Posts Tagged ‘May 22’

The Wring Cycle

Posted in General on May 22nd, 2010 by Eugene Finerman – 5 Comments

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.