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An article about the ending in Wagner's "Tristan And Isolde" which though tragic in nature, does to a certain extent present a triumphant finale for the couple so in love. Tristan and Isolde, departing from this world with the near certainty in their minds that they will be together in another world. All seeming as if this existence had been but the place where they met and the next one would begin their life as a couple.

It is the third and final act of "Tristan And Isolde" that we find Tristan in his castle at Kareol in Brittany. Tristan has been wounded in a fight with Melot, whom he basically for some unknown reason provoked in to a sword fight to simply not defend himself. As Melot trust his sword in to his stomach area. Tristan is badly wounded. This being clear from the heavy bandages he wears and the blood which can be seen in area where he was struck yet Tristan is more depressed than physically injured. It is however as Tristan receives news that Isolde is on her way that he rejoices and asks if her ship has been sighted yet only a gloomy tune is heard from the shepherd's pipe.

It is however after sometime that the shepherd's tune signals the arrival of Isolda's ship which prompts Kurwenal to leave Tristan in order that he might greet her. Tristan, once left alone begins to inexplicably remove the bandages from his wound which were preventing it from hemorrhaging further. Tristan frantically removing the very bandages which in fact were preventing him from bleeding to death. This being a point in which the music increases in exhilaration as the dramatic conclusion to our story begins. Isolde makes her way to Tristan, who is on the verge of dying yet just as is he is about to depart from this earth he sees Isolde; who rushes to his side. Isolde's emotions showing as she holds Tristan in her arms, who is ever close to death and as the two spend their last moment, they seem to share a certain joy. As if knowing that it is all over for them, for they do not see this as an ending but a new beginning. It perhaps being in another life or world that they are bound to meet again.

It also while Tristan and Isolde are spending their last moments or at least those in the world we know that Isolde's soprano voice is heard singing "Liebestod" (love is dead). Isolde, ever a lovely lady of passion with bright hair a crimson, flowing down the length of her body and with sadness to heighten her beauty even beyond what we had seen; sings this haunting melody of love. It being as if she is saying that to this is what their love has led her and Tristan to and as she starts to slowly die with Tristan, the music increases in tension of romance and sacrifice to love. It not even being clear what exactly is causing Isolde to die yet it is as if this did not matter. For it might simply be the lack of will to live without Tristan or perhaps simply the will that she in hope might join him wherever it is he is venturing to; in his journey beyond the life which he has known up till this point. "Liebestod" being a most tender moment in any tragic opera which in the typically Wagnerian style holds certain elements of even being triumphant.


Marke, the king (Tristan's uncle who also happens to be Isolde's husband) arrives shortly after Isolde, with peaceful intensions. Marke claiming that he has been made fully aware of the love potion which was used on the two of them yet his arrival only adds to the tragedy. It being Kurwenal, (Tristan's loyal friend) who in his believe that Marke and Melot have come to kill Tristan engages Melot in a fight in which both men are killed. Brangäne, (Isolde's faithful lady in waiting) also having arrived sees Isolde die while Marke grieves the death of his friend as he explains that Brangäne has told him of the love potion. All which making it clear to him that there had never been any intention from their part to betray him and he is not only not opposed to their union but wishes it for them; that they might live in joy yet sees that it is too late. "Warum Isolde, warum mir das?" claiming Marke's sentiments as the opera comes to an end with Isolde's "Liebestod".

In conclusion, I would say that "Tristan And Isolde" offers one of the most dramatic endings in tragic opera in which again we see that it was just a matter of timing that made this ending sad which did not necessarily have to be as such.
 

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Firstly Liebestod isnt really translated to 'love is dead', but is rather a noun meaning 'Lovedeath'. A death that is also a love.

While it is tragic for the other characters, and one thinks of the possibility of a happy married life for the protagonists, their death also has some elements of happiness. If we think back to act 2 they are discussing leaving the world and being together in blissful love forever. I therefore see their death in Act 3 as a necessary transcendence.
 

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Well I don’t see a big difference between one translation and the next yet I do see your point. I also see certain happiness in the end for like you said they did want to enter another world and this was their only way to go about it. In fact this ending reminding me of the Flying Dutchman where despite the Dutchman and Senta dying in a way end up together.
 
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