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Those were not my words, but I used them a week or two ago to describe to a friend my reaction to hearing Das Rheingold again (this making the third time): inwardly squealing like a teenaged girl. And they were even more apropos yesterday, at the end of Die Walküre. It seems I have become a Wagner enthusiast. 

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while may remember that back in 2012 I saw the Metropolitan Opera production of The Ring in a local theater. That was six years after my first attempt to get to know the work; you can read about that here. Also in 2006, I said "...I'm coming to like the music more and more, and Wagner as a visionary artist/prophet less and less. The Ring is clearly a stupendous achievement, but there's something rotten at the core of it."

Here are my 2012 reports: Rheingold, Walküre, Siegfried, and I'll just quote my one-line review of Götterdämmerung: "At just under five hours, it seemed a little too short." These notes don't amount to much, but they are decidedly more positive. I summed up my thoughts at the time in this post: Wagner: The State of the Question. Suffice to say that I was more positive then than I had been in 2006, but still had some major reservations.

This time around I have even fewer reservations. I've completely changed my mind about the "something rotten." Well, maybe not completely. But substantially. There's something rotten in most of 19th century romanticism, and I don't know that Wagner's particular failings were that much worse than those of some others. One of the things that produced the "something rotten" comment was no doubt the incestuous relationship of Siegmund and Sieglinde. I'm seeing it in a very different light now--not the relationship itself, which of course is as wrong as it ever was--but its significance in the context of the entire drama. I have a good many new thoughts about that (the entire drama) but they're scattered and only half-formed as yet. They may turn into some kind of longer piece in time. Or maybe not. If they do, the title will be something like "Wagner's Unpopular Virtues." I'd need to read some Wagner criticism first, though.

At any rate I'm eager to hear the remaining two operas now, though it's probably going to be a few weeks before I do. Coincidentally, I listened to an audio version of one of Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse detective novels a week or so ago. (I had to drive up and down the state of Alabama twice in one week--long story--a total of 1400 or so miles, and listened to two audiobooks in the process.) From it I learned that Siegfried is Morse's least favorite of the Ring. It will be interesting to see whether I agree.


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This post made me think of a piece at First Things you might like to read: "Wagner’s Incestuous Narcissism"

I think I've seen that before. Maybe somebody posted it in one of the previous Wagner discussions. Anyway, I don't think he's wrong, but I don't think he's completely right, either. In a nutshell, I think he understates the extent to which these disordered loves are a source of disaster.

Just reading this makes we want to listen to The Ring again! I haven't heard it in a few years. Musically, it is awesome. Dramatically, I admit I'm not so sure.

I tend to get a little impatient with those who disapprove of Wagner on philosophical grounds, because the interpretation of the Ring has never seemed straightforward to me, and because I think the music is the main thing. But (I say to myself) Wagner himself was trying to make an integrated work of art, and probably wouldn't approve of my playing down the meaning of his drama. So I'm still trying to figure out what I think of it.

Another handicap is that, should I ever have time to listen to a Wagner opera, I feel much more inclined to "Tristan" or "Parsifal"!

I haven't heard Parsifal yet but I'm looking forward to it. Not till after the Ring though. I only recently heard Tristan for the first time, and I thought it was pretty great. Though it too is pretty unhealthy in some ways.

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