Love on a Different Realm

A Brattleboro-based theater company’s main agenda isn’t merely to entertain — it’s to provide the audience with a transcendent experience.

TUNDI Productions, which became a nonprofit organization this year and is dedicated to the works of Richard Wagner, will present “Tristan und Isolde” next Friday, Aug. 23, and Sunday, Aug. 25, at the Latchis Theatre in Brattleboro. Based on the medieval romantic legend, “Tristan and Iseult,” the opera is a story of triumph over love and death.

TUNDI Productions is co-founded by Hugh Keelan, music director, and Jenna Rae, soprano (and Keelan’s wife). The name TUNDI incorporates letters from the German title “Tristan und Isolde.”

Keelan, a native of Kingston-upon-Thames in England and Brattleboro resident, has conducted more than 600 major works around the world, including Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory at the age of 16. The couple’s shared vision for their company is unusual.

“We want performers to be in a perpetual state of evolution — to grow, develop, expand their craft and communicate the power of their craft,” said Keelan.

They made another promise to audiences.

“We want them to experience immersion, meaning no separation between them and the stage,” he said. “They should be one with their environment — the stage and the music. It’s a responsibility for performers to literally reach out and grab them by their hearts and souls.”

TUNDI Productions also offers the opportunity to community members to create partnerships with the company.

“There’s room for people to provide artistic input or collaborate on scenery,” he said, adding that the possibilities are infinite.

While the company hosts what Keelan calls Wagner convergence days — where performers stage works-in-progress and invite feedback — “Tristan and Isolde” marks its first large-scale performance. Rae performs the role of Isolde for the first time and tenor Alan Schneider is Tristan.

Wilhelm Richard Wagner (1813-1883) was a German composer chiefly known for his operas — he wrote “Tristan and Isolde” in 1865.

“The primary subject matter (of ‘Tristan and Isolde’) is a man and woman working through everything around love — intellectually, physically, spiritually,” said Keelan. “They create a love that’s so enormous people around them don’t get it — it operates on a different realm.”

While the story is nonlinear and complex, Keelan said it is a “tender, authentic and rigorous portrayal of the human condition,” adding that it is “a sock in the eye to toxic masculinity” for the way its male characters handle themselves.

“There’s no vengeance, only profound consideration, sensitivity and thoughtfulness,” he said.

The company focuses on the works of Wagner because of their depth of humanity, he added.

“He goes to the heart of the matter of what humans have to address, what goes wrong when we make mistakes and how we deal with it,” he said. “We’re not overlaying any political message on what we’re doing in the future but it’s necessary for our times to employ Wagner as a resource. (His works) are pertinent for our times.”

TUNDI Productions presents Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde,” Friday, Aug. 23, at 4 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 25, at 10 a.m. at the Latchis Theatre in Brattleboro. Tickets are $25-$250. For more information, visit tundiproductions.org.