Why were the greatest works accomplished in the 1860’s?

by Andrea Elizabeth

Now that I’ve read the synopses of Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung, I have more context. I still want to watch the whole Ring Cycle for the leitmotifs, spectacle, and text. I don’t really appreciate classical opera’s orchestration of narrative texts, however. I prefer Andrew Lloyd Webber’s more melodic style of emoting.

Which brings us to 19th century romanticism. Das Rheingold opens the story with the very interesting question of what to desire. Love or power? Given the timing of the opera, could this be what 1860’s man faced in the industrial revolution? Perhaps he had had both before, and was forced to choose. Choosing technical power left men without chests, as Lewis famously characterized 20th century man.

This question could also be spun in a Christian context. Marriage or monasticism? Pleasure, or the power of God, albeit more humbly, but still forcefully begotten?

The Ring signifies the end of the gods. Paganism for atheism? Both of these choices, the desire for worldly power and atheism leave us in a colder and darker world. I want to listen to the music more attentively to see how Wagner orchestrates these developments. I believe it ends triumphantly, nevertheless. Not because the Gods are burned up,  but because what a magnificent blaze of glory it was. Does that glorify death too much? Maybe that’s why Hitler liked it.

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