Your RDA of Irony

The Wring Cycle

May 22, 1813:  Diaper Gotterdammerung

Today is the birthday of that unsurpassed meister of Teutonic flatulence: Richard Wagner. A traditional way to celebrate would be to mistake London, Rotterdam and Warsaw for candles and then light them.

You could also listen to one of his operas but do you have 36 hours to spare? Let’s compare two hours of Giuseppi Verdi with three hours of Dick Wagner. In “Rigoletto” a malevolent hunchbacked jester plots to avenges his debauched daughter’s honor by killing her seducer–who happens to be jester’s patron–but the infatuated daughter sacrifices her own life to protect her lover. In “Lohengrin” or “Parsifal” or “Siegfried” (Does it make a difference?), a virginal knight spends the first act describing the plot of a previous opera by Wagner. Of course, very little happened in that opera, but Wagner was the pioneer of product placement.

Eventually, usually by the third act, the virginal knight will actually do something. (In the case of “Tristan and Isolde”, the knight loses his adjective.) Unfortunately, the sex in Wagner is just as stupefying as everything else. The composer, with his standard subtlety, emphasizes that love and death are synonymous. Tristan‘s hit single (all two hours of it) is “Liebestod”–which means LoveDeath. How would you like to rate that on Aryan Bandstand?

In real life, however, the pace of Wagner’s life was fast and loose. The High Priest of Holy German Art actually was a deadbeat and a lecher. He constantly “borrowed” money with never an intention to repay. Indeed, he often denounced his benefactors; Meyerbeer and Mendelssohn must have really appreciated the Anti-Semitic remarks. Wagner also “borrowed” other men’s wives, telling the husbands that they were making a sacrifice to his genius.

Wagner’s music may be excruciating, but his life would have made an entertaining operetta.

  1. Michael Gury says:

    Well, it ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings.

    Dick Wagner hosting Aryan Bandstand is a rather intriguing concept. We could get “Freddy” Nietzsche to do a little thing he calls the “Zarathustra Stomp.” Hit it, Freddy!

  2. Cindy Starks says:

    Eugene — You’ve got to stop giving me laughing fits. If I have a heart attack, it will be your fault entirely.

    Now then, it seems to me, first of all that you have to get a better handle on what the meaning of “is” is. In your email to me you write, “Today Richard Wagner is 199 today.” Not so. He would have been, he might have been, he coulda been, but he ain’t. (I think the spirit of Jackie Mason has taken over my body, and he’s not even dead yet). Anywho, I’m glad you’re finally giving us Italians our due — at least in opera circles. And speaking of circles, I’m running around in them. Tell you why anon.

    Keep up the good work, keep those virgin knights at play, and go make your Bar Mitzvah already.

  3. Nancy Kullman says:

    Read this at lunch break, managing to laugh without choking on my lunch. Problem: Explaining to my colleagues why I’m laughing… Cannot be done.

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