Review 'The Wagner Experience' Part 6 continued

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

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Review 'The Wagner Experience' Part 6 continued

Postby alberich00 » Fri Mar 13, 2015 12:32 pm

P. 136: DB here discusses Lohengrin's and Elsa's Act III love duet. DB: "There is only one tiny speck in Elsa's happiness, she says, and that is that she cannot give a name to it, to the man who actualises it. How sweet it would be to speak his name. (...) Can he not tell her his name so softly that it is virtually unspoken, now that they are alone? It would be like a personal endearment. He tells her he wants no such endearment, but simply to savor the magic of her. She says that confiding his name would be [an] act of trust, and he points out that he had shown absolute trust in her innocence and championed her although he knew nothing of her."

PH: As I pointed out in the two online versions of my essay "How Elsa Showed Wagner the Way to Siegfried," Elsa's offer to help Lohengrin keep his secret is a basis for Wagner's subsequent elaboration of this idea in Bruennhilde's request that Wotan confide in her the reason for his divine "Noth," or private anguish, which leads to his great confession to her in Act Two Scene Two of "The Valkyrie." This confession will, as Wotan says, remain virtually unspoken, because in confiding to Bruennhilde Wotan is confiding with himself, for Bruennhilde is his unconscious mind. Wagner provided the foundation for this concept in his analysis of the special relationship of Lohengrin with Elsa in his 1851 essay "A Communication to My Friends," in which Wagner said that Elsa is what is involuntary and unconscious in Lohengrin, in which he seeks to redeem himself. Wagner also said there that Elsa's breach of Lohengrin's trust, her breach of faith, was the inspiration for Wagner's evolution from a creator of traditional romantic operas to the creator or revolutionary music-dramas, in which the music and drama would, in a sense, become one. Wagner of course also stated in his theoretical writings of the 1850's that woman is a metaphor for music, and man a metaphor for the word, or poetic drama, and that their loving union produces the revolutionary music drama. Note, therefore, that Lohengrin discourages Elsa from asking the forbidden question which, in the "Ring," Wotan agrees to answer because in speaking to Bruennhilde he is speaking to himself. In other words, Lohengrin's refusal to share secret, forbidden knowledge of his true identity with Elsa, means, from a figurative standpoint, that music and drama have not fully interpenetrated in "Lohengrin," which is the last of Wagner's traditional romantic operas, but in the "Ring," in which Wotan does share his secret, divine "Noth" with his daughter Bruennhilde, we find the full union of music with drama which distinguishes Wagner's revolutionary music-dramas from his less sophisticated romantic operas of the past.

PH: As I also pointed out in my two online essays on "Lohengrin" in its relationship to the "Ring," Lohengrin is not being honest when he tells Elsa that she should trust him because he trusted her, because, later in the third act, when Elsa has forced Lohengrin to make his secret public, we learn that he was originally sent to Elsa by the Grail, as one of its knights, to protect the innocent, which means that according to Lohengrin's own assumptions he knew Elsa was innocent of the literal charge of fratricide prior to meeting her. He certainly doesn't deserve praise for trusting her in this sense, but if Lohengrin is also alluding to his trust that she would never ask him to tell her his name and origin, then this presents a problem, because we would have to ask why, given her innocence of the charge of fratricide, he wouldn't trust her. Presumably every single case in which a Grail knight has been sent by it on a mission to protect the innocent has the same conditions, which means that the knights, by the very nature of the case, have to trust those they protect to never ask them to reveal their secret. But there is more to this than meets the eye, and maybe we shouldn't trust Lohengrin's alleged confession of his true identity and origin in Act III. To learn more, read both of my online essays on "Lohengrin," the earliest of which can be found in this discussion forum archive by scrolling back several years to find "How Elsa Showed Wagner the Way to Siegfried," and the more recent and elaborate version at

P. 136: DB: [Elsa] "... says that she would like to make him [Lohengrin] a return for his trust and his protection. If his name were a dark secret, then she could show how much she loves him by resisting all attempts to extract [it] from her. ... Elsa cannot stop herself: 'Prove to me how much you trust me; for that proof I have to be aware of who you are.' "

PH: DB's paraphrase of Elsa's words doesn't make it quite clear that Elsa is offering to share with Lohengrin the secret of his true identity and origin so that she can help protect him from the "Noth," or harm, which she presumes he would suffer if his secret were exposed to the world, presumes because Elsa has bought into Ortrud's claim that Lohengrin is hiding his true identity out of fear. Actually, Elsa knows instinctively that it is indeed because of fear of the truth, for, as Feuerbach said in many ways, the religiously faithful instinctively censor any inquiry which might expose the mundane origin of what they proclaim are impenetrable religious mysteries. Feuerbach noted that they are mysteries which we ourselves can explain, since we ourselves invented them, involuntarily and unwittingly, during the earliest days of the creation of religious belief systems. We humans collectively dreamed the gods into existence, through our myth making capacity, but, since in religious belief one has unquestioning faith in the truth of the claims of faith, man could not have been conscious of the fact that he was, and is, deceiving himself in religious belief. It is for this reason that Elsa's offer to protect Lohengrin from "Noth" by sharing and helping him keep his secret, becomes in Bruennhilde's hands something even more extraordinary. By virtue of becoming the repository for thoughts which Wotan himself said he could not say aloud (i.e., consciously) without losing his grip, Bruennhilde figuratively gives birth to Wotan's reincarnation as Siegfried, the hero who, because she knows for him what he doesn't know consciously, his true identity and fate, does not know who he is, and also, is, unlike Wotan, freed from fear of the end, from foresight of the end (note that Bruennhilde's magic protects Siegfried at the front from wounds).

P. 136: DB's paraphrase of the next portion of their love duet is not quite accurate: DB: "He [Lohengrin] tells her that her love and her own self are such a source of joy and fulfillment for him, that everything he ever knew and all the past that he has left behind are nothing in comparison [PH: Not quite!]. To make sure that she understands the full extent of his admiration, he goes on to tell her unwisely that this is so even though he left behind a realm of bliss and radiance and not of darkness and gloom as she seems to imagine."

PH: What Lohengrin says is that Elsa's love must compensate him for what he had to leave behind in order to be her savior, a realm of bliss, not of darkness. As I've stated in my online "Lohengrin" essays, Lohengrin actually was seeking salvation in Elsa's warm, human, physical love from the sterile abstraction of the imaginary paradise represented by the Grail as man's longing for transcendent meaning. Lohengrin has discovered, in effect, that since our idea of paradise is really just a sublimation of life's bliss, articially purged of life's anguish by the imagination, that paradise wouldn't be worth having could we not smuggle into it the very things we thought we would have to renounce in order to be able to enter it redeemed, and the primary thing we would need there to make it palatable would be heartfelt and physical love between the sexes (at least according to Wagner).

P. 136-137: DB: "Elsa is unfortunately so out of harmony with herself that this only starts her off on wilder imaginings. She becomes terrified that he will soon want to leave her and go back to his origins of bliss and radiance. How can she ever compete with that, and how can she hold him if she does not even know his name, cannot identify him. She ends up in a state of increasing hysteria. In her imagination she sees the swan returning and taking the knight back whence he came. Lohengrin is in agony as he tries to restrain her; Elsa, quiet, no no ! Elsa, stop! But at the height of her outburst she half gasps, half screams the forbidden question, declaiming it word by word and demanding of him his name, origins and nature."

PH: Elsa can keep Lohengrin from leaving, hold onto him, only if he is in fact in danger if he reveals his true identity. In other words, she can hold him only if he is, in effect, lying when he says he came to her from a realm of bliss and radiance, and lying also, obviously, when he later explains what he meant by that, that he'd been sent by the Grail to her to protect her innocence. She's obviously not innocent in Lohengrin's sense of the term, since she does in fact ask the forbidden question, like Eve. And of course this begs the question whether or not she is in some sense responsible, not for Gottfried's death (since he is in fact living in disguise as the swan who pulled Lohengrin in his boat to shore), but for mankind's being subject to death, through the Fall. The fact is, only if the Grail realm, from which Lohengrin says he came, is an illusory aspiration, can Elsa truly show her love for Lohengrin and maintain his fidelity to her, because he must seek her out not only to obtain his own redemption from the sterility of this false hope, but also, in order that she can keep the secret that it is a false hope, by becoming the muse for that inspired secular art which offers us a substitute for religious faith when, as both Feuerbach and Wagner put it, God must leave us (i.e., religious faith no longer can be sustained in the too skeptical modern world, suffering from the Ring curse of too much consciousness).

P. 137-138: DB describes the final scene of "Lohengrin," in which Lohengrin is compelled by Elsa's question to confess his true identity and origin in public. DB: "... Elsa has broken her promise not to ask who he is. He is mystically bound to tell her the truth and proclaim it to the world. They can then judge whether he is worthy and honorable. To the music of the Prelude he tells of his home, the distant Temple of the Holy Grail. He spins a vocal line which exerts its own spell as he describes the Knights of the Grail and their sacred purpose, and the annual descent of the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, to replenish the Grail's power. The Knights have power to do great deeds in the world and they bring blessings where ever they are sent, but nobody must know who they are, because the knowledge deprives them of their power and requires of them that they return immediately to the Grail Temple. The King of the Temple is his father Parsifal; he himself is the King's loyal knight, and his name is Lohengrin. If only Elsa had held out for a year her brother would have returned. Now he must return home to the Grail Temple, and must go alone. To the general consternation and Elsa's horror, the swan reappears with its skiff, ready for his departure. Elsa's nightmarish imaginings are self-fulfilling."

PH: The reason why Elsa alone can compel Lohengrin to divulge his identity publicly is that she is, as Wagner said in "A Communication to My Friends," and then dramatized again in the relationship of Bruennhilde with Wotan, Eva with Walther, Tristan with Isolde, and Parsifal with Kundry, Lohengrin's (the hero's) unconscious mind.

PH: It is also noteworthy that Wagner seems to have contradicted his own stated premise in writing "Lohengrin," which was that the Grail knights were supposed to be celibate, in having Lohengrin confess here publicly that Parsifal is his father. But that's actually the point: the Grail Knights, following Feuerbach's logic, have to renounce as much of their material, animal nature as possible in order to be worthy of serving supernatural holiness, but because they are themselves not only physical in origin and nature, but also even in their aspiration to transcend their physical nature, this aspiration is ultimately futile. Thus Lohengrin sought redemption from the strict discipline of Grail service in marriage, as evidently Parsifal had before him. In Wagner's final music-drama "Parsifal," however, what Parsifal will be renouncing when he renounces the sexual love offered by Kundry is any further perpetuation of unconscious artistic inspiration, whose metaphor is the love of hero for heroine.

P. 138: DB: "Ortrud succeeds in her determination that Elsa should die, but of a broken heart. However, Lohengrin does now achieve one lasting benefit. In response to Ortrud he advances to the edge of the river, kneels in prayer, and loosens the chain from the swan. It sinks into the water, and a magnificent, heroic young man appears on the surface. It is Gottfried, Elsa's brother, whom Ortrud had transformed into the swan, and he can now take Lohengrin's place as leader of the Brabantine forces."

PH: It seems odd that Lohengrin would suggest to Elsa on the one hand that by virtue of not keeping her vow the original plan for Gottfried to return to her after one year is now null and void, yet moments later offer up a prayer which restores Gottfried to life in his original human form. But Wagner is here groping towards that ultimate allegory, "The Ring of the Nibelung," in which Wotan, like Lohengrin, separates himself from the heroine (Bruennhilde, Elsa) because of a breach of trust and faith, which nonetheless produces a redemption on a higher plane, for just as Siegfried inherits a sword, horn, and ring (the sword which Wotan left for Siegfried's father Siegmund in Hunding's House-Tree, and the Ring which Wotan stole from Alberich), and becomes the artist-hero who falls heir to the gods' futile bid for redemption, so Gottfried is an incipient Siegfried who falls heir to Lohengrin's futile quest for redemption, when Lohengrin must leave the world. Gottfried is an incipient artist-hero, heir to that dying religious faith represented by his sister Elsa's insistence on asking the Eve-like question in a quest for divinely forbidden knowledge.

P. 139-140: PH: Here DB makes the most extraordinary claim (which is partly due to his failure to reference the really crucial passages from 'A Communication to My Friends" which he quotes from here) which, I feel, can't be sustained in the face of my own original research, as put forth in my two online essays on "Lohengrin" and my book on Wagner's "Ring" posted here at DB: "Wagner did nothing to clarify the lessons and meanings of 'Lohengrin' in his publication 'A Communication to my Friends' (1851). In it he provided a male chauvinist interpretation of his opera, which makes no mention of Lohengrin's mission as a servant of the Grail, sent out in response to Elsa's appeal. Instead, 'Lohengrin sought a woman who would believe in him, a woman who would not ask who he was or whence he came, but would love him as he was, because he was what he appeared to her to be. (...) For this reason he had to conceal his higher nature, for it was precisely the non-discovery, the non-revelation of this higher nature ... that was his sole guarantee that he was not admired or marveled at, or humbly and uncomprehendingly adored, simply because of that quality. (...) Only one thing could release him from his isolation, satisfy this yearning: love. To be loved and to be understood through love. All his highest thinking, his most conscious knowing, were filled with no other desire than to be a complete, whole human being, swayed by and received with the warmth of human emotion, to be entirely human, not a god. In other words, an absolute artist. And so he yearned for woman - the human heart. And so he descended from his blissful, barren solitude when he heard a cry for help arising from the midst of humanity, from this particular heart, from this woman. But he is unable to shake off the telltale aura of his higher nature. He cannot help but appear an object of wonder. (...) Doubt and jealousy prove to him that he is not understood but only adored, and tear from him the confession of his divinity, with which he returns into solitude, destroyed.' "

PH: DB evidently did not detect the Feuerbachian subtext of "Lohengrin," and therefore he here seems to be confused by Wagner's after-the-fact interpretation of "Lohengrin," an interpretation which in fact makes sense within my own interpretation. Wagner was following Feuerbach's contrast between religious faith and love, for in Feuerbach's view faith depends upon fear of inquiry, fear of knowledge, and adherence to strict, dogmatic, coercive rules and articles of faith, such as Lohengrin's insistence that even his wife never ask him who he is or where he comes from, which aren't consistent with the voluntary nature of love. Lohengrin conceals his higher nature because the one thing the imaginary spiritual world, from which he allegedly comes, lacks, is meaning, because without smuggling man's natural yearnings into the allegedly transcendent paradise of his imagining, it isn't worth having. And that is what Wagner means when he says above that Lohengrin wanted to be human, not a god. This is precisely what Tannhaeuser complained about to Venus, though in her case the contradiction between the metaphysical and the physical is seen from the viewpoint of the physical rather than the metaphysical. This is precisely why Wotan takes a back seat to the mortal artist-hero Siegfried, making him Wotan's heir.

PH: Similarly, from the perspective of my interpretation we can grasp why Wagner says of Lohengrin that he didn't want to be an absolute artist. Wagner compared so-called absolute music, whose proponents claimed it referred only to itself but had no direct relation to life, to the Christian notion of God''s miraculous creation of the world from nothing. Wagner had no sympathy with this idea, either in religion or art. Wagner believed that what he was accomplishing in his music-dramas was showing how the seemingly miraculous, what he called "Das Wunder," could be produced through a gradual evolution from a normal, mundane original content. This is partly what he meant when he described the secret of his art as being the art of transition. One of Feuerbach's other main arguments, central to Wagner's remarks above, was that it is not God's allegedly mysterious ways which man finds compelling, but rather, the promise paradise seems to hold for man to enjoy there what he couldn't enjoy in life because of his personal or life's limitations, but wished to enjoy, natural things magnified by the imagination to infinity. Thus, DB's following confusion about how to incorporate Wagner's own interpretation of "Lohengrin" into the pretty conventional one which DB proposes is understandable, if inaccurate:

P. 140: DB: "This clarifies what Lohengrin needed from Elsa, but it implies that Lohengrin came to Antwerp mainly or entirely for love, and that he was there to fulfill his own personal yearning for Elsa. This is at loggerheads with the terms and the main action of the opera. The opera itself establishes that Lohengrin has responded to Elsa's call primarily in response to a divine command of the Grail. He is under orders ... that he should help Elsa and orders not to reveal who he is. In his farewell monologue, he informs the company that the ability of Grail knights like himself to perform deeds of valor and spread goodness throughout the world depends on everybody around them not knowing who and what they are. None of this has anything to do [with] Wagner's suggestion that Lohengrin hides his identity because he is a man desperate to be loved for his own sake. And if this were not enough, Wagner suddenly presents out of nowhere the idea that this desire of Lohengrin to be received unconditionally is the vain aspiration of the absolute artist. From the knight in shining armor following the behests of the Grail, Lohengrin has swerved away, first into being a godlike individual who wants to be loved incognito, then into something completely different, an absolute artist who needs to be understood by his public, something not even hinted at by anything in the opera."

PH: Needless to say, DB needs to read my two aforementioned online versions of my previously published paper "How Elsa Showed Wagner the Way to Siegfried." In these papers he would learn that the very ideas he finds Wagner applying to his retrospective interpretation of "Lohengrin," which DB denies have any relevance to grasping it, are actually the key to unlocking not only the mystery of "Lohengrin," but also a primary key for revealing the coherent conceptual allegorical reasoning underlying all of Wagner's canonic operas and music-dramas. Why DB overlooked Wagner's description of Elsa as the involuntary or unconscious part of Lohengrin, his other half, in "A Communication to my Friends," is beyond me. This would have provided him an entré to grasp how Wagner's ideas which DB finds so incommensurable with the original libretto text of "Lohengrin" actually disclose its underlying conceptual coherence, and link it conceptually with Wagner's other canonic artworks.

P. 140: DB: "On the other hand, it is certainly part of the opera and its mainstream narrative that Lohengrin cries out to Elsa that he loves her. Lohengrin's sudden, headlong involvement in a passionate romance with Elsa in itself creates a new set of motives for his actions, over and above Elsa's defense and the Grail's command that Lohengrin should provide it. But, as described earlier, Lohengrin's sudden passion for Elsa is not in itself incompatible with the mission specified by the Grail."

PH: One of the secrets of Wagner's last music-drama, "Parsifal" (which is the second of Wagner's artworks to deal specifically with the Holy Grail, or the third if you include the "Ring" on the basis that Wagner himself once wrote that the Nibelung Hoard ultimately evolves into the Holy Grail), is that Klingsor's magic garden is, I believe, Wagner's metaphor for how he had come to construe the meaning of the very secular art which he had proffered as an alternative means for redemption when the traditional religious faith was in decline, and that Klingsor is able to ensnare all the other Grail knights who try to defeat him and restore the Holy Spear to the Grail Castle, in the hands of his seductive Flower Maidens, simply because this is Wagner's metaphor for the need of those who posit a transcendent, divine paradise to smuggle into it the very natural bliss which it was a condition of entry into paradise that man must renounce. So, according to Feuerbach, all religious saints and seers and prophets and holy, iconic figures must make, if you will, secret, illicit trips back to the earthly realm (symbolized by sexual union with a Flower-Maiden, or Venus, or Kundry, as the case may be) in order to sustain the value set on the imaginary spiritual realm. In other words, the artist's unconscious inspiration is by its very nature illicit, because while unconsciously inspired the artist-hero must confront knowledge which, if conscious, would undermine and contradict the very concept of redemption itself. That is why, once Tannhaeuser has exposed what formerly he had experienced only unconsciously, his sojourn with Venus, to his audience, his audience, and even the Pope, proclaimed him irredeemable.

PH: Klingsor has castrated himself because in his futile quest to demonstrate his holiness and purity in his art, i.e., to purge his art (religion) of anything which could remotely contradict his claim to supernatural grace, anything that recalls his earthly nature, he has made of his spiritual paradise a wasteland which no longer has any meaning for himself or others. This helps to explain, I think, the desperate quest of many modern artists to divorce their art of anything which could make it reduceable to rational categories, to seek in it a radical and extreme freedom from reduction to the mundane.

P. 142-143: DB: "The unconditional love that Lohengrin needs from Elsa, taking him as he stands and knowing nothing of him, is the polar opposite of the total intimacy, the knowing him utterly and being utterly known, which she needs from him. Whether following the dictates of the Grail or his own longing for incognito love, he confides and entrusts nothing of himself to her; and because of her insecurities she is the last person to cope with this."

PH: Again, DB doesn't grasp that Lohengrin's and Elsa's difficulties with each other's demands stem from Feuerbach's contrast between divine faith and law, which depend on coercion and fear, and love, which is voluntary and instinctive, felt, not thought, as per Bruennhilde's defiance of Wotan's coercive law, and Siegfried's breaking of Wotan's Spear of Divine Law and Authority. It is the difference between religious faith and artistic wonder, as Wagner put it, which, instead of positing all meaning outside of the known world, transfigures the known world and remains a part of it. That is what Lohengrin is seeking from his potential muse Elsa subliminally, without knowing it.

P. 143-144: Here at last DB contrasts the "Ring" with "Lohengrin." DB: "What romantic partners really need from those they love is interdependence. (...) Interdependence enables the partners to embrace the differences in each others' personalities and their separate activities, something represented by Wagner in the relationship of Bruennhilde and Siegfried at the beginning of "Goetterdaemmerung." (...) It is the absence of interdependence that shears Elsa and Lohengrin apart. There is something further about Lohengrin's outlook which is all wrong. His expectations of Elsa actually involve an internal contradiction. Real intimacy is intrinsically mutual. (...) The suffusing of two personalities one with another is what Elsa craves of Lohengrin, and it is also what Lohengrin wants of Elsa, but not really. To be genuine, intimacy must include the mutual sharing of memories because memories and life experience are a large part of who we are. (...) Lohengrin's embargo on Elsa's access to his memories and identity is incompatible with the very fusing and merging that he wants.

PH: DB says more than he knows here. He is correct, but the link between DB's reasoning here and Wagner's notion of the loving relationship of hero with heroine as a metaphor for the interpenetration of music with word/drama, which is the essence of his transition from romantic opera composer to revolutionary music-dramatist, is lost on him. The contrast between "Lohengrin," in which the hero Lohengrin refuses to share the secret of his divine "Noth" with the heroine Elsa, as part of their love-pact, and the "Ring," in which Wotan voluntarily confides the secret of his divine "Noth" to his daughter Bruennhilde, metaphorically distinguishes romantic opera, in which, according to Wagner, music still has a mostly mechanical relationship with the drama, and revolutionary music-drama, in which music and drama become one, is the very key to grasping Wagner's mature music-dramas and their relationship with all of Wagner's prior artistic production. DB does get credit though for seeing that Siegfried's and Bruennhilde's relationship is distinct in kind from that of Lohengrin with Elsa, but he didn't see that it is actually Wotan's relationship with Bruennhilde which offers us the crucial contrast or counter-case.

P. 144-145: Here DB further pushes open the envelope of his analysis of Lohengrin's and Elsa's relations which, had he pushed a bit further, might have granted him our deeper insight: DB: " 'Lohengrin' makes some other telling points. It demonstrates certain other factors for a good relationship which are missing with Lohengrin and Elsa, such as a willingness to forgive, kindliness, and compassion. Forgiveness is something that is cruelly denied to Elsa, even though her fault, her broken promise to Lohengrin, is not so very dire. It is a strangely virtuous fault, reflecting not only her need but her great love for Lohengrin. It is the intensity of her love that makes her disobey his conditions for it. She is in a double-bind. Her intensity makes the love so fulfilling, but the same intensity compels her to do what destroys it. There is no malice about her wrongdoing, no exploitation, no evil intent or fraud, and Lohengrin's failure to forgive Elsa was a mistake that Wagner highlighted as something to avoid."

PH: Lohengrin's inability to forgive Elsa, and his insistence that because she has broken her vow and forced him to reveal his name and origin to her and to the public, he must separate from her forever, is the basis for Wotan's permanent separation from Bruennhilde. The secular art which falls heir to man's quest to posit transcendent value when religious faith in God, or the gods, can no longer be sustained in the modern world, must be wholly divorced from its origin in religion in order to free itself from religious faith's insupportable claim to the power of truthfulness, for, as Feuerbach said, art makes us feel as if we have transcended our natural limits without making conceptual assertions, such as religious belief does, which can be contradicted. Art is content to make us feel, without making us think. Thus Siegfried, the beneficiary of the muse Bruennhilde's redemptive love in S.3.3, when Bruennhilde tries to tell him of Wotan's confession to her, tells her that all that stuff is remote to him, when all he can do is feel her presence. That is the gift that Elsa had offered Lohengrin and he could not accept, for he stands, as Wotan does, for the old religious faith which must be bypassed by its heir, secular art, even as it incorporates and satisfies religious feeling, man's longing for transcendence.

P. 145: PH: DB's perspective seems consistent with what I said above even though he evidently has no insight into its grounds within the allegorical logic of "Lohengrin" such as I have disclosed: DB: "If the hero of the opera did not show more commitment to be what Elsa needed, then part of the reason was that he was not a free agent. He had made commitments to the Grail long before Elsa's prayers or even the Grail itself had first summoned him up the Scheldt. His shining singleness of mind is part of his appeal to Elsa, but that singleness of mind prevents him from giving her first place ... ."

P. 146: PH: DB offers one last footnote in this chapter in which he unwittingly condemns himself for having missed the single most important clue to grasping the allegorical logic of "Lohengrin," which would have allowed him, had he grasped it, to not only answer all or most of the questions he poses in this chapter, but also to place "Lohengrin" conceptually within the overall context of Wagner's life's work: DB: "I should mention for the sake of completeness that Wagner not only at one stage said that Lohengrin was an allegory of the absolute artist, but at another that the opera was really about Elsa: that she was the woman of the future; and that she had made a revolutionary of him. However, these are ideas which seem to have no basis of expression in the opera itself, and as it is not easy either to make out their value for us, they do not really belong here."

PH: I was sad to read this, since the very concepts which DB tells us are irrelevant to our understanding of "Lohengrin" are in fact the foundation of my original research on Wagner for the past 40 years, and in fact laid the foundations for my life's work, my conceptual allegorical interpretation of Wagner's ten canonical operas and music-dramas, an interpretation in which I believe I have demonstrated the conceptual unity of Wagner's canonical body of artworks, from "The Flying Dutchman" through "Parsifal." As I have already adequately addressed these points earlier in my review of DB's chapter on "Lohengrin," I would ask readers who seriously desire to grasp what I mean to simply read through my two online essays bearing the same title, the first being my published paper "How Elsa Showed Wagner the Way to Siegfried," which can be read right here in the archive of this discussion forum by scrolling back through the archive several years, and the second being a more elaborate version of this paper which has the virtue of including evidence from the writings of Ludwig Feuerbach, which can be found under the same title at, under "Texts on Wagner." Elsa's Eve-like insistence on asking Lohengrin the forbidden question made Wagner a revolutionary, capable of producing the "Ring of the Nibelung," "Tristan and Isolde," "The Mastersingers of Nuremberg," and "Parsifal," for reasons which you can only learn in these two essays, and in my online "Ring" book posted here at

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