Friday, July 27, 2007


Richard Wagner is an artist who still evokes the most diverse responses--including profound loathing in certain quarters. Many Jews see his music as inextricably bound up with Hitler, Nazism and the Holocaust. In fact, his operas until this day have never been played in Israel. This is most unreasonable as Wagner knew nothing of Hitler's madness and, insofar as he was affected by philosophies of his time, the pessimism of Schopenhauer was the most meaningful to him. Arthur Schopenhauer was the antithesis of being some anti-semitic, Aryan fascist. Rather, his philosophy was closely allied to Buddhism and the impossibility of happiness in a world ruled by the dictates of desire. Of all the arts music had the greatest power of consolation, due to its being a purely abstract medium that didn't necessitate too much dwelling on the harshness and pointlessnes of the world.

Last night, I concluded my journey through Wagner's "Ring des Nibelungen" on DVD, conducted by James Levine at the New York Metropolitan Opera. Everything was quite superb, but it was Levine's shaping intelligence that held the whole thing together over an exhausting 15 hours or so. Now,as most people know, James Levine is Jewish and praise and respect is due to him for not making Wagner a scapegoat of Twentieth Century politics at "The Met" and deciding to go to the music in forming his assessment of this great composer (instead of some half baked fanatics).

The most popular of The Ring's four operas is probably "Die Walkure". This is due to its absolutely superb third act which, in little over an hour, includes the famous "Ride of the Valkyries" and the stunningly beautiful magic slumber music. However, the first two acts of Die Walkure are perhaps the least succesful of the entire Ring due to there being too much emphasis on static situations and long-winded recapitulations. As organic and consistent artistic wholes, the other three operas are superior--but perhaps it is not wrong to view the unbelieavable beauty of Die Walkure's third act as the true high point of the whole cycle.


Blogger ely said...

mi piace xchè è una bella composizione

2:00 PM  
Anonymous Gunter said...

Nice to see someone opposing that old chestnut concerning Wagner's "racism".

7:24 PM  
Anonymous Lark said...

Thanks for writing this.

2:23 PM  

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