"Liebestod" ([ˈliːbəsˌtoːt] German for "love death") is the title of the final, dramatic music from the 1859 opera Tristan und Isolde by Richard Wagner. When used as a literary term, liebestod (from German Liebe, love and Tod, death) refers to the theme of erotic death or "love death" meaning the two lovers' consummation of their love in death or after death. Other two-sided examples include Pyramus and Thisbe, Romeo and Juliet, and to some degree Wuthering Heights. One-sided examples are Porphyria's Lover and The Sorrows of Young Werther. The joint suicide of Heinrich von Kleist and lover Henriette Vogel is often associated with the Liebestod theme.
The aria is the climactic end of the opera as Isolde sings over Tristan's dead body.
Mild und leise
Softly and gently
In popular culture
- "Leibstod, Leibstod, Leibstod" is the choral refrain of the song "Love You Came to Me" from the 1969 Off Broadway musical The Last Sweet Days of Isaac, by Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford. The song is sung by a man and woman (Austin Pendleton and Fredericka Weber) stuck in an elevator, as they prepare to make love, believing that they will soon die. The play was performed at the Eastside Playhouse in the Upper East Side of Manhattan for 485 performances, and received three Obie Awards (Best Musical, Pendleton and Weber), the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical, and a Theatre World Award for Weber.
- Mild und leise is also the title of an 18-minute synthesized composition by Paul Lansky, made in 1973 on an IBM 360 mainframe. Parts of it became the foundation for Radiohead's song "Idioteque".
- Bronfen, Elisabeth, Liebestod und Femme fatale. Der Austausch sozialer Energien zwischen Oper, Literatur und Film, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 2004. ISBN 3-518-12229-0
- "Isolde's Liebestod", act 3, complete score and transcriptions: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project
- Full text and some performances