Richard Wagner in Zurich
The Wesendoncks hosted a wide circle of artists, intellectuals and academics. They were particularly fond of the composer Richard Wagner who had fled to Zurich from Germany in 1849. They gave Wagner and his wife Minna a home in the half-timbered house beside their villa (today's Villa Schönberg) which Wagner called his “asylum on the green hill”.
If one is to believe the glowing letters and declarations of love which he wrote to Mathilde, his muse, during his sixteen-month stay on “the green hill”, Wagner had fallen completely under her spell. Inspired by this love, he completed the handwritten libretto of “Tristan and Isolde” and set down on paper the first sketches of the opera.
Mathilde, five of whose poems Wagner set to music (the Wesendonck Songs), was similarly inspired and entranced by her conversations, musical performances and readings with the composer. On New Year's Eve 1857, Wagner gave his beloved muse the draft score of 'Tristan and Isolde' with a poem dedicated to her: “Full of joy, empty of pain, pure and free, forever with thee”.