Dutch National Ballet presents

Tristan + Isolde David Dawson

This show was to been seen in June 2018


Duration 1:55

Breaks 1

The legend of Tristan and Isolde is one of the most influential medieval romances telling the story of the love triangle between King Marke, Isolde and Tristan. A tale of love, sacred yet forbidden, healing yet destructive, fulfilling yet frustrating, tyrannical yet benevolent, a love that would never die.

David Dawson breathes new life into this timeless love story, with his abstract narrative and elegant dance style. He has created a ballet of great poetic and physical beauty.

The principals are announced, learn more about who'll be dancing when.

Bekijk de trailer Tristan + Isolde
David Dawson's vision

About Tristan + Isolde

‘Tristan and Isolde’ is a passionate and doomed love story 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.

The Story

King Marke sends his nephew Tristan to win the beautiful princess Isolde as his wife and take the crown of her country.  In a combat King Morold, Isolde’s uncle, dies by Tristan’s hand. When Tristan and Isolde meet each other, they fall instantly in love, without even knowing who the other person is. When they do find out, they are desperate and decide to drink a potion that will end their lives. However, it turns out to be a love potion, making them fall in love even deeper.

When the wedding of King Marke and Isolde is about to take place, Isolde and Tristan manage to escape and find some time alone. They finally consummate their love for each other. King Marke is deeply shocked when he finds out about the double betrayal, both from his wife and beloved nephew. Tristan is sent to prison; Isolde is left behind and begs Marke for his forgiveness, expressing the inevitability of her love for Tristan. With heavy heart Marke finds understanding for the lovers, sets Isolde free and sends her to Tristan. Too late: the wounded Tristan is passing away. The lovers can only embrace each other for the very last time. Isolde, who cannot live without him, collapses over his lifeless body.


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 Brzóska

Set design

Eno Henze

Costume design

Yumiko Takeshima

Lighting design

Bert Dalhuysen


Valeska Stern

World première: 15 February 2015
Semperoper Ballett, Saxon State Opera
Semperoper, Dresden, Germany

Holland Festival production

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.



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.




After the performance of Tristan + Isolde on  Sunday 17 June, Riho Sakamoto (Isolde) and Martin ten Kortenaar (Tristan) will be at the shop to sign your purchases. These signing sessions are only for people with tickets for the matinee performance of the same day.

    Fri 15 Jun de Volkskrant

    "Sasha Mukhamedov als gepassioneerde Isolde en een ontroerende James Stout als wanhopige Tristan"

    Fri 15 Jun NRC

    "Vooral Mukhamedov is fantastisch, technisch ijzersterk en overtuigend.”

    Fri 15 Jun Theaterkrant

    “De vier duetten van Isolde en Tristan, prachtig gedanst door Sasha Mukhamedov en James Stout, tonen perfect de eerste toenadering, de groeiende liefde, de totale passie en in het slotduet het verbrokkelen van die passie door de naderende dood."

    Fri 15 Jun Noordhollands Dagblad

    Liefdesduet vol van voelbaar verdriet

    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.’