Part 2: Millington's chapter on "Lohengrin"

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

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Part 2: Millington's chapter on "Lohengrin"

Postby alberich00 » Sat Feb 02, 2013 4:05 pm

[PH] Part 2 of Paul Heise's review of Barry Millington's 2012 book "The Sorceror of Bayreuth," including a review of his similar essay on "Lohengrin," published online in 2005 by the Seattle Opera, entitled "Asking the Right Question," (both of which essays, I discovered this morning of 2/26/2013, stem from a paper Millington evidently wrote for the Houston Grand Opera's production of "Lohengrin" in October and November of 1992, entitled "Elsa, Lohengrin and the Tell-Tale Halo," a paper which, sad to say, I wasn't able to reference in the following multi-part review of Millington's contributions on "Lohengrin" for that reason: Readers will find my transcript of the key passages from Millington's 1992 paper in the first, unnumbered posting of my review of Millington's Book).

Chapter 7 - Swansong to Traditional Opera: "Lohengrin"

[PH]: Barry Millington's chapter 7 on "Lohengrin" shares quite a lot of material with a piece which the Seattle Opera's posted online for their presentation of "Lohengrin" in 2005, entitled "Asking the Right Question." For this reason my critique of Millington's chapter 7 on "Lohengrin" will also incorporate material from his 2005 paper, so I will be quoting extracts from both, but will clearly mark the origin of each extract. There are a few observations in his 2005 piece which are not repeated in his "Lohengrin" chapter, and likewise, the "Lohengrin" chapter contains a few remarks not included in his 2005 paper on the same subject.

[PH] I am treating both Millington essays essentially as one (and now, having re-discovered Millington's 1992 paper, considering that one as well, though all that Millington says there can be found in his newer papers on "Lohengrin") because I wish to compare Millington's published pieces about "Lohengrin" as a whole to observations I made in my paper "How Elsa Showed Wagner the Way to Siegfried," which was published by Millington's colleague Stewart Spencer in the 5/95 issue of WAGNER, the scholarly journal of The Wagner Society (London), a paper containing a set of what I regarded then (and still do now, unless proven incorrect) as several original insights into "Lohengrin," insights I first presented to Spencer for review, partly in 1991 and 1992 in some letters describing my research, and ultimately in an earlier (Library of Congress Copyright 1/14/94) version (forwarded to Spencer and Millington in 8/93) of the paper which Spencer published in 5/95. To this end I have also taken note of Millington's chapter on "Lohengrin" from his prior book on Wagner's biography and art, "Wagner," which was first published in 1984, and then re-published in subsequent revisions in 1992 and 1998. I note that with one small exception the insights I wish to highlight in Millington's papers from 2005 and 2012 do not appear in his "Lohengrin" chapter in the 1998 edition of "Wagner," which was first published in 1984 but most recently revised in 1998. Though readers of this review are welcome to read my paper in its entirety (it is posted right here in our discussion forum in three parts), for the sake of direct comparison I will be quoting relevant extracts from my paper in this review.

[PH] Let me begin with an extract from a letter I wrote on 11/22/91 and mailed to Stewart Spencer to suggest that he might find material worthy of inclusion in an article I could write for WAGNER in my original interpretations of the "Ring" and "Lohengrin," as this indicates undeniably that by 1991 (i.e., before perusing Millington's 1992 article) I had already broached the importance of Elsa's breach of Lohengrin's demand for unquestioning faith, his demand she never ask him to reveal his name and origin to her, for our understanding of Wagner's subsequent music-dramas, the "Ring" in particular:

Dated 11/22/91

"Now, before closing, a brief word about the import of my research. The essence of my interpretation of the RING is that it is an allegory about the birth and development of both scientific (Alberich/Hagen) and religious/moral thought (Wotan), i.e., of man's consciousness of "is" and "ought". The RING depicts how religion (Wotan/Fricka) failed in the face of scientific thought (Alberich) to sustain man's illusion of transcendent value (what Wagner calls immortal love, or Freia), and how the artist (Siegfried plus his creative unconscious, Bruennhilde) inherited the role of religion. The artist also failed to sustain man's 'ideal' because he (i.e., Wagner himself, specifically in the RING) betrayed the 'real' source of his inspiration to consciousness (Hagen). I have been able to show how the relations of all of Wagner's mature opera heroes to their heroine-lovers are based on Wotan's relations with Erda. I have also been able to explain how Wagner gained the inspiration for his new conception of the relation of hero to heroine, and thus of the redemption by love, from a reconsideration of Elsa's offer to share with Lohengrin consciousness of his true identity (his Achilles heel). Wagner learned from this that the heroine (in actuality, his own unconscious mind, the creative unconscious) might succeed in redeeming love (feeling) from consciousness (thought, doubt) by not simply sharing this knowledge with the hero, but exclusively holding the hero's knowledge of his true identity for him, so he need not be conscious of it, and thus vulnerable.
Anyway, these are just a few of the hundreds of insights in my work I'd like to make public. Please contact me if you feel I could make a worthwhile contribution to your journal. Thank you for your time and attention.

Sincerely,

Paul B. Heise

PS. The Wagner letters [translated by Spencer and Millington] have been a big help!"

[PH] My reason for making this detailed comparison between my research on "Lohengrin" and Barry Millington's contribution to our knowledge of this subject is the following: I have good reason to believe that I was the first to propose (in papers copyrighted at the Library of Congress from 1981 until 2008, and disseminated at my own expense to quite a number of Wagner scholars and students at various stages in the evolution of my allegorical readings of Wagner's artworks) a fairly large number of insights into not only "Lohengrin" but all of Wagner's other canonical operas and music-dramas, from "The Flying Dutchman" to "Parsifal," which I believed then, and believe now, to be original to me. Needless to say, over the long-term I may well learn that a number of what I thought were my original insights will turn out to have been proposed previously, and published, by other Wagner scholars, scholars with whom I may never have been familiar, or possibly even once read but forgot. In any such instance brought to my attention, I would immediately publish a disclaimer and admit the prior claim of a scholar whose insights I may have unwittingly borrowed or developed independently, in total ignorance of the other scholar's prior work, but simply later than his/her prior publication of any given insight. I have, of course, never knowingly borrowed an idea not my own and proclaimed it to be my own original contribution. However, having conducted as thorough a survey of the Wagner literature as possible at the original time of copyright and publication of my many papers, and having kept up insofar as possible with more recent Wagner scholarship, I have never had any reason to doubt the authenticity of my claim to chronological priority or precedence with respect to the majority of these insights.

[PH] My problem is that a number of mainstream, well-established Wagner scholars have from time to time, since I first disseminated my initial, semi-literate attempt to demonstrate the conceptual unity of Wagner's mature music-dramas, "The Doctrine of the Ring" (you will find a citation for this in our discussion forum under the heading of my list of copyrighted papers, including the names of a number of scholars who presented papers at the 1983 centennial conference sponsored by the Univ. of Illinois Chicago Circle, to whom I presented copies of my lengthy essay), proposed various versions of the hypotheses which I proposed previously. I make no such claim with respect to any specific living scholar, with the obvious exception that, as I discussed at great length in my multi-part review of Mark Berry's 2006 book "Treacherous Bonds and Laughing Fire," I anticipated in previously copyrighted, self-published, and privately disseminated manuscripts literally dozens of insights which can be found in variant forms in his book. Whether these scholars developed these ideas wholly autonomously, or drew indirect benefit from my original work by dissemination through the grapevine, or borrowed some ideas from direct knowledge of my prior work, it is impossible to say. Only they can tell. But all will agree I have not only a right, but a duty to myself, to protect my claim to intellectual property by simply proving, if possible, the priority of my copyright, with respect to any given thesis. Otherwise, my lifelong quest to demonstrate the conceptual unity of Wagner's operas and music-dramas will be neutered through a combination of a conspiracy of silence (i.e., the refusal to take my contribution seriously enough to bother crediting my copyrighted work in print), and through the natural advancement in knowledge in a growing field which would otherwise pass me by, if my own contribution isn't considered a part of the current debate. For instance, in a number of cases (irritating for me) scholars and students are already citing the prior contributions of a variety of other scholars in their own more recent papers, contributions which were already second-hand because I had already copyrighted and self-published and disseminated these insights, long before, within the full conceptual context of my life's work, a factor generally missing from the more recent variations on my original hypotheses. To this end, I intend to tentatively claim priority with respect to certain insights, knowing perfectly well that other scholars may have published some, or all, of these insights, at an earlier date, in papers as yet unknown to me (and I will be the first to admit my fault and proclaim it publicly if my claims are convincingly challenged). In other words, I would never wish to proclaim as my own original work insights which were proposed previously by someone else, and by the same token I claim the right to be credited with precedence if I can prove the priority of my copyright over rival claims. I only bring this subject up in the context of my review of Millington's essays on "Lohengrin" because there is enough similarity among a fairly small number of insights in our respective, and, as far as I can tell, mutually independently conceived papers on "Lohengrin," that the question might arise who has priority.

[PH] But there is another reason for my attention to this matter. Readers of my published version of "How Elsa showed Wagner the way to Siegfried" can easily see, by comparing Millington's contributions (at least those three which I've been able to reference; there may be other papers of his unknown to me which delve into "Lohengrin" in greater detail) with my own, that my treatment of "Lohengrin" goes much, much further in extrapolating from it in order to elucidate what I describe as the allegorical logic of his subsequent music-dramas. The most obvious example of this one can gather from my title "How Elsa showed Wagner the way to Siegfried." For, as I have shown, Siegfried's very nature as a fearless hero who acts naively upon instinct rather than through consciously reflective thought, and who does not know who he is, is a direct product of Elsa's offer to share with Lohengrin the secret knowledge of his true identity and origin, in order that she may redeem him from the "Noth", or anguish, which Ortrud has led her to believe Lohengrin would suffer if his secret were exposed. Unlike Millington, I provided in my paper the other half of the equation missing from Millington's account.

[PH] Though he hints that Elsa's breach of Lohengrin's injunction not to inquire after his name or origin made Wagner, in his own words (in "A Communication to my Friends"), a revolutionary, and thus Wagner was claiming that his grasp of Elsa's nature as woman transformed Wagner into a revolutionary music-dramatist, who had forever put traditional romantic opera (like "Lohengrin") behind him, and that, implicitly, Lohengrin's refusal to share forbidden knowledge of his true identity with her is somehow connected conceptually with this, since Millington concurs with Wagner that Elsa was in the right, and Lohengrin in the wrong, Millington doesn't provide the mechanics behind this, while I do. Simply, Elsa's offer to share with Lohengrin forbidden knowledge, the secret, of his identity, on the basis that she believes she can redeem him from the danger to which she supposes he would be subject (this belief having been instilled in her by Ortrud's accusations) if his secret were revealed, by sharing this secret with him so that she can express her love by keeping his secret in silence, is the basis for Bruennhilde's offer to share Wotan's terrible knowledge of his divine "Noth", his unspoken secret, in V.2.2. As I said in my 5/95 article and I say now, Wotan is distinguished from Lohengrin in that, unlike Lohengrin, who refused to share with his lover (and unconscious mind) Elsa his secret knowledge of his own true identity and origin, Wotan does agree to let Bruennhilde share the secret of his divine "Noth," and confesses it to her hearing alone, a confession which will remain, according to Wotan, forever unspoken, because Wotan, in speaking to his daughter Bruennhilde, is, as he says, merely speaking to himself, his Will.

[PH] Thus, Wotan's confession redeems himself and the world from the terrible truth, the knowledge Erda imparted to him of the inevitability of Alberich's - the truth's - victory over the gods, i.e., illusory religious belief, by confessing it to Bruennhilde, who will hold this knowledge for Siegfried (in whom, as Wagner himself said, Wotan is in a sense reborn), so that, unlike Wotan, Siegfried will not know who he is, and thus will feel none of that fear which paralyzed Wotan. Bruennhilde, as she tells Siegfried in S.3.3, knows this for him (so he need not know it himself). She protects him, as she said to Gunther and Hagen, only at the front, from foresight, from Wotan's fear of the end. And this is what distinguishes the music-drama from traditional romantic opera: Wotan takes the terrible stuff of human history, the unconscious admission that Wotan in all his actions was merely serving egoism, and transforms it into timelesss mythology, or art, or even music, by storing it in the womb of his wishes, Bruennhilde, through his confession to her, i.e., to himself, his own unconscious mind. As everyone now knows, thanks mostly to Jean-Jacques Nattiez, Wagner's theoretical essays of the early 1850's posited the male as metaphor for drama/poetry/word, and the female, particularly the lover of, say, the male hero, as his metaphor for music, and this concept actually influenced the plots and characterization of Wagner's subsequent music-dramas. What is more, Cosima recorded the observation that these metaphors could specifically be applied to Siegfried and Bruennhilde. So, thanks to Wotan's acquiescence in Bruennhilde's request to hear his confession, we have a real music-drama in which drama and music interpenetrate in an organic way, whereas Lohengrin, in his refusal to confess his secret to Elsa (because, as one can see from my own research, Lohengrin remains a symbol for religious faith which hasn't yet grasped that it can only be redeemed from science, the inevitability that its secret will be exposed, by art), forestalls the evolution of the music-drama.

[PH] Dr. Berthold Hoeckner (Univ. of Chicago Dept. of Musicology), as we'll see in my upcoming review of his research on "Lohengrin," got the first half of this equation, that concerning Lohengrin's failure, right, but missed entirely its second half, that Wotan differs from Lohengrin by acquiescing in the woman's request that he confess to her the secret of his divine "Noth." Thus, Wotan, unlike Lohengrin (who holds out for traditional religious faith, while nonetheless seeking to smuggle the earthly into his allegedly supernatural Grail realm, by marrying Elsa), is prepared for secular art, and particularly the art of music, to redeem dying religious faith (the gods) from complete destruction by man's scientific spirit (represented in "Lohengrin" by Frederick's objective and unloving relationship with Ortrud, and in the "Ring" first by Alberich, and then by his son and heir Hagen).

[PH] The reason, then, for my concern, is that my contribution in, for instance, "How Elsa showed Wagner the way to Siegfried," far outstrips that of even the more recent dissertations and papers and articles and books in which I find parallels with my prior work, yet my paper is never cited or referenced in any bibliography. It is long past due for contemporary scholars to take that paper, and my online book "The Wound That Will Never Heal," into account when surveying the history of Wagner scholarship.

[PH] Frankly, it has often surprised me how many of the insights I claim for myself seem not to have been self-evident to the scholarly world. I was thunderstruck when I first began to read deeply in Wagner scholarship (Nietzsche, Shaw, Mann, Adorno, Newman, Donington, Cooke, Tanner, Borchmeyer, Dahlhaus, Magee, Abbate, Darcy, Deathridge, Millington, etc.) and realized just how much had been missed (or seems to have been missed). In any case, I cannot allow ideas which, so far as I know, were first copyrighted and published and disseminated in hardcopy or online to a select few by me, to simply penetrate the Wagner world by diffusion without staking my claim, whenever I can prove it. I accuse no scholar of plagiarism: I am simply stating that unless my now 42 years of active and original exploration of Wagner's legacy, which has been represented by paper after paper since 1981, copyrighted, self-published, and privately disseminated by me to many key figures in Wagner scholarship during those years, is given its public due, and is allowed to enter contemporary debate, all of my original insights will eventually, by a process of osmosis, infuse the current debate without my ever being invited to the table to represent myself. Members and visitors to this discussion forum can survey the entire scope of symposia being organized around the world in this bicentennial year and not find a single reference to my research: needless to say I am not a scheduled speaker at any of these events. In view of the fact that my lifelong quest to demonstrate the conceptual coherence of Wagner's signature work, "The Ring of the Nibelung," has been posted online now for almost 2 years, and that it is self-evidently the most comprehensive study of its kind, this omission, this neglect, is a disgrace, and is inexcusable.

[PH] I have, since my 5/95 paper on the conceptual relationship of "Lohengrin" to the "Ring" was published, greatly expanded its argument, and have included a variety of illustrative extracts from Feuerbach's writings, paired in many cases with what are obviously Wagner's paraphrases of them: one can see the result in the essay-length - but as yet unfinished - version of "How Elsa Showed Wagner the Way to Siegfried" which The Wagner Society of Florida posted on their website, http://www.wagnersocietyflorida.org (click on "Resources," and then on "Papers on Wagner"). This was posted on their website sometime in early 2005, but it was an elaboration of a power-point talk I had been presenting at such venues as the Boston Wagner Society in 2004 and earlier.

[PH] In sum, the solution to a great variety of problems in Wagner scholarship is to be found in a number of my best papers, self-published between 1983 and 2008 (including, obviously, and most importantly, the version of my "The Wound That Will Never Heal," published online here at http://www.wagnerheim.com in 5/2011, and copyrighted - in an earlier version - at the Library of Congress in 12/2008). It would be sad if many, or all, of these ideas became part of the common currency of Wagner scholarship without any acknowledgment of my contribution. It is in that spirit that I will review Millington's "Lohengrin" chapter, and after that will review, in turn, the chapter on "Lohengrin" from a 1994 Dissertation entitled "Music as a Metaphor of Metaphysics: Tropes of Transcendence in 19th-century Music from Schumann to Mahler" (Cornell Univ., towards his PhD) by Dr. Berthold Hoeckner, a Professor in musicology at the Univ. of Chicago, which appeared in a revised version in the July 1997 edition of the Cambridge Opera Journal as a separate paper entitled "Elsa's Scream or the Birth of the Music Drama." Dr. Hoeckner emailed me in 9/2009 to concur with me that our two papers have a number of insights in common, and complement each other, and his 8/94 Dissertation - which contains a number of important insights common to both of our papers on "Lohengrin" - was undoubtedly written in complete ignorance of my research, since my "How Elsa showed Wagner the way to Siegfried" was first published in 5/95. However, I believe I can claim precedence with respect to those insights we have in common because I first outlined my primary thesis re the conceptual relationship of "Lohengrin" to the "Ring" in my letter to Stewart Spencer in 1991, and the earliest (8/93) version of my essay "How Elsa showed Wagner the way to Siegfried" (which I mailed to Spencer and Millington in 8/93, and which contained most of the content which was later revised for the published version) I copyrighted at the Library of Congress on 1/14/1994, seven months in advance of Hoeckner's 8/94 Dissertation.
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