tristan you fool! (insert own name freely)
let's face it. wagner was a mad man. a decandent mad man. not only he required the finest things in life (multiple silk pants and jackets, carpets deep enough to cover ankles, the rooms sweltering hot and curtains drawn so that he would be comfortable enough to compose), he extended his dear 'wishes' for the great arts in all ways possible- new instruments, a theater, someone else's wife, you name it. (it's also hilarious to note the von bulow just gave up his lady to wagner, not even an attempt for a real fight. hmm. really. is that a compliment for wagner or von bulow?)
but the point of differentiation (in comparison to the usual lines of men and women with enormous amount of power and wealth who rolled in gold) is that he actually managed to create a complete world beyond the norms of the nineteenth century. or the real life in general, including my own time, year 2009. mad scale operas. the opening prelude of the der ring des nibelungen: das rhinegold sill gives me creeps. massive. huge. if you think you never have heard it, think again. it was also featured in one of my favorite movies, nosferatu. (so im oldschool). just about appropriate to evoke the titanic world of the edda and tutonic mythology.
every year, selected number of very wealthy and fanatical people will gather at the little town of bayreuth and sit day after day until their butts are calloused and sore, for the manic presentation of the legend of legends. i say this without the need to justify simply because the fact that this festival in such format/context for so long is legend itself. woodstock? bonnaroo? gladstonbury? donauinsel? go grow up, drop your balls then come back and talk. it a myth that is still alive. the wagner saga.
however, my favorite always have been tristan and isolde. the story of tristan and isolde predates the arthurian sagas, and ever since its first apparence in 12h century, this particular sticky story have been told and retold, with many variations, all human and desperate. the two standard forms of this story is by thomas of britain and beroul, drawing from the old celtic romance. the prose tristan (c. 1240, possibly the result of three different authors) is the first version that deviates from the previous two, and this is what became the standard reference for the medieval model of tristan/isolde, thanks to sir thomas malory who incorporated it into the younger versions(ya, the dude who wrote le morte d'arthur in 1469ish). i mean the triangle of guinevive-arthur-lancelot had to come from somewheres. well, here it is: tristan-iseult-mark.
anyways.to discuss the actual legend itself would take well, lifetime's work so let's skip to the point that makes monkey nutters. it's the love-death potion. this potion idea is a very common thing isnt it- another blatantly obvious example would be that of romeo and juliet. the idiot lovers. but we love them anyhow. (i have no shame to admit that romeo+juliet of 1996 still is one of my favorites anyhows. for me, it is a quite a summary of my reception of mid 1990s- music, scenes, whatevers).
anyhow, when you look at the opera synopsis, it makes no sense. so lets add some stuff to make it all nicer to understand, shall we? tristan is your typical knight. tristan belongs to a country, in this case, cornwell. as a grown man, tristan goes to battles and stuff, and kills this irish man morholt. but he is also injured during the battle and he's gonna die. so we fid this miracle worker named iseult, who, alas, is the lover of now dead morholt and the lady of irish court. tristan takes a fake name and iseult heals the boy, then in full health, he fleds.
a bit later, tristan returns to ireland to claim iseult for his old uncle mark as the kingdom of cornwell seemed to be doing well (over the irish anyways). and he does. the lady's pissed, but she must go marry an old man. so she goes. now she's even double pissed that her escort is the man who she saved. life sucks.
the scene takes place on the ship, tristan is escorting iseult to his uncle, king mark as the tribute/prize and the old king mark is marry the girl. then iseult gets into a quarrel with tristan. see, this gets complicated: the girl is being shipped to an old geezer she doesnt even care for (actually quite despises), by a man who she saved his life from a deadly wound, and who also have killed her lover. wtfuck. angry, she asks her nurse for a death potion and demand tristan to be a man and drink it, as he owes her anyways. go girl. then decided to also take some for herself as tristan took some. then there are many versions to explain what really happened, but the simple truth is that it wasnt poison.
the most common explanation is that the nurse decided that death is not appropriate, so instead gives her the love potion (which apparently was supposed to be shared between iseult and old king mark, given by iseult's mom, hoping that it would work to keep her insanely devoted to otherwise hopeless marriage). so now they are in love. and the rest is history. typical love triangle, resulting in death all around. gosh medieval time was a grim time. you thought they could have a little more dram and drown in sorrows or something. another funny thing is in the courtly version, the potion is supposed last lifetime, and in common version, it wanes after three years. that really made me laugh.
anyways. this idea of love-death potion is funny. i mean the nurse could have made numerous other potions- potion of 'forgetfulness,' 'silliness,' 'lack-of-moral-less,' 'turn-your-anger-to-flowers' would have all worked. but no, it had to be a love potion eh. this love-death relationship is perhaps one of the oldest idea, certainly biologically anyways. as species, we are born, procreate and die. each one of us are product of some sort of love (whichever form it may be) and are destined for death. one condition almost garantees the other.
and there is nothing like love to poison otherwise sane persons. look at the mad ramblings when you first fell in love in your teens. the first real pain, sharp fang as the first love broke off. left you dead did it? ones who doesnt have it will go to distances to find it, ones whove tasted it cannot forget it. ones ho have it guards it with their life. it's primal. simple. and true. physical. mental. all these nonsense business about legalizing same-sex union, marriage and divorce businesses, courtships, valentine days madness, sleepless nights, inapproriate tears, screams, punching and kicking in bars, movies, books, people, lives, it's all about love and death.
like any potent poison, it also transcends, heals, changes. love does that for people. and for me, tristan/iseult is one hell of a stupidly mad story about something tha is so human (almost as stupid as dumb romeo and juliet. only if they waited for a bit eh, we are not even talking days, just an hour or so) and it being one of the oldest stories of the western civilization and being casted by one of the most grandious man in already decadent nineteenth century, it finally did me in couple years ago. it's everything hopeless in the most practical sense. give me love or death or both. urrr. give me something, just dont let me hang empthy handed- that's what feel.
and being im-too-cool-to-care kid, i always had myriads of reasons why i like tristan/iseult a la wagner. the tristan chords. arias. sets. whatevers. now that im really unable to keep the icy side (thanks mr salamander. you ruined my cool image, haha), i am now able to state my real reason for such fondness for such madness. it's the ultimate, over-the-top romanticism. no gods are required and no nations need be involved. it's naked humanism. pretentions and social niceties now have been burned away by fire, i can now stand on my own reason: i may be, ahem, okay, well, here it is, i am a foolish romantic. there.
well, for the rest of the days that i have to spend counting on, and for rest of us who are in yearning for the right moment to fall into such foolery (which will consumate one's entire being)(also funny that the word consumate is usually associated with relation to a relationship/marriage, while the word simply states 'having experience; having knowledge or skill from observation or participation'), here's something to chew on. just keep passing the time. till jumping onto the kiln.