Wagner's The Ring Cycle

I wrote a pretty vehement column this week, then decided I couldn't print it. It's too angry and negative. I was reacting to a terrible decision made by a television network on September 11th, that caused a lot of people I know (I live in the DC area and have friends and family in NYC) distress. Anyway, I'm choosing not to run the column, but that leaves me with no column.

So in no particular order here are some thoughts I had while watching Wagner's the Ring Cycle on public television. In case you are unfamiliar with this opera it is in four parts: Das Rheingold, Die Walkűre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung. The whole thing is about the rise and fall of the gods. Their stories are intertwined with the stories of mortals, many of whom are heroic. Das Rheingold starts with a dwarf stealing some gold, which is made into a magic ring. Wotan steals it and is cursed. Wotan then reneges on his deal with the giants that have been building for him. Die Walkűre is about a couple that fall in love (Siegmund and Sieglinde). They are twins (!) and Fricka, who is married to Wotan is upset with their double transgressions – adultery and incest. As a result Wotan tells his daughter Brünnhilde to make sure that Siegmund dies in battle. Instead Brünnhilde, who feels bad for Sieglinde, protects him, bringing down the wrath of her father. Wotan kills Siegmund, shattering his sword Nothung, then puts Brünnhilde into a deep sleep after telling her that the man who wakes her will be her master and she will have to sit by the hearth and sew. (This to a Valkyrie!) She begs him to make sure the man will be courageous so he agrees to surround her with fire. Then he leaves her asleep on the rock.

Siegfried is the story of teenaged Siegfried, son of the incest twins, who has been raised by an awful dwarf called Mime. Siegfried is pretty obnoxious to Mime, but Mime has been horrible to him his whole life and only adopted him in the hopes that he would grow up, slay Fafner, the dragon guarding the ring, and let Mime have it. Once Siegfried learns something of his origin he reforges Nothung, his father's sword, then sets off to fight Fafner. Mime plans to poison Siegfried once he gets the ring away from him, but this plan does not work out. After Siegfried gets the ring a little bird tells him about Brünnhilde. Of course they fall in love once he wakes her, despite Brünnhilde being his aunt.

In Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods) the curse of the ring leads to a whole lot of misery. There is a magic spell, betrayal, murder and the subjugation of women.

And now the random thoughts.

There's more incest and rape in this opera than there is in Game of Thrones.


Wotan is a jerk.

The Rhinemaidens are adorable. I like how playful they are.

The set is amazing. The water effects are particularly good, especially when blood gets into the water.

Jay Hunter Morris, who plays Siegfried, is the cutest thing in the universe. He is from Texas, so doesn't sound at all like your stereotypical opera singer. He says a friend told him that his biggest sound wasn't necessarily his best sound so he has been working on making every note sound beautiful. I think he's doing a great job.

Deborah Voigt is fantastic as Brünnhilde.

Wotan is really a jerk.

The plot of Götterdämmerung makes me want to scream. Horrible, horrible things happen.

I'm disgusted by Gunther's assertion that he has been wronged by Brünnhilde, a woman he tricked and dragged off by force, after drugging her husband. What a guy.

Lots of characters in these operas are jerks.

I love Brünnhilde's horse. They did a fantastic job of making his head and neck movements realistic. Spot on.

The dragon and the serpent are also fun and well done.

I didn't realize how much of this music has been in film and television.

Eighteens hours is a big commitment. I don't know how people see this opera in person. I don't think I could last through a six hour performance.

How do the actors do it? Keeping up the high energy level for six hours a night is difficult.

If they had a contest to see which character is the jerkiest it would probably end in a six or seven way tie.

Once you know a little about Wagner's racism all this talk of superior races feels really creepy and gross.

Despite what I have seen in film and television Bugs Bunny is not actually in this performance

When you look for this performance you want to look for the one at the Met. Rumor is that you can find it on Netflix or you can ask your local library to get a copy for you.

Bonus Treat:
This week's bonus treat is an article from McSweeney's by Wendy Molyneux called Hello Stranger on the Street, Could You Please Tell Me How to Take Care of My Baby? If you've ever been the victim of drive by parenting you should enjoy this piece. http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/hello-stranger-on-the-street-could-yo...