Stage folk in the straight theater are skittish about “the Scottish play,” never speaking the antihero’s name if they can help it. Their colleagues in opera don’t play that game with Tristan und Isolde, though Wagner’s death-haunted score does have its scary associations—especially in Munich, the site of its world premiere in 1865 and this week’s breathlessly awaited new production at the Bayerische Staatsoper, starring Jonas Kaufmann and Anja Harteros in historic role debuts.

The lovers of the original cast were the 39-year-old Danish-born Portuguese soprano Malvina Schnorr von Carolsfeld and her 28-year-old German Heldentenor husband Ludwig, chosen by Wagner after 70 rehearsals in Vienna convinced him that the singers there could never manage their parts.