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Thread: Excerpt from John Culshaw's essay on Tristan and Isolde

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    Senior Member Itullian's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Excerpt from John Culshaw's essay on Tristan and Isolde

    "The allegory of Tristan and Isolde is not a negation of life. On the contrary, it affirms time and time again the nobility of those emotions to which mankind can occasionally aspire.
    The compassion of Marke, the loyalty of Kerwenal to Tristan, Tristan to Marke, and Brangene to Isolde ----
    these, in their various aspects, embody some of the deepest and most beautiful commitments that can exist
    between people inextricably involved with each other.
    They suffice, they are exemplary, they are beautiful; but they do not provide terms of reference for an ideal,
    for a relationship beyond human measure in which the believers ---- a better term than lovers ---- perceive a loyalty that is beyond human loyalty and a love beyond
    human love.
    The supreme beauty of Tristan is that it is a religious work; an affirmation that love is for eternity; that this
    is not all."

    Thank you Mr. Culshaw!
    Exactly how I feel about it!
    Last edited by Itullian; Jul-30-2018 at 04:51.
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    Senior Member Fritz Kobus's Avatar
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    Interesting. I only once watched a DVD of this opera. Need to get into it more and with Cultshaw's thoughts in mind.
    Last edited by Fritz Kobus; Jul-30-2018 at 03:40.
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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    I recall reading Culshaw's remarks decades ago and being moved by them, though I think the matter is more ambiguous than he suggests.

    I've always felt that Wagner's works are fundamentally "religious," in the non-dogmatic sense of a search for ultimate values and a quest for redemption and a higher state of being. Wagner's ideas about where value is to be sought, and how to overcome the state of "illusion" or "sin" (to use the Buddhist and Christian terminology) are seen to evolve in the course of his career. Tristan presents the climax of the composer's exploration of Romantic love as an antidote to the falseness of the world, and shows not only the splendor and sacredness of eros but also the inevitable tragedy of investing more in it than it can bear. In his very next opera, Die Meistersinger, Wagner turns a corner and brings us back to the world, showing that Romantic love can't be all there is for us, that it can only find fulfillment if we can love the world despite its madness. The Ring shows the life-and-death struggle of love's emergence as a force which can bring down the false gods of wealth and power, and finally Parsifal shows the way out of Tristan's "love-death" by way of the awareness that eros is also a false god and a trap for the soul, and that compassionate love - agape - is at the root of moral consciousness.

    Tristan stands at the very center and turning point in Wagner's "religious quest," and it's certainly art's greatest testament to the grandeur and tragedy of the Western cult of romance.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Jul-30-2018 at 05:42.

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    Senior Member DarkAngel's Avatar
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    I've always felt that Wagner's works are fundamentally "religious," in the non-dogmatic sense of a search for ultimate values and a quest for redemption and a higher state of being.
    Yes Tristan is a snapshot of wagner's ongoing understanding and enlightenment about various religions and philosophical concepts, our couple T/I are dealt a cruel hand to endure with only brief glimpses of real fulfillment/happiness when all cares about the "self" are released as during the night love scence in the garden (the liebestod sound motif first appears)

    Finally when all is despair, death and destruction at conclusion Isolde recalls the eternal beauty of their love that night under the stars in the garden and wagner brings back the liebestod motif for Isoldes transfiguration, the final release from human turmoil, seeking the eternal bliss that lies beyond this world......

    The closing music says more than words can ever convey.......


    Last edited by DarkAngel; Jul-30-2018 at 16:22.

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    I don’t think I totally agree with Culshaw’s argument as represented in the excerpt above. However, I don’t want to make any proclamations until I’ve read the whole essay. Does anyone know where I could find it?

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