|Villa Wesendonck during the time of Wagner|
Wagner’s wife, Minna, was at the early morning birthday celebration too. Wagner had persuaded her to provide the sandwiches and coffee. But when Mathilde’s husband Otto, who happened to be Wagner’s generous financial patron, returned from a trip abroad he was furious when he heard how, in his absence, Wagner had orchestrated such a scene with his wife and given himself the freedom of the house. Wagner had overstepped the boundary of what was acceptable with this public gesture of intimacy, and the tongues of Zurich’s staid burghers were set to wagging.
|Villa Wesendonck today: The Rietberg Museum|
Wagner and Otto mended their fences, more or less, and life returned to what constituted normal in Wagner’s world. He and Minna inhabited a house provided by Otto, next door to the Villa Wesendonck, where Otto and Mathilde lived. Here, he enjoyed the peace and quiet to compose Tristan und Isolde.
|Villa Schoenberg, where Wagner composed Tristan und Isolde|
Letters and short notes rifled back and forth between Wagner and Mathilde. A few months later, in April 1858, this idyllic situation was shattered when his long- suffering wife intercepted one of his letters to Mathilde. Appalled by its intimacy she claimed (probably wrongly) that it bore witness to an illicit love affair and a scandal ensued. By August the situation had become intolerable. Wagner begged Mathilde to flee with him, but she chose her rich husband rather than her poor composer. Wagner, now estranged from his wife, fled alone to Venice, where he continued to compose Tristan in a palace on the Grand Canal, and continued to correspond with Mathilde. The following year he returned to Switzerland where he finished Tristan in Lucerne in August, 1859.