Tristan and Isolde

Isolde By Aubrey Beardsley 1895

Tristan and Isolde the opera.

Influence of Schopenhauer on Tristan und IsoldeWagner’s friend Georg Herwegh introduced him in late 1854 to the work of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer.[18] The composer was immediately struck by the philosophical ideas to be found in “Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung” (The World as Will and Representation), and the similarities between the two men’s world-views became clear.

Man, according to Schopenhauer, is driven by continued, unachievable desires, and the gulf between our desires and the possibility of achieving them leads to misery while the world is a representation of an unknowable reality. Our representation of the world (which is false) is Phenomenon, while the unknowable reality is Noumenon: concepts originally posited by Kant. Schopenhauer’s influence on Tristan und Isolde is most evident in the second and third acts. The second act, in which the lovers meet, and the third act, during which Tristan longs for release from the passions that torment him, have often proved puzzling to opera-goers unfamiliar with Schopenhauer’s work.

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