Thursday, April 19, 2012

Where the Ring Begins

The story is told of a reading at a hotel in Switzerland that went on for hours as Richard Wagner attempted to acquaint his friends and supporters with an idea drawing on Norse and German mythology, it was called Siegfried's Death .
At the end of the marathon recitation the feedback began.The general consensus was that it was all very interesting, but finally very confusing. It was, they sadly reported too vague and tenuous. It was impossible to tell how Wagner got from point A to point B. Who are all these people and gods, how did they meet, interact and develop, not to mention this sad affair and cataclysmic end? It would be necessary they all agreed well, fill in the blanks.
Musicologists and historians seem to agree that the earliest sketches and ideas for the monumental Ring date from as early as 1850. Siegfried would not reach (the then non-existent) Bayreuth Festspielhaus for its' première until 1876. The quarter century interval would be a methodical and titanic creation of the complete "back-story". As Thomas Mann said what distinguished the nineteenth century was it's uniting of the epic and the detailed. Like War and Peace, the series novels of Balzac and Zola and the London canvas of Dickens the Ring is music's attempt to offer the whole story of life, death, creation, love and everything in between. In a sense, as Jacques Barzun points out, Darwin and Wagner had very much in common, to present a totalized vision of life and the world.
Beginning with an orphan who does not know his father and whose mother died in childbirth he is a 'wild child '. Brought up in the forest by an unscrupulous stepfather, Mime, who hopes to use him to acquire a great fortune guarded by a man - dragon. Then he is to be poisoned. After forging the fragments of a sword (his only patrimony) to the music in which we glimpse his superhuman potential he before embarks on a search for love and knowledge :
                      Nothung! Nothung ! Neidliches Schwert !
                             Was mustest du zerspringer ?
Nothung ! Nothung! Coveted Sword!
Why did you have to break?
I am fusing the splinters in the crucible
He will kill the dragon, free himself from servitude breach an impassible wall of fire, acquire a magical ring and discover the mystery of love from a woman who will prophetically tell him that, "I have loved you before you were born !"
Tune in this Saturday at noon for the Metropolitan Opera's new production of Wagner's Siegfried at noon, here on KPAC and KTXI.                                                                               
by Ron Moore

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