wagner's ring

Mom’s Viking Theory

So I had a lovely afternoon with my parents at the Denver Museum Of Nature And Science, and we saw the visiting exhibit on vikings, including the little exhibit on how viking helmets didn’t have horns on them because that’s a great way to get your helmet knocked off, and some speculation on how the myth got started (the first recorded instance is in a production of Wagner’s ring cycle, so it may be a costumer’s fault), But mom had her own theory:

“Well, they used horns to drink from, right?  They’re smart people, they knew how to seal things up and could probably make straws.  You put a horn up on each side, and you got yourself an Ancient Beer Hat- or Mead Helmet, I suppose.”

She’s going to tell our Finnish professor tomorrow.  A production might be Imminent.

Favorite German Words

Die Götterdämmerung = “twilight of the gods”. Die Götter = the gods, plural. Die Dämmerung = twilight, dawn, dusk, also haziness, nebulousness. Also the title of an opera belonging to “Der Ring des Nibelungen” by German classical composer Richard Wagner; by erroneously translating Old Norse ragnarǫk ‎(fate of the gods), misconstrued as ragnarøkkr ‎(twilight of the gods). In Germanic mythology, the Götterdämmerung is the myth of the destruction of the gods in a final battle with the forces of evil, aka the apocalypse. Otherwise, it can be any cataclysmic event, a downfall or momentous, apocalyptic event, especially of a regime or an institution. Read more about the Wagner opera.

Wagner, Valkyrie

Ferdinand Leeke (April 7, 1859 - 1923) was a German Painter, famous for his depictions of scenes from Wagnerian Operas. A native of Burg bei Magdeburg, Germany, he studied at the Munich Academy under Johann Herterich (1843-1905), a genre and historical painter, and with Alexander von Wagner (1838-1919), a Hungarian genre and landscape painter.

Around 1889, Siegfried Wagner, the son of the composer Richard Wagner, commissioned Leeke to paint a series of paintings showing scenes from ten operas by Wagner.

The German Nibelungen (Old Norse: Niflung) is the name in Germanic and Norse mythology of the royal family or lineage of the Burgundians (Vandal tribe from what is now Poland), who settled in the early 5th century at the German city of Worms. Their vast wealth is often referred to as the Nibelung hoard. In Richard Wagner’s opera Der Ring des Nibelungen, Nibelung denotes a dwarf, or perhaps a specific race of dwarfs. Read more.

Start The Week With Music

“With slaves no nobleman will fight
Only a free man can punish the transgressor.”

This may seem a little heavy, but bear with me. It’s Wagner, yes - but what a performance! It is taken from Georg Solti’s 1960s Ring Cycle. Welcome to  Die Walküre.

In the wake of an act of incestuous love perpetrated by the siblings Siegmund and Sieglinde, the head Goddess Fricka demands that Wotan - her husband and Father of the Gods - mete out punishment and enforce respect for the traditional values whose guardian she, Fricka, is.

This is a dialogue of great depth and, within the multi-layered drama of the Ring, of central importance. It demands far more than a good voice and the ability to be heard above an orchestra of Wagnerian dimensions.

What is required above all is, I think, a sense of the psychology involved here. And I don’t know of anyone who has sung this with greater insight, intelligence, humanity and wisdom than Christa Ludwig. Listen to the sense of compassion with which she infuses her closing lines, delivered at the moment of her greatest triumph! This is one of the most awesome moments of singing I have ever heard.

Fricka: Christa Ludwig
Wotan: Hans Hotter
Brünnhilde: Birgit Nilsson
Wiener Philharmoniker
Sir Georg Solti

recorded in 1968


Happy Birthday Wagner
Ring cycle in 2 ½ minutes


Photographien nach den im Allerhöchsten Auftrage seiner Majestät König Ludwig II. von Bayern in der Residenz zu München ausgeführten Fresco-Gemälden von Professor Michael Echter, 1876

Die Walküre.

8. Sieglinde bietet in Hundings Hütte dem müden Siegmund das Horn.

9. Siegmund überreicht an Sieglinde das aus dem Baume gezogene Schwert.

10. Brünhild sucht Wotan zu trösten; im Hintergrunde fährt Fricka mit dem Widdergespann.

11. Brünhilde kündet Siegmunden den Tod.

12. Siegmund von Hunding erschlagen, im Vordergrunde liegt die trostlose Sieglinde.

13. Brünhilde rettet Sieglinden und übergiebt ihr die Trümmer des Schwertes.

14. Wotan schliesst Brünhilde in die wabernde Lohe.

Die Walküre

Toward the end of his life, James Merrill (1926-1995), a lifelong opera-goer, wrote a poem on the occasion of his seeing, for the second time, the four operas of Wagner’s Ring Cycle all in one week at the Met. The first occasion was in 1939; now half a century later, as he opens the poem, he recalls his young reaction to Wagner: “Great golden lengths of it, stitched with motifs, / A music in whose folds the mind, at twelve, / Came to its senses.” Here are two sections from this six-part cycle about coming full circle, and about the ways in which art was woven entirely through the fabric of Merrill’s life—was something personal, lived and shared locally, with private significance just as powerful as its universality. (The poem and other gems by Merrill are newly available in a Pocket Poets edition, selected and introduced by Merrill’s biographer, Langdon Hammer.)

from The Ring Cycle

Young love, moon-flooded hut, and the act ends.
House lights. The matron on my left exclaims.
We gasp and kiss. Our mothers were best friends.
Now, old as mothers, here we sit. Too weird.
That man across the aisle, with lambswool beard,
Was once my classmate, or a year behind me.
Alone, in black, in front of him, Maxine …
It’s like the Our Town cemetery scene!
We have long evenings to absorb together
Before the world ends: once familiar faces
Transfigured by hi-tech rainbow and mist,
Fireball and thunderhead. Make-believe weather
Calling no less for prudence. At our stage
When recognition strikes, who can afford
The strain it places on the old switchboard?

I’ve worn my rings— all three of them
At once for the first time— to the Ring.

Like pearls in seawater they gleam,
A facet sparkles through waves of sound.

Of their three givers one is underground,
One far off, one here listening.

One ring is gold; one silver, set
With two small diamonds; the third, bone
—Conch shell, rather. Ocean cradled it

As earth did the gems and metals. All unknown,
Then, were the sweatshops of Nibelheim

That worry Nature into jewelry,
Orbits of power, Love’s over me,

Or music’s, as his own chromatic scales
Beset the dragon, over Time.

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