When Charles Baudelaire published his essay "Les Paradis artificiels" in 1860, he was concerned at first only with a critical confrontation with the (already) fashionable recreational drugs hashish and opium. By demarcating hallucinogenic intoxication from the creative "ecstasy" of artistic inspiration, however, Baudelaire at the same time formulated one of the creeds of the 19th century: the "artificial paradises" of the fantasy of counter-worlds as a means of standing up to the banality of the actual world.
The myth of Tannhäuser in its artistic implementation by Richard Wagner became the pristine image and quintessence of this "ecstatic" artistry - again thanks to Baudelaire, who gave the Parisian premiere of the work an enthusiastic review: anyone who lingered in the "artificial paradise" of the Venusberg was lost to the "intact" illusory world of the ritualized minstrelsy of the Minnesänger and would necessarily, like a drug addict, eventually degenerate as a result both of his surfeit of intoxication and of the mendacity of reality.
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