Discussion:
Tristan & Isolde question
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Gary
2017-06-25 20:24:31 UTC
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Pardon the elementary question, but here it is:

Are Tristan & Isolde in love with each other before they drink the love
potion or are they in love only because they drank the love potion?

TIA for your opinions.

- Gary
Bert Coules
2017-06-25 21:30:57 UTC
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The text, as far as I recall, gives no clue. It's been directed both ways
over the years.
m***@gmail.com
2017-06-26 03:25:37 UTC
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Post by Bert Coules
The text, as far as I recall, gives no clue. It's been directed both ways
over the years.
For me the text gives some hints (the Glance) but the music provides the rest
Mike Scott Rohan
2017-06-26 17:11:10 UTC
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Post by Bert Coules
The text, as far as I recall, gives no clue. It's been directed both ways
over the years.
For me the text gives some hints (the Glance) but the music provides the rest
Yes, and the fact that she didn't dot him with poor old Morold's sword. That is definitely the beginning of the attraction, which leaves them both incresingly conflicted. Which is why Tristan has been avoiding her throughout the voyage, and she knows it; and why he's so willing to join in a suicide pact, as the only way out of an unbearable situation. So indeed, the potion only liberates and makes absolute -- unnaturally absolute, perhaps -- what's there already. That is very much how love potions were seen in the middle ages.

But meyer's remark made me think of a relative's husband (soon ex-) who had a bright mind but a severe drink problem. A psychologist said that it wasn't the drink itself that had made him unpleasant and even violent, it just gave him the excuse to behave the way he really wanted to. Wagner's lovers are actually doing something similar, by overriding all other considerations, society, practicality, morality, the law, other people's feelings, the whole world really -- all in the name of one overwhelming, absolute inner desire. The world can't normally tolerate such things; darkness, night and death are their only refuge.

Cheers,

Mike
Richard Partridge
2017-06-26 19:41:48 UTC
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On 6/26/17 1:11 PM, Mike Scott Rohan, at
Post by Mike Scott Rohan
Post by m***@gmail.com
Post by Bert Coules
The text, as far as I recall, gives no clue. It's been directed both ways
over the years.
For me the text gives some hints (the Glance) but the music provides the rest
Yes, and the fact that she didn't dot him with poor old Morold's sword. That
is definitely the beginning of the attraction, which leaves them both
incresingly conflicted. Which is why Tristan has been avoiding her throughout
the voyage, and she knows it; and why he's so willing to join in a suicide
pact, as the only way out of an unbearable situation. So indeed, the potion
only liberates and makes absolute -- unnaturally absolute, perhaps -- what's
there already. That is very much how love potions were seen in the middle
ages.
But meyer's remark made me think of a relative's husband (soon ex-) who had a
bright mind but a severe drink problem. A psychologist said that it wasn't the
drink itself that had made him unpleasant and even violent, it just gave him
the excuse to behave the way he really wanted to. Wagner's lovers are actually
doing something similar, by overriding all other considerations, society,
practicality, morality, the law, other people's feelings, the whole world
really -- all in the name of one overwhelming, absolute inner desire. The
world can't normally tolerate such things; darkness, night and death are their
only refuge.
Cheers,
Mike
On second thought, I agree with Mike. It isn't ambiguous. There are clear
signs that love was there before the potion.

Dick Partridge
m***@gmail.com
2017-06-26 19:54:38 UTC
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Post by Richard Partridge
On 6/26/17 1:11 PM, Mike Scott Rohan, at
Post by Mike Scott Rohan
Post by m***@gmail.com
Post by Bert Coules
The text, as far as I recall, gives no clue. It's been directed both ways
over the years.
For me the text gives some hints (the Glance) but the music provides the rest
Yes, and the fact that she didn't dot him with poor old Morold's sword. That
is definitely the beginning of the attraction, which leaves them both
incresingly conflicted. Which is why Tristan has been avoiding her throughout
the voyage, and she knows it; and why he's so willing to join in a suicide
pact, as the only way out of an unbearable situation. So indeed, the potion
only liberates and makes absolute -- unnaturally absolute, perhaps -- what's
there already. That is very much how love potions were seen in the middle
ages.
But meyer's remark made me think of a relative's husband (soon ex-) who had a
bright mind but a severe drink problem. A psychologist said that it wasn't the
drink itself that had made him unpleasant and even violent, it just gave him
the excuse to behave the way he really wanted to. Wagner's lovers are actually
doing something similar, by overriding all other considerations, society,
practicality, morality, the law, other people's feelings, the whole world
really -- all in the name of one overwhelming, absolute inner desire. The
world can't normally tolerate such things; darkness, night and death are their
only refuge.
Cheers,
Mike
On second thought, I agree with Mike. It isn't ambiguous. There are clear
signs that love was there before the potion.
Dick Partridge
When Isolde sings "Er sah mir in die Augen" with Wagners incredibly moving and telling music in support I think its pretty clear at least at that moment they were overwhelmed by passion. Before they drink the potion the passion had been hidden in its aspect as hate - the only way in which it could be brought into line with society - with the day world. The drinking of the potion -love, death, it doesn't matter - is a perfect theatrical symbol for the moment of recognition and release for the two lovers/the drinking of the potion represents the point at which the passion is no longer sublimated, when the lovers recognize it for what It is and give themselves over to it.
REP
2017-06-26 21:45:36 UTC
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When Isolde sings "Er sah mir in die Augen" with Wagners incredibly moving and telling music in support I think its pretty clear at least at that moment they were overwhelmed by passion.
This is ultimately what convinced me. Isolde's feelings for Tristan are pretty clear from the music. For instance, the love-motif makes at least one appearance in her narration. And "Er sah mir in die Augen" is certainly suggestive of either great love or sympathy.

REP
Mike Scott Rohan
2017-06-28 10:52:00 UTC
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When Isolde sings "Er sah mir in die Augen" with Wagners incredibly moving and telling music in support I think its pretty clear at least at that moment they were overwhelmed by passion. Before they drink the potion the passion had been hidden in its aspect as hate - the only way in which it could be brought into line with society - with the day world. The drinking of the potion -love, death, it doesn't matter - is a perfect theatrical symbol for the moment of recognition and release for the two lovers/the drinking of the potion represents the point at which the passion is no longer sublimated, when the lovers recognize it for what It is and give themselves over to it.
Yes, although I think there was recognition before that, at least at some level. Tristan's deliberately calm courtesy and polite excuses suggest he's as unwilling to confront it as he is its object. And what Isolde expresses as scorn and fury is not passion denied but passion thwarted, because he's just handing her over to Mark.

Ought to go deeper into this, but no time right now -- and I'm not really as knowledgeable on tristan as some. Also, I kept having this perverse memory of that Kirk Douglas film The Vikings, and the immortal line "Love and Hate are horns on the same goat!"

Cheers

Mike
Richard Partridge
2017-06-28 19:36:41 UTC
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On 6/28/17 6:52 AM, Mike Scott Rohan, at
Post by Mike Scott Rohan
Post by m***@gmail.com
When Isolde sings "Er sah mir in die Augen" with Wagners incredibly moving
and telling music in support I think its pretty clear at least at that moment
they were overwhelmed by passion. Before they drink the potion the passion
had been hidden in its aspect as hate - the only way in which it could be
brought into line with society - with the day world. The drinking of the
potion -love, death, it doesn't matter - is a perfect theatrical symbol for
the moment of recognition and release for the two lovers/the drinking of the
potion represents the point at which the passion is no longer sublimated,
when the lovers recognize it for what It is and give themselves over to it.
Yes, although I think there was recognition before that, at least at some
level. Tristan's deliberately calm courtesy and polite excuses suggest he's as
unwilling to confront it as he is its object. And what Isolde expresses as
scorn and fury is not passion denied but passion thwarted, because he's just
handing her over to Mark.
Ought to go deeper into this, but no time right now -- and I'm not really as
knowledgeable on tristan as some. Also, I kept having this perverse memory of
that Kirk Douglas film The Vikings, and the immortal line "Love and Hate are
horns on the same goat!"
Cheers
Mike
That is a priceless line! I never heard that before.

Dick Partridge
Mike Scott Rohan
2017-06-29 12:19:54 UTC
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Post by Richard Partridge
That is a priceless line! I never heard that before.
Dick Partridge
It's in there somewhere, though I'm certainly not going to plough through the whole film again to watch it -- des belles moments, mais...

But it goes into my collection of great cinematic lines. Like the one from the epic Sodom and Gomorrah, as Victor Mature gallops off in a chariot:

"Watch out for Sodomite patrols!"

Or Tony Curtis's, from The Black Shield of Falworth:

"Yonder lies da cassle of my fadduh!"

He took great exception to Brit audiences laughing at that, calling it an insult to the people of New York. It isn't, of course; it just created the same effect as would a Damon Runyon mobster played with a pure Oxford accent!

Cheers,

Mike

(Mind you, there was one such mobster with a heavy Welsh accent -- Ownie Madden, the wise-guy who owned the Cotton Club, among much else. Not our greatest export.)
Richard Partridge
2017-06-29 19:49:28 UTC
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On 6/29/17 8:19 AM, Mike Scott Rohan, at
Post by Mike Scott Rohan
Post by Richard Partridge
That is a priceless line! I never heard that before.
Dick Partridge
It's in there somewhere, though I'm certainly not going to plough through the
whole film again to watch it -- des belles moments, mais...
But it goes into my collection of great cinematic lines. Like the one from the
"Watch out for Sodomite patrols!"
"Yonder lies da cassle of my fadduh!"
He took great exception to Brit audiences laughing at that, calling it an
insult to the people of New York. It isn't, of course; it just created the
same effect as would a Damon Runyon mobster played with a pure Oxford accent!
Cheers,
Mike
(Mind you, there was one such mobster with a heavy Welsh accent -- Ownie
Madden, the wise-guy who owned the Cotton Club, among much else. Not our
greatest export.)
Mike, Hadn't you better clarify that you have not personally watched all
these films, life being too short and their artistic quality too American,
but you have read that they contain these lines?

Dick Partridge
Mike Scott Rohan
2017-06-30 16:00:18 UTC
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Post by Richard Partridge
Mike, Hadn't you better clarify that you have not personally watched all
these films, life being too short and their artistic quality too American,
but you have read that they contain these lines?
Dick Partridge
Well, much as I'm tempted, I actually have seen The Vikings, several times, and The Black Shield -- once. Sodom & Gomorrah, no; began to, in hope of that line, but life's too short. As to too American artistic quality, being married to an American and, when healthy, a frequent US visitor, I have to own up there too -- I'm thoroughly programmed, especially by Disney in my childhood, and even today duly salivate at the sound of the Fox fanfare. Hell, I've even sat through Magic Fire (to bring us back on topic).

For deviating from which I must apologise, but Tristan, much as I admire it, doesn't hit me as hard as the Ring or Meistersinger. In fact it seems to bring out something almost like frivolity, perish the thought.


Being slightly more serious, though, wouldn't this be the perfect theatre in which to perform Tristan?



Actually they've done several plays based on the legend -- the latest of which has the cast singing "Anyone who had a heart" -- and a number of operas, but Wagner never. It would have to be a reduced orchestration, such as Jonathan Dove produced for the Ring, but as Longborough and others have proved, this works very well.

Cheers,

Mike
Richard Partridge
2017-07-01 19:57:05 UTC
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On 6/30/17 12:00 PM, Mike Scott Rohan, at
Post by Mike Scott Rohan
Post by Richard Partridge
Mike, Hadn't you better clarify that you have not personally watched all
these films, life being too short and their artistic quality too American,
but you have read that they contain these lines?
Dick Partridge
Well, much as I'm tempted, I actually have seen The Vikings, several times,
and The Black Shield -- once. Sodom & Gomorrah, no; began to, in hope of that
line, but life's too short. As to too American artistic quality, being married
to an American and, when healthy, a frequent US visitor, I have to own up
there too -- I'm thoroughly programmed, especially by Disney in my childhood,
and even today duly salivate at the sound of the Fox fanfare. Hell, I've even
sat through Magic Fire (to bring us back on topic).
For deviating from which I must apologise, but Tristan, much as I admire it,
doesn't hit me as hard as the Ring or Meistersinger. In fact it seems to bring
out something almost like frivolity, perish the thought.
Being slightly more serious, though, wouldn't this be the perfect theatre in
which to perform Tristan?
http://youtu.be/WSNFvzNyPEY
Actually they've done several plays based on the legend -- the latest of which
has the cast singing "Anyone who had a heart" -- and a number of operas, but
Wagner never. It would have to be a reduced orchestration, such as Jonathan
Dove produced for the Ring, but as Longborough and others have proved, this
works very well.
Cheers,
Mike
I agree with you about Tristan. This is a matter of personal taste, of
course, and I'm sure mine is very much a minority opinion, especially among
Wagner lovers, but most of Tristan leaves me cold. I like the first act a
lot. The second act, except for the love duet, and except for the part
after they are discovered where Tristan invites Isolde to go with him to his
home, is Dullsville. In the third act Tristan complains that his world is
like a desert, and that's the way I feel about the music, except for the
Liebestod.

I do think the love duet is sublime. I particularly like the two bit parts
given to Brangaene. I don't know enough about music to describe this
properly, but it's as if her voice is just another supporting musical
instrument; it doesn't carry the melody, or the main tune, or whatever you
call it.
REP
2017-07-02 00:27:07 UTC
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Post by Richard Partridge
On 6/30/17 12:00 PM, Mike Scott Rohan, at
I agree with you about Tristan. This is a matter of personal taste, of
course, and I'm sure mine is very much a minority opinion, especially among
Wagner lovers, but most of Tristan leaves me cold. I like the first act a
lot. The second act, except for the love duet, and except for the part
after they are discovered where Tristan invites Isolde to go with him to his
home, is Dullsville. In the third act Tristan complains that his world is
like a desert, and that's the way I feel about the music, except for the
Liebestod.
I do think the love duet is sublime. I particularly like the two bit parts
given to Brangaene. I don't know enough about music to describe this
properly, but it's as if her voice is just another supporting musical
instrument; it doesn't carry the melody, or the main tune, or whatever you
call it.
I've grown to like Tristan more and more over the years, but I'm in the same boat as you and Mike. Meistersinger, Parsifal, and the Ring are much more appealing works to me.

For one thing, Tristan is monothematic. Like La Boheme, it's love all the way down. It doesn't have the variety of themes or depth of humanity of Wagner's other operas. Redemption, self-sacrifice, resignation, and compassion are all missing from it. Even Tannhauser and Lohengrin deal with a wider variety of themes.

Yet at the same time, I have a great deal of respect for Tristan musically. Out of all of Wagner's operas, it is the most revolutionary and perhaps the most remarkable. When you consider what Wagner's competition was writing at the time -- Un Ballo in Maschera, for example -- it's all the more mind-boggling, like if someone had invented the home computer in 1890 and started mass-producing it. By all rights, Tristan should have been written fifty or a hundred years later.

In that perspective, Tristan is a momentous work. As drama, it has its faults. But as music, it is an unparalleled marvel of artistic genius.

REP
m***@gmail.com
2017-07-02 04:34:18 UTC
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Post by Richard Partridge
On 6/30/17 12:00 PM, Mike Scott Rohan, at
I agree with you about Tristan. This is a matter of personal taste, of
course, and I'm sure mine is very much a minority opinion, especially among
Wagner lovers, but most of Tristan leaves me cold. I like the first act a
lot. The second act, except for the love duet, and except for the part
after they are discovered where Tristan invites Isolde to go with him to his
home, is Dullsville. In the third act Tristan complains that his world is
like a desert, and that's the way I feel about the music, except for the
Liebestod.
I do think the love duet is sublime. I particularly like the two bit parts
given to Brangaene. I don't know enough about music to describe this
properly, but it's as if her voice is just another supporting musical
instrument; it doesn't carry the melody, or the main tune, or whatever you
call it.
I've grown to like Tristan more and more over the years, but I'm in the same boat as you and Mike. Meistersinger, Parsifal, and the Ring are much more appealing works to me.
For one thing, Tristan is monothematic. Like La Boheme, it's love all the way down. It doesn't have the variety of themes or depth of humanity of Wagner's other operas. Redemption, self-sacrifice, resignation, and compassion are all missing from it. Even Tannhauser and Lohengrin deal with a wider variety of themes.
Yet at the same time, I have a great deal of respect for Tristan musically. Out of all of Wagner's operas, it is the most revolutionary and perhaps the most remarkable. When you consider what Wagner's competition was writing at the time -- Un Ballo in Maschera, for example -- it's all the more mind-boggling, like if someone had invented the home computer in 1890 and started mass-producing it. By all rights, Tristan should have been written fifty or a hundred years later.
In that perspective, Tristan is a momentous work. As drama, it has its faults. But as music, it is an unparalleled marvel of artistic genius.
REP
All I can say is that under the right circumstances Tristan draws me in as no other opera and no other Wagner opera can do. And that as they say is that.
Mike Scott Rohan
2017-07-05 17:16:44 UTC
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All I can say is that under the right circumstances Tristan draws me in as no other opera and no other Wagner opera can do. And that as they say is that.
Yes, and that needs no defending. It's his most purely musical, most internal and least conventionally dramatic music-drama, speaking most directly mind to mind, or more accurately emotion to emotion. As such, if you're in tune with that emotion, certain aspects of it, that very lack of drama and what to me seems an excess of philosophical verbiage, will not matter. That's an entirely valid response, and no doubt one Wagner himself would have accepted -- although he might have wanted us to give the philosophy equal weight. No, it's my own poor response, if anything, that needs defending, and it certainly isn't wholesale. I admire the music, I love listening to great stretches of Tristan -- even some extended ones, as in Act II -- but I rarely sit right through it. Only a couple of performances, live or recorded, have ever held me rapt; the Kleiber is one, and, unpopularly, the Karajan. I can't help remembering that Wagner originally intended it as a popular, accessible piece, a moneyearner, and wondering what it would have been like if he'd kept it that way. I speculate, too, if it might have been better as some kind of quasi-cantata, like Das Lied von der Erde, or even a pure synphony. But beyond all that, I am certainly still in awe of it.

Cheers,

Mike
Richard Partridge
2017-07-02 19:23:28 UTC
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On 6/30/17 12:00 PM, Mike Scott Rohan, at
Post by Mike Scott Rohan
Post by Richard Partridge
Mike, Hadn't you better clarify that you have not personally watched all
these films, life being too short and their artistic quality too American,
but you have read that they contain these lines?
Dick Partridge
Well, much as I'm tempted, I actually have seen The Vikings, several times,
and The Black Shield -- once. Sodom & Gomorrah, no; began to, in hope of that
line, but life's too short. As to too American artistic quality, being married
to an American and, when healthy, a frequent US visitor, I have to own up
there too -- I'm thoroughly programmed, especially by Disney in my childhood,
and even today duly salivate at the sound of the Fox fanfare. Hell, I've even
sat through Magic Fire (to bring us back on topic).
For deviating from which I must apologise, but Tristan, much as I admire it,
doesn't hit me as hard as the Ring or Meistersinger. In fact it seems to bring
out something almost like frivolity, perish the thought.
Being slightly more serious, though, wouldn't this be the perfect theatre in
which to perform Tristan?
http://youtu.be/WSNFvzNyPEY
Actually they've done several plays based on the legend -- the latest of which
has the cast singing "Anyone who had a heart" -- and a number of operas, but
Wagner never. It would have to be a reduced orchestration, such as Jonathan
Dove produced for the Ring, but as Longborough and others have proved, this
works very well.
Cheers,
Mike
This would be the place for me to confess that when I was younger I did
enjoy Batman comics.

Before we leave the matter of the love potion, we should note that it served
as King Marke's excuse to forgive the lovers at the end. If there had been
no potion -- if they had simply loved each other ever since they met in
Ireland -- he might not have been so understanding. After all, it is a
truth universally acknowledged that no mortal can withstand the force of an
operatic potion.

Dick Partridge
Gary
2017-07-02 20:27:16 UTC
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Post by Richard Partridge
Before we leave the matter of the love potion, we should note that it served
as King Marke's excuse to forgive the lovers at the end. If there had been
no potion -- if they had simply loved each other ever since they met in
Ireland -- he might not have been so understanding. After all, it is a
truth universally acknowledged that no mortal can withstand the force of an
operatic potion.
You beat me to it. The ending is problematical. If, in fact, Tristan
and Isolde had fallen in love with each other prior to the drinking of
the potion, then Marke has been duped into agreeing to renounce Isolde
so that she might marry Tristan.

On the other hand, if the only reason they fell in love with each other
is on account of the love potion, then Marke's response undercuts the
drama. No need for the secrecy surrounding their love, no need for so
many to die at the end. Marke would have been okay with the situation.

Peculiar.

- Gary
m***@gmail.com
2017-07-02 22:50:50 UTC
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Post by Gary
Post by Richard Partridge
Before we leave the matter of the love potion, we should note that it served
as King Marke's excuse to forgive the lovers at the end. If there had been
no potion -- if they had simply loved each other ever since they met in
Ireland -- he might not have been so understanding. After all, it is a
truth universally acknowledged that no mortal can withstand the force of an
operatic potion.
You beat me to it. The ending is problematical. If, in fact, Tristan
and Isolde had fallen in love with each other prior to the drinking of
the potion, then Marke has been duped into agreeing to renounce Isolde
so that she might marry Tristan.
On the other hand, if the only reason they fell in love with each other
is on account of the love potion, then Marke's response undercuts the
drama. No need for the secrecy surrounding their love, no need for so
many to die at the end. Marke would have been okay with the situation.
Peculiar.
- Gary
In the end it doesn't matter if Marke forgives them or not - the passion they have for each other is so all encompassing that the actions of the others do not make much of a difference. By the end of the opera they are together in the Night - Marke's opinions are irrelevant.
Gary
2017-07-03 00:24:10 UTC
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Post by Gary
Post by Richard Partridge
Before we leave the matter of the love potion, we should note that it served
as King Marke's excuse to forgive the lovers at the end. If there had been
no potion -- if they had simply loved each other ever since they met in
Ireland -- he might not have been so understanding. After all, it is a
truth universally acknowledged that no mortal can withstand the force of an
operatic potion.
You beat me to it. The ending is problematical. If, in fact, Tristan
and Isolde had fallen in love with each other prior to the drinking of
the potion, then Marke has been duped into agreeing to renounce Isolde
so that she might marry Tristan.
On the other hand, if the only reason they fell in love with each other
is on account of the love potion, then Marke's response undercuts the
drama. No need for the secrecy surrounding their love, no need for so
many to die at the end. Marke would have been okay with the situation.
Peculiar.
- Gary
In the end it doesn't matter if Marke forgives them or not - the passion they have for each other is so all encompassing that the actions of the others do not make much of a difference. By the end of the opera they are together in the Night - Marke's opinions are irrelevant.
But isn't the emphasis on "night" attributable to the fact that they are
indulging in an illicit affair? Isolde, because she is in love with the
man who killed Morold, and Tristan because he is in love with a woman
who is destined for his uncle?

If the two had met without these complications, had both been
unattached, would their passion still be described in terms of "night"
and "darkness" or would it be sunlight and flowers?

- Gary
m***@gmail.com
2017-07-03 02:31:40 UTC
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Post by Gary
Post by m***@gmail.com
Post by Gary
Post by Richard Partridge
Before we leave the matter of the love potion, we should note that it served
as King Marke's excuse to forgive the lovers at the end. If there had been
no potion -- if they had simply loved each other ever since they met in
Ireland -- he might not have been so understanding. After all, it is a
truth universally acknowledged that no mortal can withstand the force of an
operatic potion.
You beat me to it. The ending is problematical. If, in fact, Tristan
and Isolde had fallen in love with each other prior to the drinking of
the potion, then Marke has been duped into agreeing to renounce Isolde
so that she might marry Tristan.
On the other hand, if the only reason they fell in love with each other
is on account of the love potion, then Marke's response undercuts the
drama. No need for the secrecy surrounding their love, no need for so
many to die at the end. Marke would have been okay with the situation.
Peculiar.
- Gary
In the end it doesn't matter if Marke forgives them or not - the passion they have for each other is so all encompassing that the actions of the others do not make much of a difference. By the end of the opera they are together in the Night - Marke's opinions are irrelevant.
But isn't the emphasis on "night" attributable to the fact that they are
indulging in an illicit affair? Isolde, because she is in love with the
man who killed Morold, and Tristan because he is in love with a woman
who is destined for his uncle?
If the two had met without these complications, had both been
unattached, would their passion still be described in terms of "night"
and "darkness" or would it be sunlight and flowers?
- Gary
You are a bit close to the way I feel about this work - its not about love its about passion. The essence of this passion is that it cannot be consummated; it only exists under impossible circumstances. Lets say the lovers got together and settled down - the passion would of course then vanish - it can't exist without its forbidden and suppressed aspects. Even though it cannot be satisfied it is still irresistible as even Marke recognizes when he realizes its nature. It is thusly be definition destructive - an irresistible drive that can never achieve its goal can only result in death - which means it is its true goal. So the lovers pass over into death or oblivion or whatever you want to call it. The potion as I have described previously is the moment of release and recognition by the lovers of the true nature of there feelings
Mike Scott Rohan
2017-07-05 17:35:35 UTC
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Post by Gary
If the two had met without these complications, had both been
unattached, would their passion still be described in terms of "night"
and "darkness" or would it be sunlight and flowers?
- Gary
While the legend uses night and darkness only as the traditional cover for an assignation, Wagner in his characteristic way is interpreting and synthesizing mythical elements to suit his own purpose. Night and darkness in the opera supply not cover, but revelation, a moment when all the conventional pretences the lovers are obliged to maintain by day can at last be thrown aside. And beyond that they explicitly stand for more than their physical reality -- in particular the "night-bound land" that lies outside life at both ends, before and after. It's curiously reminiscent of Bede's image of human existence, as a sparrow that flies out of the darkness into one window of a brightly-lit hall, and out of another again.

It suggests that their love -- which is indeed passion, but also yearning -- is an ideal unfulfillable under normal circumstances, that it has origins outside of life, before their birth and after their death, that only in that eternal "night" can it become the absolute it truly is.

Wagner will have been very well aware that "Tristan" is a corruption of the older form "Tristram", traditionally meaning "born in sadness" (that may have been post-hoc interpretation, but it was accepted in Wagner's time) -- suggesting that for him life is a deeply imperfect, unbearable state, which is why he positively courts leaving it.

Cheers,

Mike
REP
2017-07-03 00:01:09 UTC
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Post by Gary
Post by Richard Partridge
Before we leave the matter of the love potion, we should note that it served
as King Marke's excuse to forgive the lovers at the end. If there had been
no potion -- if they had simply loved each other ever since they met in
Ireland -- he might not have been so understanding. After all, it is a
truth universally acknowledged that no mortal can withstand the force of an
operatic potion.
You beat me to it. The ending is problematical. If, in fact, Tristan
and Isolde had fallen in love with each other prior to the drinking of
the potion, then Marke has been duped into agreeing to renounce Isolde
so that she might marry Tristan.
On the other hand, if the only reason they fell in love with each other
is on account of the love potion, then Marke's response undercuts the
drama. No need for the secrecy surrounding their love, no need for so
many to die at the end. Marke would have been okay with the situation.
I'm afraid I can't agree. Whether Tristan and Isolde had feelings for each other before drinking the potion is immaterial to Marke and his forgiveness. What matters is that they _acted_ on those feelings, something for which the potion can (and should) be blamed.

I think people are getting tripped up by the word "love." The way I see it, there are different sorts and unequal degrees of attraction. Yes, Tristan and Isolde had feelings for each other before drinking the potion. But even if one calls those feelings "love," I don't think anyone would seriously suggest that those feelings were just as strong before drinking the potion as they were after drinking it.

REP
Richard Partridge
2017-07-04 20:06:28 UTC
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Post by Gary
Post by Richard Partridge
Before we leave the matter of the love potion, we should note that it served
as King Marke's excuse to forgive the lovers at the end. If there had been
no potion -- if they had simply loved each other ever since they met in
Ireland -- he might not have been so understanding. After all, it is a
truth universally acknowledged that no mortal can withstand the force of an
operatic potion.
You beat me to it. The ending is problematical. If, in fact, Tristan
and Isolde had fallen in love with each other prior to the drinking of
the potion, then Marke has been duped into agreeing to renounce Isolde
so that she might marry Tristan.
On the other hand, if the only reason they fell in love with each other
is on account of the love potion, then Marke's response undercuts the
drama. No need for the secrecy surrounding their love, no need for so
many to die at the end. Marke would have been okay with the situation.
Peculiar.
- Gary
I agree with your analysis. Either way there is a problem with the plot. A
lot of operatic plots, in my opinion -- including Wagner's -- don't stand up
under analysis very well.

Dick Partridge
Bert Coules
2017-07-04 20:42:10 UTC
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A lot of operatic plots, in my opinion -- including Wagner's --
don't stand up under analysis very well.
I suspect that he would counter that he didn't write them to be analysed but
to be experienced in the theatre.

Bert
C.Z.
2017-07-06 04:23:34 UTC
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Post by Richard Partridge
I agree with your analysis. Either way there is a problem with the plot. A
lot of operatic plots, in my opinion -- including Wagner's -- don't stand up
under analysis very well.
Dick Partridge
Yes; IMHO, Wagner's philosophic ideas and his plots are in several cases inferior to his music. This is true not only of him but of other composers as well, both classical and in other forms of music with words. Ironically, the text often is written first and inspires the music, which then soars to realms far beyond it. Music has its own truth which can only be experienced and not described adequately at all. Beethoven said that music is the highest form of philosophy. Perhaps this is partly why he wrote only one opera, along with his disappointment in its reception.
Mike Scott Rohan
2017-07-05 15:02:09 UTC
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Post by Richard Partridge
On 6/30/17 12:00 PM, Mike Scott Rohan, at
Post by Mike Scott Rohan
Post by Richard Partridge
Mike, Hadn't you better clarify that you have not personally watched all
these films, life being too short and their artistic quality too American,
but you have read that they contain these lines?
Dick Partridge
Well, much as I'm tempted, I actually have seen The Vikings, several times,
and The Black Shield -- once. Sodom & Gomorrah, no; began to, in hope of that
line, but life's too short. As to too American artistic quality, being married
to an American and, when healthy, a frequent US visitor, I have to own up
there too -- I'm thoroughly programmed, especially by Disney in my childhood,
and even today duly salivate at the sound of the Fox fanfare. Hell, I've even
sat through Magic Fire (to bring us back on topic).
For deviating from which I must apologise, but Tristan, much as I admire it,
doesn't hit me as hard as the Ring or Meistersinger. In fact it seems to bring
out something almost like frivolity, perish the thought.
Being slightly more serious, though, wouldn't this be the perfect theatre in
which to perform Tristan?
http://youtu.be/WSNFvzNyPEY
Actually they've done several plays based on the legend -- the latest of which
has the cast singing "Anyone who had a heart" -- and a number of operas, but
Wagner never. It would have to be a reduced orchestration, such as Jonathan
Dove produced for the Ring, but as Longborough and others have proved, this
works very well.
Cheers,
Mike
This would be the place for me to confess that when I was younger I did
enjoy Batman comics.
Before we leave the matter of the love potion, we should note that it served
as King Marke's excuse to forgive the lovers at the end. If there had been
no potion -- if they had simply loved each other ever since they met in
Ireland -- he might not have been so understanding. After all, it is a
truth universally acknowledged that no mortal can withstand the force of an
operatic potion.
Dick Partridge
I enjyed Batman comics, too, when they were imported -- although I preferred Green Lantern and Hawkman, among others, as well as some British ones you've never heard of. And the tedium of a teenage hitch at a Perthshire army camp was lightened only by a volume of Thor reprints. I've made my living as a science-fiction and fantasy writer, after all, which may not be as identical as The Big Bang Theory writers seem to think, but ain't that far removed either.

As to the potion, yes indeed. But it's worth remembering that Marke's forgiveness is wholly Wagner's invention, as indeed is his entire character. The legendary Mark was usually depicted as a vengeful son of a bitch, at least as events developed, but not without some excuse. By the standards of the knightly codes around the time of the early versions of the legend, Tristan's pre-potion love for Iseult would have been inherently dishonorable (hers doesn't count so much!). The potion and its liberating effect give them extenuation in the eyes of the audience, but still leave Mark publicly humiliated and bound to retrieve his wife. As he does, in later versions, at least for a while, by coming to terms with Tristan. These versions were influenced by ideas of "courtly love", in which the husband becomes at best a straw villain to be outwitted. Wagner significantly removed the element of dramatic conflict from the story, making Mark positively saintly and redirecting the nastier aspects into Melot -- in most versions it's Mark who wounds Tristan. Why Wagner did this is an interesting speculstion, but it certainly makes Tristan harder to stage.

Cheers,

Mike
Richard Partridge
2017-07-06 19:59:22 UTC
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Raw Message
On 7/5/17 11:02 AM, Mike Scott Rohan, at
***@asgardpublishing.co.uk, wrote the following:

[snip]
I enjoyed Batman comics, too, when they were imported -- although I preferred
Green Lantern and Hawkman, among others, as well as some British ones you've
never heard of. And the tedium of a teenage hitch at a Perthshire army camp
was lightened only by a volume of Thor reprints. I've made my living as a
science-fiction and fantasy writer, after all, which may not be as identical
as The Big Bang Theory writers seem to think, but ain't that far removed
either.
As to the potion, yes indeed. But it's worth remembering that Marke's
forgiveness is wholly Wagner's invention, as indeed is his entire character.
The legendary Mark was usually depicted as a vengeful son of a bitch, at least
as events developed, but not without some excuse. By the standards of the
knightly codes around the time of the early versions of the legend, Tristan's
pre-potion love for Iseult would have been inherently dishonorable (hers
doesn't count so much!). The potion and its liberating effect give them
extenuation in the eyes of the audience, but still leave Mark publicly
humiliated and bound to retrieve his wife. As he does, in later versions, at
least for a while, by coming to terms with Tristan. These versions were
influenced by ideas of "courtly love", in which the husband becomes at best a
straw villain to be outwitted. Wagner significantly removed the element of
dramatic conflict from the story, making Mark positively saintly and
redirecting the nastier aspects into Melot -- in most versions it's Mark who
wounds Tristan. Why Wagner did this is an interesting speculstion, but it
certainly makes Tristan harder to stage.
Cheers,
Mike
I used to read a lot of science fiction. Science fiction gets a bad name
because whenever an established author writes a book in that genre, it isn't
viewed as science fiction. It's viewed as literature. For example, "Brave
New World," by Huxley, fits any conceivable definition of science fiction.
Another example would be Orwell's "1984."

I can't resist putting in a plug for my all-time favorite work of SF: "The
Mote in God's Eye," by Niven and Pournelle. Have you read it?

Dick Partridge
REP
2017-07-06 22:57:20 UTC
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Post by Richard Partridge
I can't resist putting in a plug for my all-time favorite work of SF: "The
Mote in God's Eye," by Niven and Pournelle. Have you read it?
Dick Partridge
I just finished the second Ringworld book and was considering going on to The Mote in God's Eye. Maybe I'll do that. The title reminds me of The Gods Themselves, which is a very entertaining read as well, albeit uneven (the middle section is amazing, while the last third is uninteresting to anyone who has read Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, which does a much better job dealing with the same themes).

I'm not sure I have a favorite science-fiction novel, but maybe A Canticle for Leibowitz.

REP
Richard Partridge
2017-07-07 14:44:02 UTC
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Post by REP
Post by Richard Partridge
I can't resist putting in a plug for my all-time favorite work of SF: "The
Mote in God's Eye," by Niven and Pournelle. Have you read it?
Dick Partridge
I just finished the second Ringworld book and was considering going on to The
Mote in God's Eye. Maybe I'll do that. The title reminds me of The Gods
Themselves, which is a very entertaining read as well, albeit uneven (the
middle section is amazing, while the last third is uninteresting to anyone who
has read Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, which does a much better job
dealing with the same themes).
I'm not sure I have a favorite science-fiction novel, but maybe A Canticle for Leibowitz.
REP
I enjoyed "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" many years ago. I think that's the
one where the moon sort of declares independence from earth. A 4th of July
theme. And Heinlein told us more than once, "There is no free lunch!"

Dick Partridge
Mike Scott Rohan
2017-07-07 16:56:50 UTC
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Post by Richard Partridge
On 7/5/17 11:02 AM, Mike Scott Rohan, at
[snip]
I enjoyed Batman comics, too, when they were imported -- although I preferred
Green Lantern and Hawkman, among others, as well as some British ones you've
never heard of. And the tedium of a teenage hitch at a Perthshire army camp
was lightened only by a volume of Thor reprints. I've made my living as a
science-fiction and fantasy writer, after all, which may not be as identical
as The Big Bang Theory writers seem to think, but ain't that far removed
either.
As to the potion, yes indeed. But it's worth remembering that Marke's
forgiveness is wholly Wagner's invention, as indeed is his entire character.
The legendary Mark was usually depicted as a vengeful son of a bitch, at least
as events developed, but not without some excuse. By the standards of the
knightly codes around the time of the early versions of the legend, Tristan's
pre-potion love for Iseult would have been inherently dishonorable (hers
doesn't count so much!). The potion and its liberating effect give them
extenuation in the eyes of the audience, but still leave Mark publicly
humiliated and bound to retrieve his wife. As he does, in later versions, at
least for a while, by coming to terms with Tristan. These versions were
influenced by ideas of "courtly love", in which the husband becomes at best a
straw villain to be outwitted. Wagner significantly removed the element of
dramatic conflict from the story, making Mark positively saintly and
redirecting the nastier aspects into Melot -- in most versions it's Mark who
wounds Tristan. Why Wagner did this is an interesting speculstion, but it
certainly makes Tristan harder to stage.
Cheers,
Mike
I used to read a lot of science fiction. Science fiction gets a bad name
because whenever an established author writes a book in that genre, it isn't
viewed as science fiction. It's viewed as literature. For example, "Brave
New World," by Huxley, fits any conceivable definition of science fiction.
Another example would be Orwell's "1984."
I can't resist putting in a plug for my all-time favorite work of SF: "The
Mote in God's Eye," by Niven and Pournelle. Have you read it?
Dick Partridge
Yes, Kingley Amis and Robert Conquest both make exactly that point in their anthologies. My late colleague Iain Banks (whose The Wasp Factory was adapted for an opera and staged at the ROH) used to write self-conscious "literature" under that name and SF as Iain M. Banks, just to underline and mock the distinction (and, unforgiveably, was very succesful at both!).

Just as anything fantastic become "magical realism" if it's written by the "right kind" of author; Bulgakov's Master & Margarita was immediately hailed as a magical-realism classic by critics who didn't realise he'd written entirely recognisable SF as well. Fortunately the distinction seems to be blurring at last.

Yes, I've read Mote in God's Eye, often -- very likeable, and I much preferred it to its sequel. I've met Larry himself a couple of times, especially when we were on convention panels together, though I have to say I didn't take to him personally, much as I admire his stuff. I have friends in common with Jerry, but can't remember meeting him -- lots of stories about him, though, including his standing over the chef at a convention with a machete... My own US mentors included Poul Anderson, Jim Blish (both into opera, incidentally) and Roger Zelazny, all much missed.

Cheers,

Mike
Richard Partridge
2017-07-07 21:25:53 UTC
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On 7/7/17 12:56 PM, Mike Scott Rohan, at
Post by Mike Scott Rohan
Post by Richard Partridge
On 7/5/17 11:02 AM, Mike Scott Rohan, at
[snip]
I enjoyed Batman comics, too, when they were imported -- although I preferred
Green Lantern and Hawkman, among others, as well as some British ones you've
never heard of. And the tedium of a teenage hitch at a Perthshire army camp
was lightened only by a volume of Thor reprints. I've made my living as a
science-fiction and fantasy writer, after all, which may not be as identical
as The Big Bang Theory writers seem to think, but ain't that far removed
either.
As to the potion, yes indeed. But it's worth remembering that Marke's
forgiveness is wholly Wagner's invention, as indeed is his entire character.
The legendary Mark was usually depicted as a vengeful son of a bitch, at least
as events developed, but not without some excuse. By the standards of the
knightly codes around the time of the early versions of the legend, Tristan's
pre-potion love for Iseult would have been inherently dishonorable (hers
doesn't count so much!). The potion and its liberating effect give them
extenuation in the eyes of the audience, but still leave Mark publicly
humiliated and bound to retrieve his wife. As he does, in later versions, at
least for a while, by coming to terms with Tristan. These versions were
influenced by ideas of "courtly love", in which the husband becomes at best a
straw villain to be outwitted. Wagner significantly removed the element of
dramatic conflict from the story, making Mark positively saintly and
redirecting the nastier aspects into Melot -- in most versions it's Mark who
wounds Tristan. Why Wagner did this is an interesting speculstion, but it
certainly makes Tristan harder to stage.
Cheers,
Mike
I used to read a lot of science fiction. Science fiction gets a bad name
because whenever an established author writes a book in that genre, it isn't
viewed as science fiction. It's viewed as literature. For example, "Brave
New World," by Huxley, fits any conceivable definition of science fiction.
Another example would be Orwell's "1984."
I can't resist putting in a plug for my all-time favorite work of SF: "The
Mote in God's Eye," by Niven and Pournelle. Have you read it?
Dick Partridge
Yes, Kingley Amis and Robert Conquest both make exactly that point in their
anthologies. My late colleague Iain Banks (whose The Wasp Factory was adapted
for an opera and staged at the ROH) used to write self-conscious "literature"
under that name and SF as Iain M. Banks, just to underline and mock the
distinction (and, unforgiveably, was very succesful at both!).
Just as anything fantastic become "magical realism" if it's written by the
"right kind" of author; Bulgakov's Master & Margarita was immediately hailed
as a magical-realism classic by critics who didn't realise he'd written
entirely recognisable SF as well. Fortunately the distinction seems to be
blurring at last.
Yes, I've read Mote in God's Eye, often -- very likeable, and I much preferred
it to its sequel. I've met Larry himself a couple of times, especially when we
were on convention panels together, though I have to say I didn't take to him
personally, much as I admire his stuff. I have friends in common with Jerry,
but can't remember meeting him -- lots of stories about him, though, including
his standing over the chef at a convention with a machete... My own US mentors
included Poul Anderson, Jim Blish (both into opera, incidentally) and Roger
Zelazny, all much missed.
Cheers,
Mike
I thought "The Mote in God's Eye" was truly inspired. I read several
subsequent works by the same team and I thought they didn't come close.

For sustained quality and originality I'd choose Arthur C. Clarke and Robert
Heinlein.

Dick Partridge

m***@gmail.com
2017-06-26 20:00:57 UTC
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Post by Mike Scott Rohan
Post by m***@gmail.com
Post by Bert Coules
The text, as far as I recall, gives no clue. It's been directed both ways
over the years.
For me the text gives some hints (the Glance) but the music provides the rest
Yes, and the fact that she didn't dot him with poor old Morold's sword. That is definitely the beginning of the attraction, which leaves them both incresingly conflicted. Which is why Tristan has been avoiding her throughout the voyage, and she knows it; and why he's so willing to join in a suicide pact, as the only way out of an unbearable situation. So indeed, the potion only liberates and makes absolute -- unnaturally absolute, perhaps -- what's there already. That is very much how love potions were seen in the middle ages.
But meyer's remark made me think of a relative's husband (soon ex-) who had a bright mind but a severe drink problem. A psychologist said that it wasn't the drink itself that had made him unpleasant and even violent, it just gave him the excuse to behave the way he really wanted to. Wagner's lovers are actually doing something similar, by overriding all other considerations, society, practicality, morality, the law, other people's feelings, the whole world really -- all in the name of one overwhelming, absolute inner desire. The world can't normally tolerate such things; darkness, night and death are their only refuge.
Cheers,
Mike
Mike - isn't the passion between the two lovers very similar 0 it can't survive without its forbidden, suppressed aspects. But while it can't be satisfied it is nonetheless irresistible as with your friend it is therefore by definition destructive - an irresistible drive that can never achieve it goal can only result in death which means that death is its true goal - the ending with Isolde which bothers so many people (is she alive or dead or what) is perfectly in line with the drama - she has given herself over to the world of Night and no longer exists in the Day world.
m***@gmail.com
2017-06-26 03:24:28 UTC
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Post by Gary
Are Tristan & Isolde in love with each other before they drink the love
potion or are they in love only because they drank the love potion?
TIA for your opinions.
- Gary
I see it that they are in love with each other before they drink the potion but are hiding it for different reasons. The potion gives them the reason to express their love and it doesn't really matter to them if its a love potion, death potion or Coca Cola - it gives them the "out" to express their true feelings for each other.
Richard Partridge
2017-06-26 19:36:57 UTC
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Post by Gary
Are Tristan & Isolde in love with each other before they drink the love
potion or are they in love only because they drank the love potion?
TIA for your opinions.
- Gary
I've always thought Wagner was deliberately ambiguous on that question. He
wrote this in an age when potions were commonly used in operatic works; he
used them elsewhere himself. So I imagine Wagner saying to his public, "You
want potions? Here they are!"

On the other hand, as your question implies, the plot works just as well if
we imagine the so-called potion is entirely ineffective. If they both
thought they had drunk poison, that would liberate them to declare their
love, since being about to die they would have nothing to lose.

Dick Partridge
REP
2017-06-26 21:26:59 UTC
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Post by Gary
Are Tristan & Isolde in love with each other before they drink the love
potion or are they in love only because they drank the love potion?
TIA for your opinions.
- Gary
It's left open to interpretation, but most people believe that Tristan and Isolde had feelings for each other before imbibing the potion. "In love" might be a bit of a stretch, however. Both characters have reasons to be deeply conflicted. Tristan is loyal to his uncle, for example, while Isolde resents Tristan's role in her husband's death. But the two characters are definitely attracted to each other. Just listen to Isolde's music (as another poster suggests), which makes Isolde's feelings, at least, clear enough.

You could say that the potion reveals what the characters have tried to keep hidden. But even more than that, it overcomes their natural reservations and inhibitions. Once Tristan and Isolde drink the potion, the barriers keeping them apart seem to crumble and lose all importance.

REP
m***@gmail.com
2017-06-26 22:23:42 UTC
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Post by REP
Post by Gary
Are Tristan & Isolde in love with each other before they drink the love
potion or are they in love only because they drank the love potion?
TIA for your opinions.
- Gary
It's left open to interpretation, but most people believe that Tristan and Isolde had feelings for each other before imbibing the potion. "In love" might be a bit of a stretch, however. Both characters have reasons to be deeply conflicted. Tristan is loyal to his uncle, for example, while Isolde resents Tristan's role in her husband's death. But the two characters are definitely attracted to each other. Just listen to Isolde's music (as another poster suggests), which makes Isolde's feelings, at least, clear enough.
You could say that the potion reveals what the characters have tried to keep hidden. But even more than that, it overcomes their natural reservations and inhibitions. Once Tristan and Isolde drink the potion, the barriers keeping them apart seem to crumble and lose all importance.
REP
Note Morolt was not Isoldes husband 0 he was her betrothed as they used to say.
REP
2017-06-27 01:27:50 UTC
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Post by m***@gmail.com
Post by REP
Post by Gary
Are Tristan & Isolde in love with each other before they drink the love
potion or are they in love only because they drank the love potion?
TIA for your opinions.
- Gary
It's left open to interpretation, but most people believe that Tristan and Isolde had feelings for each other before imbibing the potion. "In love" might be a bit of a stretch, however. Both characters have reasons to be deeply conflicted. Tristan is loyal to his uncle, for example, while Isolde resents Tristan's role in her husband's death. But the two characters are definitely attracted to each other. Just listen to Isolde's music (as another poster suggests), which makes Isolde's feelings, at least, clear enough.
You could say that the potion reveals what the characters have tried to keep hidden. But even more than that, it overcomes their natural reservations and inhibitions. Once Tristan and Isolde drink the potion, the barriers keeping them apart seem to crumble and lose all importance.
REP
Note Morolt was not Isoldes husband 0 he was her betrothed as they used to say.
Right you are. An important distinction, thank you.

REP
Bert Coules
2017-06-27 08:57:13 UTC
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That will teach me to dash off a hasty reply. Yes, there are definite
indications of an attraction which pre-dates the potion. Didn't Wieland
once stage the scene where they fell into a wild embrace the very moment
that they'd drunk it, in the belief that since they were about to die,
nothing mattered any more and they could admit their feelings both openly
and to each other? That was making a pretty clear statement of the
situation.
m***@gmail.com
2017-06-27 15:34:56 UTC
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Post by Bert Coules
That will teach me to dash off a hasty reply. Yes, there are definite
indications of an attraction which pre-dates the potion. Didn't Wieland
once stage the scene where they fell into a wild embrace the very moment
that they'd drunk it, in the belief that since they were about to die,
nothing mattered any more and they could admit their feelings both openly
and to each other? That was making a pretty clear statement of the
situation.
Yes that's true and Wagners very specific stage directions - though they may read a little old fashioned - are pretty clear as well. This opera can cast, under the right circumstances, a kind of spell over the listener as well unlike any other opera.
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