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.)