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Is The ‘Ring’ a shadow of the Trump presidency?

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday 20 February 2017 | 2:39:00 am

Not a real Tweet. Unsure what his thoughts on Wagner might be

In this insightful essay, Richard Bammer finds reflections of todays political events in Der Ring des Nibelungen. Whatever your political views - if you have any - this is an interesting exploration of the Ring, from a staff reporter on a small local newspaper in Vacaville, California that could be easily overlooked. Well worth reading and a writer for Wagnerians to keep an eye on. 

By finding humanity through myth, it is Wagner’s metaphor for society and social decay that still speaks to our own times, including the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, animus toward refugees, religious intolerance, bigotry expressed by prominent national leaders, the consequences of the global economy, the ignoring of science and environmental destruction, and the rise of far-right political parties in democracies across the globe.
In Richard Wagner’s “Der Ring des Nibelungen,” perhaps the single greatest operatic work of all time, he created not only 15 hours of revolutionary 19th-century music but also — using Norse myths and medieval Germanic poetry — a story rich in themes of greed, desire, corruption and politics, the destruction of nature, the consequences of an unbridled pursuit of power, and the redemptive qualities of a love that ultimately triumphs over all.
Mark Twain once said, “Wagner’s music is not as bad as it sounds.” I’m not sure the great 19th-century American author of “Huckleberry Finn” realized it at the time, but there is a sense of sex and sexuality in all of the German composer’s music, and his is a sound — expressed in “leitmotifs,” or defining themes — that relates to and stirs the deepest human emotions.

When “The Ring” (as it’s called for short) begins, a low E-flat rumbles from the sonic depths and sets the entire work’s tone, suggesting the birth of the universe, and, some minutes later, ushers in the first scene: Rhinemaidens frolicking (often in the nude, depending on a directors’ staging) in the Rhine River and puts into motion the first of four operas in a cycle, “Das Rheingold.”

Over the course of two hours in that opera, the cycle’s prelude, and through three more, each nearly five hours long, we are introduced to giants, dragons, gods, heroes and heroines, with characters clashing over fidelity and honor, and struggling for control of the ring, which grants its bearer absolute power.
By finding humanity through myth, it is Wagner’s metaphor for society and social decay that still speaks to our own times
The other operas in the cycle are “Die Walkure,” which boasts the hit “The Ride of the Valkyries” (music featured in the film “Apocalypse Now”), a story in which we meet the warrior-maiden Brunnhilde, the heroine of “The Ring”; “Siegfried,” about a defiant, boastful and arrogant young hero and title character, who wins the ring and falls in love with Brunnhilde; and “Gotterdammerung” (The Twilight of the Gods), which brings the story to a tragic conclusion, recalling a prophecy in “Das Rheingold” as the Rheinmaidens recover the ring and flames consume their celestial fortress, Valhalla.

By finding humanity through myth, it is Wagner’s metaphor for society and social decay that still speaks to our own times, including the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, animus toward refugees, religious intolerance, bigotry expressed by prominent national leaders, the consequences of the global economy, the ignoring of science and environmental destruction, and the rise of far-right political parties in democracies across the globe. (Consider that Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw viewed “The Ring” as socialist commentary on the evils of capitalism.)

2:39:00 am | 0 comments | Read More

Dallas Symphony Orchestra To Perform Walkure

In an exciting last season as Dallas Symphony Orchestra's Music Director - to include Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Bruckner's Eighth and Mahler's Second and Fifth symphonies - Jaap van Zweden will conduct a complete, unstaged, version of Die Walkure.

The production will mark Jaap van Zweden's last season as musical director and the Dallas Symphony Chorus' 40th anniversary year,

Performers and dates follow: 

MAY 18 + 20 | 2018
MICHELLE DEYOUNG MEZZO-SOPRANO (DSO Artist-in-Residence) (Sieglinde)

1:51:00 am | 0 comments | Read More

Watch Now: Walkure (Highlights) Miami Wagner Institute

Miami Wagner Institute Debut

July 16th, 2016- New World Center

Michael Rossi- Artistic Director
Christine Goerke- Program Director/ Brünnhilde
Kathleen Kelly- Principal Coach
Dan Wallace Miller- Director


Christine Goerke- Brünnhilde
Alan Held- Wotan
Sieglinde -Tracy Cox


Gerhilde -Elisabeth Rosenberg
Ortlinde -Rebecca Wilson
Waltraute -Jillian Yemen
Schwertleite -Rehanna Thelwell
Helmwige -Jennifer Root
Seigrune -Stephanie Newman
Grimgerde- Lauren Frick
Roßweiße -Molly Burke

1:25:00 am | 0 comments | Read More

The Catholic,The Actor And Richard Wagner.

For Francis Philips, writing for the Catholic Herald, Simon Callow's new Wagner biography, raises - for most of us well visited -  arguments about Wagner

Reading Stephen Pollard’s article about anti-Semitism and social media in the Telegraph last week gave me a jolt. According to Pollard, figures from the Community Security Trust which monitors anti-Semitic incidents with the police, “show that in 2016 there was a 36% rise in incidents of Jew-hate over the figure for 2015 – and a 29% increase in violent assaults on Jews.”

It gave me a jolt because in my own daily life I never encounter it (though I have read of problems with anti-Semitism within the Labour Party). It seems such a strange and abstract crime, if an ancient one: hating a whole people simply because they come from a particular race or religion.

Interestingly though, I have come across anti-Semitism twice in the comment box when I have blogged: once, when I wrote about the Tridentine Mass and remarked that a Jewish convert who attended the Extraordinary Form had been upset by certain anti-Semitic remarks she had heard; and a second time when I wrote about a book called The Crime and the Silence: confronting the Massacre of Jews in Wartime Poland by Anna Bikont. On both occasions I was taken aback by some of the comments.

Apart from Pollard’s article my thoughts on the subject have been roused by reading Simon Callow’s Being Wagner: The Triumph of the Will (its subtitle eerily echoing Leni Riefenstahl’s notorious film about the dark glamour of the Nazi Party in its early days.) Callow, a lifelong devotee of Wagner’s musical dramas, does not gloss over the more unpleasant features of the composer’s personality – in particular, his virulent anti-Semitism.

Continue Reading
1:06:00 am | 0 comments | Read More

The Arts Strike Back: MET Opera Vs The President

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday 19 February 2017 | 7:54:00 am

Siegfried may not be the only one fighting dragons at the MET
Lost amongest so much media coverage of Donald J Trump's administration, are his plans to close down both the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities. Admittedly, public funding for the arts in the US is already the lowest of any developed country - and some less developed - however, eliminating these two sources of funding, however small that they are, may impact Trump supporters the most: the poor and those in rural communities.

To give an idea of how serious things are, the MET's Peter Gelb warned listeners, midway through this Saturdays live broadcast, .that many of the stations they were listening to would risk severe cuts or even closure, Said Gelb, "I think it’s really important that people be aware of this: The possibility of losing the arts on the radio, losing the arts on television, losing the arts altogether is very real if these cuts were to go through,". At the same time, the St. Louis Symphony sent an email asking its board members to call their elected representatives in the hope of stopping the cuts.

In an interview with the New York Times, Hollywood star Robert Redford, the president and founder of the Sundance Institute, went as far as to say; "“It’s another example of our democracy being threatened. Arts are essential. They describe and critique our society.”

As is often the case with such cuts, it will be those living in poorer, rural communities and smaller towns, who came out in force to vote for Trump, that will suffer the most. As Martin Miller, the executive director of TheatreSquared, said today, "“The N.E.A. has a big impact in the middle of country — even more so, I suspect, than in urban areas where funding is more diversified. Losing the N.E.A. would mean that many smaller, mid-American arts companies couldn’t weather a recession. Losing these companies would mean fewer jobs, a lower quality of life and less local spending in the small towns that need it most.”
7:54:00 am | 0 comments | Read More

Wagner And The Popular Authoritarian Leader

It's difficult to become fascinated with Wagner without becoming equally fascinated with racist, far right authoritarian leaders. Not because Wagner may have been any of these things (as much as some biographers would have us believe) but because of a person who has grown so closely associated with him; Adolf Hitler. And not just Hitler and the Third Reich but similar extremist authoritarian movements; both in the past and the present. I am even more fascinated by how such people come to power - a lifelong one that influenced early academic choices. The most common answer to such a question is that the people that elect them (when commentators admit they so often elected) are simply not the "norm", poorly educated (although there is sometimes truth in this) or that they are "manipulated". Indeed, this excuse is being used now in the US as an explanation for the chaotic presidency - only 8 weeks old - of Donald J Trump. However, the truth is much more complex than this although, sadly, this may not be the place to discuss it any depth.

However, I sat with fascination today watching the recent Trump press conference and then his rally in California. Watching the crowds at the later it was difficult to not be reminded of the ending of the recent film version of Timur Vermes'  comedy novel "Er ist wieder da" (Look Who's Back). If you are unfamiliar, both the book and film imagine that somehow Hitler is transported in time from his last day in the Führerbunker to present day Berlin. Quickly acclimatizing, he uses social and traditional media to rise to power. The film is unusual in that it uses both scripted and unscripted scenes, with its unscripted moments being perhaps the most disturbing. During these Oliver Masucci manages to channel Hitler in the most extraordinary manner. More interesting is how, in Germany of perhaps all places, while in character, so many ordinary Germans agree with him; "If you were him, I would follow you today", says one.

The movie ends with Hitler explaining why he came to power and why he will again.

Boyd van Hoeij of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a poor review, saying that it "... doesn't ... suggest something meaningful about either contemporary German society or whether Hitler's ideas and methods could potentially take root again", He said this in May 2016 - only six months before Trump became the "Leader of the free world"  and only eight months before a poll yesterday found 40% of Americans felt Trump was "doing a good job",.

If you have not seen it I cannot do more than recommend you get it on DVD. If you have access to Netflix it is also available there right now.

If you are still undecided, and are unbothered by "spoilers" - although I  think hardly relevant in this case -  you can watch the "denouncement" in the clip of the final few minutes of the movie below.

By the way, Wagner's music only appears once, and then only by a terrible TV show.
3:27:00 am | 0 comments | Read More

Simon Callow Is Even Less Reliable Than Wagner About Wagner?

It seems that Micheal Tanner finds Simon Callow an even more unreliable Wagner Biographer than Wagner. He has a poor grasp of Schopenhauer also. Our own thoughts will be arriving shortly. 

The dust cover features one of the best-known caricatures of Richard Wagner, his enormous head in this version opened like a boiled egg, with a photograph of Simon Callow either emerging from his skull or sinking into it. The idea is that rather than just writing another book on this over-biographised figure, Callow will let us know what it was like actually to have been him, something he also tried in his one-man show at the Linbury Theatre, Inside Wagner’s Head. Callow tells us that he has been a lifelong Wagnerian, but that only in the last four years has he investigated him as a man, reading the most important biographical and, especially, autobiographical works, together with a fair number of critical studies.

So we have one flamboyant theatrical figure claiming to portray another. Wagner’s narratives of his life — there are many of them — are notoriously unreliable, often with dramatic intent. Callow is not the man to mind that; and he adds a large number of inaccuracies and flourishes of his own, so that, in many respects, the book turns out to be a mine of misinformation. Callow even gets Wagner’s birthday wrong, twice, though it is correct in the chronology at the end. More seriously, he takes Wagner’s word for it that it was seeing the great soprano Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient as Fidelio in 1829 that determined him to become an opera composer, and also was a lifelong influence on his view of the ideal operatic performer. But it has long been known, and stated in several of the books Callow lists in his bibliography, that she didn’t perform in Fidelio then. It was part of Wagner’s mytho-autobiography.

1:41:00 am | 0 comments | Read More

Johannes Debus On Wagner: "There is something in this music that is so sick"

Canadian Opera Company conductor Johannes Debus is frank about his relationship with the music of Richard Wagner.
“I always tried to avoid Wagner,” he says. “There is something in this music that is so sick. Something in it that takes you over and doesn’t let you go. It manipulates you. Of course, there are those moments of ecstasy that are so powerful, so strong. And yet, sometimes you don’t want to get close to that, because it’s somehow dangerous. There’s a reason why that music has been used and abused in our history – in German history.”
But Debus has been unable to avoid Wagner any longer. Over the past three years, the Canadian Opera Company has presented three of the four operas of the famous Ring cycle, with Debus leading the orchestra, and soprano Christine Goerke – the next great Brunhilde – featured on stage. Two years ago, it was Die Walkure. Last year, Siegfried. And, starting Feb. 2, the last of the cycle – Gotterdammerung.
Debus’s observations are not entirely new regarding the music of the great, controversial 19th-century opera composer. Debus quotes Leonard Bernstein on Wagner, who said: “I hate Wagner. I hate Wagner on my knees.” (He also quotes Woody Allen: “Every time I listen to Wagner, I get the urge to  invade Poland.”)
Traditionally, these qualms have been washed away by citing Wagner’s musical/historical significance, which is undeniable, or absolving the composer from the abuses to which his music has been put, or just noting its power and popularity. But anyone who knows Debus knows that he is an intense, thoughtful, deeply committed artist and citizen in the modern world. Simple answers to ethical and aesthetic dilemmas are not for him. And fair enough. These days the music of Wagner needs to be confronted morally as well as musically.
1:31:00 am | 0 comments | Read More

Watch Now: The Ring - Complete. Opera North

Opera North. Filmed during live performances in 2016. Available from BBC 4. Unsure if you can watch this outside of the UK. If you cannot, and you wished, you could use a proxy server of course. If you don't have access to such a thing you might want to download the OPERA web browser. Choose "New Private Window" and from there use Opera's proxy servers (you will see the option in far left where you type the URL). When given the option chose location as UK.
12:58:00 am | 0 comments | Read More