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Thread: Tristan und Isolde - the potion

          
   
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    Senior Member Involved Member emiellucifuge's Avatar
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    Tristan und Isolde - the potion

    This is something Ive been unsure of.
    Is the love between Tristan and Isolde solely due to the potion given to them or was it brewing before this?

    Tristan killed Isolde's previous fiancé, but Isolde was unable to kill him while she nursed his injury. - What is the significance of this?

    I would love to hear your views and theories. Perhaps someone has analysed the score and the motifs provide a clue.

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    What is the significance of this?
    Lesser than signifance of this fragment from first scene of act II:

    ISOLDE

    Dein Werk?
    O tör'ge Magd!
    Frau Minne kenntest du nicht?
    Nicht ihres Zaubers Macht?
    Des kühnsten Mutes
    Königin?
    des Weltenwerdens
    Wälterin?
    Leben und Tod
    sind untertan ihr,
    die sie webt aus Lust und Leid,
    in Liebe wandelnd den Neid.
    Des Todes Werk,
    nahm ich's vermessen zur Hand, -
    Frau Minne hat es
    meiner Macht entwandt.
    Die Todgeweihte
    nahm sie in Pfand,
    fasste das Werk
    in ihre Hand.
    Wie sie es wendet,
    wie sie es endet,
    was sie mir küre,
    wohin mich führe,
    ihr ward ich zu eigen:
    num lass mich Gehorsam zeigen!

    ISOLDE

    Your work!
    Oh, foolish maid!
    Do you not know the Love Spirit,
    not know her magic's power?
    The Queen
    of boldest courage,
    Regent of the
    world's course?
    Love and Death
    are subject to her,
    she weaves them out of bliss and sorrow,
    transmuting envy into love.
    Death's work,
    upon which I audaciously embarked,
    the Love Spirit
    wrested it from my power.
    She took the girl destined for death
    under her sway and
    took her work
    into her own hands.
    However she performed it,
    however she completes it,
    wherever she may choose for me,
    wherever she may lead me,
    I became subject to her.
    Now let me display my obedience!

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    I believe that all her rage against Tristan in the first act before the love potion is swallowed indicates already some attraction that she denies and fights off - there's sort of too much emotion there, what would be called reaction formation (trying to force herself to adopt the opposite feeling). Also, from the beginning Tristan seems less than happy about taking her to another man. So, I do believe that mutual attraction was already at work, yes.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); March 6th, 2012 at 03:34 AM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Senior Member Involved Member emiellucifuge's Avatar
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    Thanks Aramis, that section certainly reveals a lot about the greater theme of the opera.

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    Senior Member Veteran Member Aksel's Avatar
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    I think the potion was without effect. It only served to make them realise that they were in love. Without it, I don't think they would have ever confessed their love for each other.

    So basically, Isolde is having a rather serious case of Stockholm Syndrome.


    I do say this without really having looked at the poem in some time.

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    Senior Member Involved Member Couchie's Avatar
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    They had a repressed love. Isolde spares Tristan when she has the opportunity to avenge Morold:

    Then a cry awoke
    from the depths of my heart!
    With the gleaming sword
    I stood before him,
    ready to averge on him, the presumptuous one,
    Lord Morold's death.

    From his bed,
    he looked up -
    not at the sword,
    not at my hand -
    he gazed into my eyes.
    His wretchedness
    tormented me!
    The sword - I dropped it!


    Was it mere "wretchedness" or something more? At "he gazed into my eyes", we hear this leitmotif:



    Heard again later in the intimate moment when they stare into each other's eyes immediately after drinking the potion, and breathlessly they pronounce the other's name as the passion swells within them.

    I do think the potion was a genuine love potion and not a placebo. First, Wagner loves his magical potions. Secondly, Brangäne explains that the love potion was given by Isolde's mother for intended use on King Marke, should he stray from Isolde or fail to fall for her:

    But he who chose you,
    however cold he might be,
    or if a spell
    had turned him from you,
    I would know
    how to constrain him.
    The power of love would constrain him.

    Do you not know our
    mother's craft?
    Do you imagine that she,
    who considers everything,
    would have sent me away with you
    without means of help into foregin land?

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    Senior Member Involved Member emiellucifuge's Avatar
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    Perfect Couchie, thats exactly the kind of thing I was looking for.

    It seems pretty clear to me now, through the musical quote Couchie has posted, and the poem extract posted by Aramis that the potion is not the prime force behind their love. But it makes me wonder why he bothered to include a potion at all?

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by emiellucifuge View Post
    Perfect Couchie, thats exactly the kind of thing I was looking for.

    It seems pretty clear to me now, through the musical quote Couchie has posted, and the poem extract posted by Aramis that the potion is not the prime force behind their love. But it makes me wonder why he bothered to include a potion at all?
    That's a good point. A potion includes some sort of justification for their actions, playing down the guilt - one might say, "oh well, I only did it because of the love potion." More interesting would have been if Isolde, about to drink what she thought was poison, suddenly and impulsively tossed it away and kissed Tristan.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by emiellucifuge View Post
    It seems pretty clear to me now, through the musical quote Couchie has posted, and the poem extract posted by Aramis that the potion is not the prime force behind their love. But it makes me wonder why he bothered to include a potion at all?
    Remember that the love potion was a key element in all the original sources. Had Wagner dispensed with it entirely, it would have been hard to claim his opera was a "Tristan" story at all.

    By the way, in some early versions, the lovers take the potion accidentally. Also, in some versions the potion's effect lasts forever, while in others it wears off after three years, leaving the lovers free to choose one another voluntarily.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Amfortas View Post
    Also, in some versions the potion's effect lasts forever, while in others it wears off after three years, leaving the lovers free to choose one another voluntarily.
    There are diffrent labels, like with Johnnie Walker. Effects of Red Label least only for three years but the Blue Label effects are eternal.

  13. #11
    Senior Member Involved Member Couchie's Avatar
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    I think the potion is critical. Sure they were already in love without the potion, but it is the potion that pushes them into their spiralling, insatiable, even morbid obsession for each other that makes Tristan & Isolde not just every other love story ever written.

    People love people. Some love more than others. What is the *most* two people can love each other? That is what Wagner tackles I think, and if the opera is to exhaustively explore love and desire to its upper extremity, a basis for that needs to be provided beyond two people just really, really falling in love. The potion provides that.

    The potion also doesn't undermine their existing love. Remember love potions are not typically used on people who are already in love. When they drink the potion, they not only get the love effects of the liquid, but their repressed love is now also instantly unleashed. So it's like a double whammy of love. It is the existing love + potion effects that pushes them above and beyond what is, um... healthy for two people to feel for each other. Without the potion, what reason could you give for them being unable to find earthly consummation of their love in Act 2? They would just have sex and be done with it, like everybody else.

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Hm... OK. Where do I get this love potion?
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Senior Member Involved Member AnaMendoza's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    Hm... OK. Where do I get this love potion?
    I just checked to see if the website Dulcamara.com exists--it does, but doesn't seem to be selling anything.

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AnaMendoza View Post
    I just checked to see if the website Dulcamara.com exists--it does, but doesn't seem to be selling anything.
    They sell CDs. I wonder if the CDs work like a love potion.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  18. #15
    Senior Member Involved Member AnaMendoza's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    They sell CDs. I wonder if the CDs work like a love potion.
    I'll confess--I got to the main page, and then bailed out quickly, as I realized the possibilities of just picking a random page of the Internet.

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