Set design

    Eno Henze

    Costume design

    Yumiko Takeshima

    Lighting design

    Bert Dalhuysen


    Valeska Stern




    Szymon Brzoska


    Musical accompaniment

    Dutch Ballet Orchestra, conducted by Matthew Rowe

    Muzikale begeleiding
    Het Balletorkest o.l.v. Matthew Rowe

    Dutch Ballet Orchestra
    Since its inception in 1965, the orchestra has been proud to accompany its partners, Dutch National Ballet and Nederlands Dans Theater. The working method is unique in the Netherlands. Dutch Ballet Orchestra, with Matthew Rowe as principal conductor, consists of a regular core of 45 musicians, supported where necessary by highly qualified guest performers. This gives the orchestra its unique character: flexible, dynamic and high-quality.

    Dutch Ballet Orchestra combines music and dance into a magical experience: from classical ballet to modern dance, and from music education to talent development. The orchestra’s mission is to create an optimal synthesis between music and dance, in order to reach dance-lovers and ballet music enthusiasts, as well as children and youngsters.

    The orchestra has received several international awards for its educational projects, including the Young Audiences Music Award in 2016 for Creatures, a collaborative project with dance company ISH.

    Matthew Rowe

    Matthew Rowe was appointed musical director of Dutch National Ballet and principal conductor of Dutch Ballet Orchestra in January 2013. He is the first conductor to hold these two positions simultaneously. Some of the notable productions he has conducted for Dutch National Opera & Ballet are Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella, the European premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s Firebird, the world premiere of Shen Wei’s Sacre du Printemps and many ballets by Hans van Manen.

    Rowe is also a regular guest conductor with other leading dance companies, including The Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Stuttgarter Ballett and the Polish National Ballet, in Warsaw.

    Rowe is a welcome guest with the BBC orchestras. He also provides live commentary for the BBC Proms Concerts, has developed a conducting course for the BBC’s interactive iWonder Guide and has appeared in the BBC series Maestro.

    He is known for his versatility and his wide repertoire in opera, ballet, contemporary music and accompaniment of silent films, such as Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights and Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin.

    His recent projects include a Frank Zappa retrospective with the Doelen Ensemble, the 100th anniversary of John Cage’s birth in San Diego and a performance of Bernstein’s West Side Story for the 125th anniversary of the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.






      Tue 07 Feb New York Times, Roslyn Sulcas

      ‘Dramatic and thrilling (…) Mr. Dawson is a superb choreographer of group movement (…) surprising and beautiful duos, full of swirling, floor-skidding turns, astonishing upsidedown swinging lifts, and moments of poetic physical beauty.’