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History Of Music:
George Frederic Handel
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Ludwig Van Beethoven
The Romantic Composers
Development Of The Piano
Famous Operas And Their Composers
Wagner And His Music Dramas
Tristan And Isolde
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
This has been called the "Romeo and Juliet of music," and its music is universally considered the most perfect ever written by this composer. It is based upon an old Celtic legend and was written when Wagner was engaged in writing his colossal work "The Ring of the Nibelung." The drama opens on board the ship in which Tristan, a Cornish knight, is taking Isolde to be the unwilling bride of his uncle, the King of Cornwall. Isolde, however, loves Tristan, but he has sworn faith to his uncle and holds himself aloof from her. In despair and grief, Isolde resolves to poison herself and Tristan, and prepares a poisonous draught. But her maid has guessed her intentions and secretly changes the liquid for a love potion, and when they drink it they are overcome with the passion of their love. When the ship lands they are met in great state, but are entirely oblivious to their surroundings.
The second act shows the wedding of Isolde to King Mark, but the power of the love draught is still strong upon her, and after the king has left to go out upon a night hunt, she holds a secret interview with Tristan, whose sense of honor has been deadened by the same potion. It is here that the beautiful love music is heard, an impassioned dialogue between the two. Finally they are betrayed by Melot, the supposed friend of Tristan, and the King is greatly grieved at his nephew's perfidy. Tristan offers no explanation, but provokes Melot to a duel and is mortally wounded.
The third act opens in Tristan's home in Brittany, where Kurvenal has carried his master to restore him to health. Isolde, who has a magic power in healing wounds, has been sent for, but her ship is delayed. When at last it is sighted, Tristan, in delirious joy, tears the bandage from his wounds and Isolde arrives in time to catch him in her arms as he expires. While she is bewailing her loss, a second vessel is seen approaching, bearing the King and his train. He has come to pardon the lovers, but Kurvenal mistakes his mission and runs his sword through Melot's heart and, himself fatally wounded, falls dead at his master's feet. Isolde, insane with grief, in an exquisite song suggestive of the love themes of their former duet, pours out a passionate farewell to her lover, and falls on his body, dead.