The Santa Fe Opera

Skip to main content Skip to search

Destination Santa Fe Opera - Jamie Barton on Epic Singing, Queer Characters, and the Heart and Complication in Tristan und Isolde


Jamie Barton on Epic Singing, Queer Characters, and the Heart and Complication in Tristan und Isolde

There’s no such thing as a “little” Wagner. Host Jane Trembley catches up with internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton in anticipation of the epic Santa Fe Opera debut of Tristan und Isolde. The pair chat about the thrill of performing this legendary tale of love and betrayal––and why Richard Wagner’s music is totally worth leaving the house for! Jamie also discusses interpreting her characters through a queer lens and transcending the score to create meaningful art.

“I love this character!” says Jamie of the empathetic Brangäne. “She reminds me of myself in a lot of ways.” For this production, loyal maid Brangäne is cast as Isolde’s sibling. That sisterly bond provides a fresh emotional counterpoint to the titular lovers’ physical attraction. Exploring such nuances suits Jamie, a big, queer girl who advocates for bringing one’s whole self to the stage. “My job is to story-tell, and one of the baseline things I allow myself to do is come with my own honest perspective.”

Jamie, a self-professed Wagner nerd, asserts that Tristan und Isolde sets the bar for all other works in the German composer’s canon, if not all of modern musical composition. “It’s overwhelming! This particular opera inspired so much of the 20th-century stuff that we know.” Still, some folks might need additional coaxing to venture out. For them, Jamie plays her most persuasive card: The Crosby Theatre itself. “We’re starting this before sunset, so there’ll be this daytime-to-nighttime transition. That’s an element that’s difficult to get in any other sort of typical theater.”


Jamie Barton – Mezzo-Soprano







Destination Santa Fe Opera is a Santa Fe Opera podcast, produced and edited by Andrea Klunder at The Creative Impostor Studios.

Post-Production Audio: Edwin R. Ruiz

Hosted by: Jane Trembley

Show Notes by: Lisa Widder


Learn more about the Santa Fe Opera and plan your visit at

We’d love for you to join us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok @santafeopera.


“[Brangäne’s] the heart, I think, of the scene and the complication of the scene in a lot of ways, and me as a human being, I don’t mind being both the heart and the complication.”

“It is some of the most gorgeous music that exists! Truly, this opera–and this is not hyperbole–literally changed the art form.”

“Seriously, there are literally Wagner nerd clubs, and I love that, but there is a reason: it’s addictive in a completely different way. It’s just its own thing.”

“The experience of getting to see something so unique, to see Tristan done in this theater, with this backdrop, with this cast, with this orchestra, with these directors, you know, it’s one of those rare circumstances––and that’s coming from somebody who does this most days of her life.”

“Wagner is the Metallica of opera, in my personal opinion, and you can’t get that experience sitting on your couch.”

“I will tell you one of the truths that I have figured out is that every character that I go into is some version of queer.”

“For me as a bisexual person, it is more abnormal for me to have to put myself in a fully heterosexual box than it is to just be myself.”

“I like the pace of Santa Fe. There’s something restful about being here [ ], and then you add the beauty of where you are, and I mean, it’s just…what more do you need?”