Saturday, February 11, 2012


On the other hand, I like the Ring Cycle. I sat through six plus hours of Gotterdammerung today -- from the Met via HD broadcast -- and cried when Siegfried died.

What is interesting -- and deeply disturbing -- about the Ring Cycle is how much of it is about vulnerable women. Siegfried's mother Sieglinde was kidnapped and forced into marriage by the horrible Hunding. She is rescued by Siegmund, who is -- as they later find out -- her twin brother. They fall in love. It looks as if we might have a happy ending.

But Frikke, the goddess of marriage and queen of the gods, believes that Siegmund must be punished in order to maintain the sanctity of marriage and the family. According to Frikke the forced marriage between Hunding and Sieglinde is sacred, while the love between the twins is adultery. Granted the twins' love is incestuous, but compared to the awful marriage of Hunding and Sieglinde, it is touching and sweet.

Wotan promises to punish Siegmund, who is -- by the way -- Wotan's son. He intervenes in a fight between Siegmund and Hunding, making sure that Hunding wins and Siegmund dies.

Sieglinde flees and gives birth to Siegfried nine months later, dying in childbirth, so Siegfried never knows either parent. This is in opera # 2, Die Walkure.

Through Die Walkure, Siegfried and Gotterdammerung, we watch the degradation of Brunnhilde, a Valkyrie who defies her father Wotan by trying to help Siegmund and Sieglinde. As punishment, Wotan makes Brunnhilde mortal and casts her into an enchanted sleep. In this sleep, she will be prey to any passing man. She begs her father to surround her with a ring of fire, so only a hero can reach her and "win" her.

At the end of Siegfried, the young, clueless, arrogant hero passes through the fire and wakes Brunnhilde -- freeing her as his father had freed his mother. Siegfried and Brunnhilde fall in love, and this opera has a happy ending.

Then we get to Gotterdammerung. Returning to the world of ordinary people, Siegfried falls into the plots of an ambitious family. He is given a potion, which makes him forget Brunnhilde; and -- under the influence of the potion -- he helps another man "win" Brunnhilde, who is still on her mountain, surrounded by her ring of fire. Disguised as the other man, Siegfried goes back through the fire and grabs Brunnhilde, taking her from safety into a forced marriage: the same fate as his mother had experienced.

Brunnhilde is furious when she realizes that Siegfried has given her to his new buddy Gunther as a casual gift -- "Here, pal, have a woman I don't need." And she gets her revenge by helping to get Siegfried killed.

And then she kills herself by burning on his funeral pyre.

But think of a woman who has been a kind of warrior goddess, the favored daughter of the All Father, and then becomes an utterly vulnerable mortal in a society where women are property, kidnapped and forced into marriage and handed around as gifts. A creepy story.

But Brunnhilde is far more impressive than Charlotte, and Wagner's sympathies seem to be with the two pairs of lovers. You might call it a story of love vs. property. The lovers don't win. But neither do the owners. In the end, everyone dies, even the gods.


Blogger Foxessa said...

"The lovers don't win. But neither do the owners. In the end, everyone dies, even the gods."

That's Our People! :)

Who says only non-protestants can be fatalists?

Love, c.

1:24 PM  

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