Transformational Ecstasy: Neptunian Bliss Embodied by Jessye Norman’s Performance of Wagner’s “Liebestod”

Ertrinken. Versinken.   Unbewusst. Hochste Lust!”
”To drown.  To sink
Unconscious.  O Greatest Bliss!”
Final words of both the character of Isolde and the climactic ending of Richard Wagner’s Neptunian masterpiece, “Tristan und Isoolde”

One would be extremely hard pressed to find an individualized artwork or item deemed a masterpiece that fulfills a  large number of artistic and societal “cultural bullseyes” all at once.  As with anything considered to be a “work of art”, it must be weighed against the age and times from which it came, and can neither be dissociated from its period of creation nor be seen being in any way “indistinct” by not reflecting the styles, fad or fashions of its birthtime.  With all of those cultural rules still in mind, consider the year 1846.  Not only were society’s trends drastically changing, the collective mindset of humanity was desperately desiring to stay in synch with the blinding mercurial speed of changing cultural norms of that time.  That, and it also must be taken into consideration that not only was humanity’s awareness greatly changing in regards to the trends and fads which were collectively popular in the world bbut was also drastically expanding as well.  In 1846, what the world of Man assuned were the furthest reaches of the Universe had to abruptly be redone considering the denizens of Earth had discovered the 2nd furthest planet orbiting our Sun and the 2nd furthest planet in our known Solar System.  1846 changed Man’s working knowledge of the Universe with the discovery of the heavenly body otherwise called the “Watery Planet”, mighty Neptune.

Since the year 1781, when the gas giant with the most bizarre of planetary orbitals, Uranus, was discovered by the German born British astronomer William Hirschel, it was universally assumed nothing could possibly exist that lay beyond Uranus’ultra- quirky orbital path.  Imagine the civilized world’sstupefied sense of shock when the residents of Earth were informed that a feavenly body not only existed beyond Uranus’ orbit but was  17 times greater than the overall mass of planet Earth  and was believed to be the densest object throughout all the Universe!  Discovered by the French mathematician and physicist, Urbaine Le Verrier ,the Watery Planet’s existence and exact location in space were the first to be discovered by “intangible” or dare it be said, “unrealistically Neptunian” means – Monsieur :LeVerrier’s brilliantly calculated mathematical deductions.

Urbaine Le Verrier, undisputed discoverer of the planet Neptune
Urbain Jean Joseph Le Verrier: Predictions Leading to Discovery |  SpringerLink

Neptune’s rightful discoverer is fiercely debated right through to the present day.  But among the French,German, and British scientific contenders, there is no argument- the man who  discovered the 2nd furthest planet from the Sun is the French mathematician and physicist – Urbaine Le Verrier

As was earlier mentioned, soon after its existence was made known to we Earthlings, one of the most concentrated periods occurred during the evolution of the human race, where countless works of the most sublime art were created in nearly every known art form and mode of ceativity known to humanity. This astrologically was due to Neptune’s powerful energies being their most potent over Mankind as a result from the Watery Planet transiting through the sign it naturally rules over, Pisces, right after the year it was discovered in 1846 until 1861.This range of years is better known by its historical categorization known as The Romantic Age.

Tt was during the Romantic Age that the world saw the creation of many of the greatest examples of what society calls “High Art” ever made that are still believed to be the best of the best right through to the present day Stellar and incomparable works were formulated in nearly every artistic venue: Poetry, Painting, Sculpture. and every genre of Music imaginable One of the greatest of these musical creations of Neptunian art is the operatic masterpiece by the German Romantic composer, Richard Wagner, entitled “Tristan und Isolde”.

The Neptunian Pull of “Tristan”

In my article about the Romantic Age entitled “The Romantic Age: When Neptune Served as Mankind’s Muse” I had this to say about “Tristan und Isolde”(hereby abbreviated as T&I and the influence of Neptune and its ensuing Romantic Age:

Many of the Romantic greats turned to the past as a way of expressing their emotional core selves, with many looking back to the Middle Ages, a time rife with both magic and uncertainty. This most definitely was the case for German composer Richard Wagner when he wrote his operatic masterpiece “Tristan und Isolde” in 1857.

T&I is for the most part “Romeo & Juliet” but with a whole lot of magic thrown in for extra tragic effect.  Rather than the action occurring within fair Verona’s walls, a more apropos locale for this piece would be Hogwart’s School of Wizardry from Harry Potter.

T&I, like R&J, are star crossed lovers, the son and daughter of two warring families in ancient Ireland. Whereas Friar Lawrence’s magic potions in R&J are  based on the monk’s knowledge of herbs, flowers, and plants, the foundation of T&I is thoroughly of a manipulative magic nature.  The Knight and Maiden unknowingly drink a powerful love potion and with their first gaze of each other, fall hopelessly and helplessly in a state of undying heavenly love.

And when one is in a state of rapturous joy from being blissfully in love and that emotional ecstasy is equally reciprocated – there’s going to be Hell to pay.  The two lovers become separated and with Tristan being that big Knight of a softie that he now magically is, cannot possibly see any reason to continue living if Isolde is nowhere within 500 ft. of his person. His only alternative is to stab himself in the heart. While in the process of shredding his love organ to bits, who should pay a surprise visit and come upon the gallant knight writhing in self inflicted misery but Isolde, herself!

Isolde is reunited with her Love of Loves …..only to have him expire in her arms.

Knowing that life is now futile without her Tristan, the Irish heroine whips up a powerful potion of her own and proceeds to down every poisonous drop of the deadly draught.

As her physical self sinks beneath the poison’s heavy grip, Isolde’s  spiritual self rises with inspiration, knowing she will be free of this veil of tears and soon to be reunited once more with her valiant Knight through the complete immersion of Death.

The last musical segment of the opera “Tristan und Isolde” is the “Liebestod”, in English “The Death of Love“, an aria Isolde sings as she dies in a state of transfixed ecstasy. The father of the modern full scale orchestra, Gemini Richard Wagner, begins the Liebestod with barely a whisper, Isolde sings the opening words with a hushed tone of acceptance, “Mild und Leise” , “Mildly and Quietly”. As Isolde’s consciousness begins to swoon, Wagner’s lush music expands into a sweeping sea of sound, completely surrounding the medieval maiden as she takes her last breath.

The opening lines of this article are the final words exclaimed by Isolde as she is washed away into the “utmost bliss” of unconsciousness, surrendering herself completely to the Neptunian “other”, while we the audience are swept out to the sea of the sublime with the closing chords which end Wagner’s opus of Romantic genius.

The video version of the “Liebestod” which can be viewed below is performed by the great Jessye Norman, a soprano who happens to be born under the mutable sign of Virgo. In other words, the piece is sung by a mutable signed artist interpreting the Neptunian influenced art of a mutable signed master of music. Ms. Norman’s interpretation of Isolde is Neptunian in every way. The soprano’s face expresses total and absolute transcendant bliss as her physical self fully dissolves into “the Other”of oblivion with the final words “Unbewusst, Hochste Lust”. (7:21 – 7:40 of video)

Doesn’t get more Neptunian than that…….or does it?

A video of operatic soprano Jessye Norman’s remarkable 1989 performance of Wagner’s “Liebestod” with the New York Philharmonic, Zubin Mehta conducts:

As difficult as it is to imagine, Jessye Norman is able to capture the concept of “Ecstasy” on her face as she completes the opera after singing the words “Hochste Lust”. Her version of Isolde’s Neptunian sense of unbridled joy is practically palpable!

Miss Norman’s artistry possesed the power to embody the elusive mystery which laid behind Neptune and its magical Romantic Age. Her voice had the ability to transform the divine impossibility of Neptunian bliss associated with this musical masterpiece and made it an actual mortal reality!

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