Liebestod, and the doomed Tristan and Isolde-in gratitude

This past Saturday evening we had dinner with our dear talented  friends, the  designer Jonathan Fong and his partner the playwright Greg Phillips.

As is so often the case with these fine gentleman they came bearing gifts, in this case a novel  The Metropolis Case by Matthew Gallaway. The novel is centered upon Wagner’s opera Tristan and Isolde; my thoughtful friends knowing of our love for opera, Wagner in particular, thought it would make a fine gift.

It is indeed, thank you fellows.

Always in search for a topic to explore, I found myself revisiting this opera, the Liebestod of course in particular.

John William Waterhouse

Tristan and Isolde with the Potion


private collection

Having in my youth read the Loomis edition of Medieval Romances I was as hooked as dear Ludwig II on the legend of our doomed lovers. It was not until my young adulthood that I finally heard the Liebestod. Like those before me I too fell under its spell.

The dog-eared volume that started my romance.

Edmund Blair Leighton

Tristan and Isolde


Herbert James Draper

Tristan and Isolde


A very curious window, by an unknown artist, the doomed lovers portrayed by Lillie Langtry and the future Edward VII, 1890.

Of course one cannot think of the Tristan-Isolde myth without thinking of Ludwig II and his dream castle Neuschwanstein. Often disparaged as a pastiche chock-a-block with second rate decorative paintings and overblown mock Medieval decor;  from my perspective, it is amazing.

Just as my heart sings at the rich allegory so dear to William Burges, Ludwig’s medievalism speaks to my soul. The decorative panels by the overworked and under-rated artist August Spiess of particular interest. 

August Spiess

Tristan and Isolde




Typical of the thorough attention to detail is this incredible Tristan and Isolde stove found in Ludwig’s bedroom.

Ceramic Stove with Carvings

Bedroom -Neuschwanstein


I frankly cannot resist popping in this image of the well known Burges “fire-castle” found at Cardiff Castle.

William Burges

Cardiff Castle, Cardiff Wales

renovated 1868

It was with great difficulty that Wagner’s poem finally found its way to the stage.

Ludwig II through his devotion, purse and mad infatuation for  his “Holy One” was finally able to swoon in solitary royal splendor to the Liebestod on July 10th 1865.

Although I  of course do not have a recording from that premier, in which Malvina Schnorr was Isolde; I offer the divine Deborah Voigt.

The following performance is quite moving and poetic-stunning.

Malvina Schnorr von Carolsfeld

b. 7th December 1825

d. 8th February 1904

Following opening night a limp Ludwig gushed to his beloved Richard:

“Unique One! Holy One!

How glorious!- Perfect. So full of rapture!… To drown…to sink down- unconscious- supreme joy.

Divine work!”

(I could not have expressed my sentiments more eloquently, though perhaps I would have added a few more exclamation points.)

The tenor,who personified Tristan to Wagner and to Ludwig, tragically died after only four performance of the roles he and his wife Malvina created.

Ludwig Scnorr von Carolsfeld was only 29 when he died. 

His final words:

” Farewell, Siegried! Console my Richard!”

Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld

b. 2nd July 1836

d. 21st July 1865

Recquiscat in Pace

I of course adore Voigt,

I adore Jane Eaglen,

but my heart will always remain true to Jessye, she is my Isolde.

Thank you Ludwig

M. Jacob

Ludwig II


And of course thank you oh Unique One, oh Holy One

Richard Wagner ca. 1868

Until next time,

 take care,

Babylon Baroque

8 Responses to “Liebestod, and the doomed Tristan and Isolde-in gratitude”

  1. Wow, what an amazing post!

    I saw a production of Tristan und Isolde at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, starring Ms. Voigt and Ben Heppner, it was one of the most transcendent experiences of my life. Just thinking about it gives me shivers!

  2. babylonbaroque Says:

    Oh I envy that,
    Heppner being a favorite as is Voigt ,
    So silly, We attended a recital Heppner was giving in Pittsburgh, like a teenage fan I asked him to sign the disc. I of course, still have the disc of course.

  3. You are definitely going to have to come to Wales one day, if only to see the extraordinary interiors of Cardiff Castle by Burgess. You will be in seventh heaven!

  4. babylonbaroque Says:

    Hello Clive,
    I am so eager to see Wales, particularly Cardiff, i promise to ring you up when I do.
    Take care,

  5. Thanks for that. The Waterhouse and the Burges were gorgeous of course, the Waterhouse in particular.

  6. babylonbaroque Says:

    Thank you John, good to hear from you.
    Waterhouse is a treasure, an early love.
    Take care,

  7. mark patterson Says:

    half german,my grandmother was juliard trained opera singer and contra alto wagner purist,sang in san francisco opera for years,before world war german side,wilky/hesse,6th generation arizona native,been to germany twice,plan to move to wiesbaden soon,so tired of the heat,drought.WHEN I FIRST STEPPED ON GERMAN SOIL,RHINELAND,I SNUCK ROUND THE COACH(AND KISSED THE GROUND),IT IS TRUE,WE GERMANS ARE BONDED,AND THAT IS GOOD,AND DANGEROUS.i loved my rock,jefferson airplane,sixties psychedelic ,beatles,always WORSHIPED PAUL HINDEMITH,AND WAGNER,MOSTLY ALL GERMAN MUSIC,IT HOLDS A POSSESION TO US,WAGNER IS THE “”THE”” MODERN COMPOSER OF ALL TIME,liebestod still shatters me,die gotterdammerung,is unearthly,wagner is king.hindemith,all my art is german expressionism,since childhood been this way,please understand we germans on german soil,at least my being came alive,they’re strange,smart,preocupied and magical,they are like DEVIL/ANGEL people,but there is nothing like germany,anywhere,a state of mind,germans create beauty,and destruction,as if shiva and brahma are bonded.they and only they could have(thank god not),taken over the world,as they BOND,like no other,strange to describe to the world,but history proved the danger,AND THIS IS PREJUDICED,AND ARROGANT,BUT THERE IS NO MUSIC,OR OPERA THAT COMPARES,OR EVEN RESEMBLES WAGNER,IMAGINE A MARIAH CARRY AND HER “EIGHT OCTAVES,”EVEN SINGING A FEW LINES OF “LIEBESTOD”,NO MODERN SINGER I KNOW OF COULD DO A WAGNER SONG,IT TAKES POWER,AND SUCH grandmother would sing “evening star””,or pilgrims march and i’d burst into tears,OF ECSTACY,never could i ,or others be so moved by italian,or other opera,WAGNER WAS A COSMOS,UNIVERSE,PERIOD!! NO OTHER OPERA COMPARES,PERIOD!!

    • babylonbaroque Says:

      I am so happy for you, that at last you are returning to your spiritual home. We all wish for that.
      Wishing you the best,

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