thwarted love, and epistemology, re Alberich and the "Ring"

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thwarted love, and epistemology, re Alberich and the "Ring"

Postby alberich00 » Sat Jul 23, 2011 9:42 am

Dear love-lorn members of the wagnerheim forum:

I woke up this morning recalling a provocative question put to me some years ago. Someone asked how I, rather than someone else, came to be the author of this colossal study of Wagner's "Ring," "The Wound That Will Never Heal."

I responded: "I was inspired to undertake the task of demonstrating the conceptual unity of Wagner's "Ring," because my quest for love was rejected and repudiated by three Rhinedaughters, which is to say, perhaps we can only fully grasp love in its objectivity if we can't actually experience or obtain it. That at least is what Wagner himself suggested in a series of letters (all or most of which are included in Appendix II of this website, the chronological anthology of Feuerbach's writings and Wagner's writings and recorded remarks). He suggested, in a variety of ways, that he was inspired to create art because he couldn't obtain love. It is as if while experiencing life, becoming one with it, we can't sufficiently make it an object of contemplation to grasp it. This is at least one of Wagner's descriptions of the "Fall," the birth of reflective consciousness. But it is this "Fall" which makes redemption through art possible.

Certainly, the experience of being thwarted in love inspires one to make of "love" a problem. I suppose that for those to whom life's satisfactions come easily, there is no motive to grasp them conceptually. I recall the reflections of Dostoevsky's Underground Man that for the majority of human souls life is something that is merely lived spontaneously, instinctively, but for the Underground Man, who saw through everything, everything became a problem, a dilemma. He described this hyper-consciousness as a disease. Certainly Alberich suffers from this disease intrinsically, and he passes it on to his alter ego Wotan (Light-Alberich), who never recovers from it.

How then to live? By experiencing life aesthetically, if one is granted that gift. I'm reminded of my mother's painful experience some years ago. She was traveling with a friend through her home-state of Georgia, showing off its virtues and beauties, and as they were driving along the Marshes of Glynn near the Atlantic coast, mom said: "How beautiful!" To which her friend retorted: "But what use is it?" What use, Alberich asks the Rhinedaughters, is their joyous song, dance, and play, in honor of the beautiful Rhinegold.

These at any rate are my thoughts on an extraordinarily hot and humid Saturday morning near the Chesapeake Bay.

Your friend from Wagnerheim,

Paul alias Alberich00
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Re: thwarted love, and epistemology, re Alberich and the "Ri

Postby feuerzauber » Sat Jul 30, 2011 12:02 am

Your challenge languishes unanswered, doubtless because it delicately borders on a St Augustine/Rousseau confessional.

Well, here's my response triggered by fortuitous happenings last week. Amid troubling times for bookstore chains, I managed to snap up at bargain basement prices three recent Wagner books (Badiou/Žižeck — to sample their ilk; great collected Wagner essays by Deathridge; and Laurence Dreyfus's "Wagner and the Erotic Impulse"). I read them in that sequence, keeping Dreyfus to last, which ranking may be construed as my confessional.

I devoured Dreyfus's book at a single sitting in a state of "lascivious arousal" — Wagner's words, not mine — evocative of the "all-consuming" state in which he composed Tannhâuser.

From a scientific point of view, it would have helped me if Dreyfus had also formally mounted some unconventional (for me) ground-breaking arguments more prosaically in an appendix for evaluation independently of the rapid thrust of his entertaining narrative.

Now, I recall being shocked upon discovering homosexuality in Michelangelo's sonnets and homosexuality writ large in Shakespeare's sonnets (especially so, since we often take him to be representative of all humanity, and hence our impulse is to mis-read his sonnets individually in a conventionally straightforward way). I just felt a similar shock upon learning from Dreyfus that Wagner's compositional state of arousal was partly dependent upon his so-called silk and satin fetish which amounted to wearing women's hot pink undies — a closet form of cross dressing we are assured. The humorous/humiliating consequences of the straight-not-gay Wagner's outing I leave to the interested purchaser of this book.

Incidentally complementing Wagnerheim's focus on the crucial role of female muses, Dreyfus reconstructs Wagner's persistent unconsummated sexual infatuation with favourite muse of his pantheon: his first great female singer Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient. (Pretty devoted Minna, whose 20-year tempestuous childless marriage scarcely merits a mention, is all-too-human for that exalted company.)

It is not my prerogative to distill some-one-else's research, which readers of Dreyfus's book can savour first hand, but his discussion of the ur-Valkyrie Wilhelmine generated some (quite pure) thoughts which obliquely bear on the matter at hand — about which subject, common sense tells me I should discreetly hide behind Byron's defence of really knowing nothing at all.

Poor Richard himself bewails having never known real love, though no-one doubts that he well knew the fantasised variety. Biographer Ernest Newman countered "if it was not love that made her [first wife Minna] go through what she did for him day by day in Paris and later, then it was a good workable substitute for it".

For the little it's worth, here are my immediate musings on the supposed "dominator", but chief muse, Wilhelmine, upon reading Dreyfus.

Wagner, born as it were on the theatre stage, worked continually with Wilhelmine from Rienzi to proto-Lohengrin, and he (not she) was the dominating practical force, being librettist, composer, director, conductor of her (as merely one — but very important — part of his composite works). In the give-and-take of workaday rehearsal and performance, often taking as good as he gave, Wagner never seems to have risked compromising his art — higher to him than any mortal female — by (however tempting, given the histrionics and human proximity of the stage) respecting the dangerous divide between himself as Pygmalion and she as his Galatea.

She, for her part, vamp and idol of the Dresden stage, was intelligent enough to appreciate that she owed a great deal of her glory to him. In their mutual artistic goal, they both needed and (in the fallible human sense of the word) respected each other.

It's delightful to discover that many an artist's female muse can, when necessary, imitate the artist. Wilhelmine — the presumed "emasculator" — wrote about her third husband as if she were Elsa singing of Lohengrin "It was worship, adoration which I felt for him and when he raised me up to his heart from my lowliness, there flashed a love in my soul which I'd never before experienced." (Dreyfus p. 59).

Tellingly, she wrote to Clara Schumann "I've loved my art and practiced it with sacred enthusiasm—whether I've achieved something...". There's a lot to like about this proto-Brünhilde, who was forever-after separated from Wagner upon arrest for her part in the 1849 pro-democracy Dresden Uprising, and who was posthumously saddled with authorship of sexually salacious stage memoirs — a scandalous charge that compelled the utter disbelief of her former long-term confidant Richard Wagner.

Of course, Wilhelmine — the real woman that she was— was quite prepared to tease the young composer over his perceived unworldly views as being a marriage-cripple "0h, what would you know [about women] you hen-pecked [too early married] husband". Memory of this taunt he carried to the grave, possibly even choosing to replicate her well-remembered phraseology when, responding to Cosima's observation that some of the public preferred Tristan to Parsifal, he scoffed "what would they know!".

Theirs was a professional marriage that was never going to be. They may have matched minds of a sort, if not bodies. Wagner was perhaps forever fortunate that she persisted for him merely as an unattainable desirable memory — a release for subtler artistic forces to work within him. The actuality of such a professional union (recall that Minna was also an opera singer) may have eventuated in something approximating Byron's [Don Juan, Canto the First] post-festum warning:

But—Oh! ye lords of ladies intellectual,
Inform us truly, have they not hen-peck'd you all?


With this awful prospect, we'd have lacked the benefit of the chief muse!

How's that for shamelessly skirting around the issue at hand?
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Re: thwarted love, and epistemology, re Alberich and the "Ri

Postby alberich00 » Sun Jul 31, 2011 10:03 pm

Hello, Feuerzauber:

It will be interesting to see whether Zizek, Badiou, Deathridge, and Dreyfus respond to my email announcing the posting of my book at www.wagnerheim.com. I look forward to learning their perspective on my allegorical interpretation of the "Ring" and Wagner's other canonical artworks.

I was thinking of a curious and interesting remark about Schroeder-Devrient's portrayal of Fidelio. RW said that, when pronouncing the word "dead" in the midst of a sung area, she spoke rather than sang it, and this had the most startling dramatic effect, suddenly plunging the audience down out of ideal realm of music into the prosaic real, and noting that there are certain things which music must, in effect, refrain from transfiguring. This tells us something interesting about his conception of music-drama.

With respect to her role as his muse, Wagner did in fact state that the poet-dramatist can learn things about his/her own work by observing gifted actor-singers in performance which would never have dawned on the author without its being embodied on the stage. He said much the same of Schnorr von Carolsfeld. One of the most moving descriptions RW has given us is his two pages or so on his intimate interaction with Carolsfeld re Tristan: RW felt that his actor-singer had gotten inside the role in a way that no performer ever had before, or ever would again.

At any rate, Schroeder-Devrient must set her male admirers a-smouldering!!!!

Yours from the scorching flames of Venusberg,

Alberich00
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Re: thwarted love, and epistemology, re Alberich and the "Ri

Postby feuerzauber » Mon Aug 01, 2011 1:32 am

On re-reading my post, I felt morally obliged to alert Laurence Dreyfus to it in case I had misrepresented him, also to acquaint him with wagnerheim and, at least, to offer him right of scholarly reply to my non-scholarly "contribution".

On the contrary, he was tickled pink, ending his generous response "thanks for sharing your pleasure in reading my book. That means a lot coming from someone so hugely in the know about Wagner." — an unconsciously generous estimation when compared to your vast original scope.

He seems to have found in Byron's (deliciously sardonic) Don Juan couplet precisely what he had been professionally seeking for in vain in order to repel scholarly savaging of his translations — "an English turn of phrase with a nineteenth-century pedigree that would capture something of the German sense and context[,] and you've come up trumps." — generous again, it's damnable Byron who deserves the credit.
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Re: thwarted love, and epistemology, re Alberich and the "Ri

Postby feuerzauber » Mon Aug 01, 2011 2:50 am

Paul, I forgot to mention that Dreyfus's study deals extensively with Wagner's close personal/professional relationship (and its implication for his works) with favorite tenor: Schnorr von Carolsfeld.

In addition, Dreyfus analyses the nature of Wagner's complex relationships with men and his handling of male themes: his admirers; his celebration of Romantic Male Friendship (increasingly anachronistic by post-Medieval times) that surfaces for example in Tristan — that erotic work; his liberal approach to homosexual relationships among his friends (including the King's, and also Parsifal scene painter Joukowsky's, which Cosima took some time to tumble to).

Yep. There's little Dreyfus doesn't cover, or uncover.
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Re: thwarted love, and epistemology, re Alberich and the "Ri

Postby alberich00 » Mon Aug 01, 2011 7:44 am

My friend Feuerzauber:

I forgot to ask you for your review of the Badiou/Zizek book on 5 lessons on RW, and also for your review of Deathridge. I've read bits and pieces of Deathridge on google, but nothing of Badiou/Zizek for the vulgar reason that I can't afford to buy any more books until I get back on my feet (6/8/11 was my 3rd anniversary without paid employment. It will amuse you to learn that I was just hired to be a gate attendant at a county park paid at the exorbitant wage of $8.55 per hour, part-time, which presumably will cover my Starbucks coffee and some food, but my start-date is being held up due to the usual bureaucratic concerns, and, I suppose, suspense over the debt-ceiling issue, ho ho).

I met Deathridge and spoke briefly with him at the "Wagner and the Consequences" conference at Columbia Univ. some years ago (I think it was in the mid-90's). That was a walloping good time: I got taken out for dinner three times by total strangers (that's one thing I love about these international Wagner colloquia), and got to hear a campus-wide roundtable presided over by Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim, with Susan Sontag in attendance. I think there was an audience of about 1,000.

In this respect, 2013 should be an interesting year.

Your friend from Wagnerheim,

Paul
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