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Richard Wagner - Das Rheingold - Der Ring des Nibelungen - part 9

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Published on Sep 28, 2010

"Hehe! Hehe!"/"Nibelheim hier". Scene 3.
"Das Rheingold" (The Rhine Gold), first of the four operas of "Der Ring des Nibelungen" (The Ring of the Nibelung).
Music and text by Richard Wagner (1813-1883).
Conductor: Georg Solti & Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

Wagner's essential peculiarity is therepresentation of the drama as an element of introspection; his operas can't be considered operas in the traditional meaning of the word, but great compositions where music, singing, poetry and psychology merge to interpret the life. In Wagner's conception the drama expect an almost religious attention, which the public has to attend to as the story takes place in his mind; so the drama rises magically from the imagination of the public before being in music.
The music of the Cycle is composed by a mosaic of leading motifs, the leitmotiv, which embode characters or feelings, so their continuos reappearing produces a sort of psychological premonition.
No closed-form pieces or arias interfer with the free flow of the narration which goes on without solution of continuity from the beginning to the end of every act, subjecting the singing to the comment of an orchestra enormous for the number of instruments and resonant wideness. It is also important in Wagner the use of chromatism, that incessant wave of chromatic spirals which is took to extremes till it leave the tonal structure.
The characters of these operas are taken from the old Norse mythology; the principle idea, tipically romantic, is based on the homesickness of an ancient world where you can find happiness, which expresses itself through the myth of redemption and the eterno femminino. In this way wagnerian characters don't restrict themselves to interpret something theatrically, they are really that thing and not a stage illusion. Wagner himself called his opera "the acts of music made visible".
A dark idealogical system turns around the characters, that during the years has been subjected to various interpretations, which sometimes gave it even conflicting meanings and which went beyond the intentions of the composer: it's not absurd that the third act of "Siegfried" might have affected the development of psychoanalisis, when Siegfried believes he is looking at his mother in Brunnhilde. But Wagner develops his thoughts expecially in politics, changing continually the meaning according to those theories that influence him more; in fact when he started composing The Ring of Nibelungs, had had initially thought to base the Cycle on Feuerbach and Bakunin's ideas, as you can see in his essay "Das Kunstwerk des Zukunft", written during the revolution in Dresden:

"The people are all those who feel a common necessity. Where there isn't necessity, there isn't real need. Where there isn't real need, aal the vices, all the crimes against nature swarm, that is the imaginary need. Now, the satisfaction of this imaginary need is luxury.
Luxury can never be satisfied because, being something false, there isn't a true and real opposite to it which can satisfy and take up it. It wears out, it tortures and prostrates the lives of millions of poor men, it compells a world to be in the iron chains of despotism, without being able to break the golden chains of the tyrant".

These words find their artistic correspondence in "Das Rheingold", when the evil Alberich enslaves the Nibelungs after he had forge the ring which makes him the lord of the world. Even Siegfried is an emblematic figure, as the victory of Positivism and the salvation of theworld have been seen in this drama; but it's only appearence. In fact in the Tetralogy, because of the wish of power longed by most of the characters, even a noble mind as Wotan is has to die in the fire of Walhalla, while Siegfried gets involved in the decline because he is victim of his own innocence. So the Tetralogy, which finishes with the destruction of the world and the cosmic return to nature, expresses the failure of that positivist theory Wagner exalted in 1849 and he wanted to dedicate his work to, leaving the place to a different schopenauerian interpretation. This pessimism embraced since 1854 is clear in the character of Wotan, when in the second act of "Die Walkure" he expresses the cessation of the will of leaving:

"I renounce my work; I still long for only one thing : the end! The end!".

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