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"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 (de) is often associated with the Liebestod theme.

Liebestod motif

The aria is the climactic end of the opera as Isolde sings over Tristan's dead body.

Partial text[edit]

Mild und leise
wie er lächelt,
wie das Auge
hold er öffnet
—seht ihr's, Freunde?
Seht ihr's nicht?
Immer lichter
wie er leuchtet,
hoch sich hebt?
Seht ihr's nicht?

versinken, –
unbewusst, –
höchste Lust!

Softly and gently
how he smiles,
how his eyes
fondly open
—do you see, friends?
do you not see?
how he shines
ever brighter.
rising higher
Do you not see?

[...and ends...]

to drown,
to founder –
unconscious –
utmost bliss!

In popular culture[edit]

  • "Liebestod, Liebestod, Liebestod" is the choral refrain of the song "Love, You Came to Me"[citation needed] 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 stuck in an elevator, as they prepare to make love, believing that they will soon die.[1]
  • Mild und leise is also the title of an 18-minute synthesized composition by Paul Lansky, made in 1973 on an IBM 360 mainframe and based on harmonic inversions of the Tristan chord, which was made famous by Wagner's opera. Parts of it became the foundation for Radiohead's song "Idioteque". [2]
  • Liebestod is one of the scenes in the 1987 film Aria, featuring a young man (James Mathers) and woman (Bridget Fonda in her first credited film role) who drive to Las Vegas to have sex and then commit suicide together.
  • In "Demimonde," episode 4 of season 1 of Showtime's Penny Dreadful, Dorian Gray plays this on a gramophone for his guest Ethan Chandler, telling him that it is the only cylinder in his collection that he is not yet bored of.



  1. ^ Cryer, Gretchen (book and lyrics) and Ford, Nancy (music). The Last Sweet Days of Isaac. New York; Samuel French, 1969.
  2. ^


External links[edit]