synopsis of my interpretation of the "Ring"

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

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synopsis of my interpretation of the "Ring"

Postby alberich00 » Thu Jun 18, 2015 6:09 am

Dear members and visitors to's discussion forum:

Well over a decade ago I posted an introduction to the content and scope of my prospective book on Wagner's seven repertory operas and music-dramas from "The Flying Dutchman" through "Parsifal" (the four-part "Ring" reckoned here as a single work), "The Wound That Will Never Heal," at Included in this introduction were thumbnail sketches of my interpretations of all seven works, so that readers could obtain an overview of how I construe these artworks as conceived by Wagner within one single conceptual frame of reference. I am posting in this discussion forum my synopses of Wagner's seven canonic operas and music-dramas, from 'Dutchman" through "Parsifal," so readers can see in brief how I relate one artwork to another in context.

Here is my synopsis of my interpretation of the "Ring":

ALBERICH’S RING: A comprehensive musico-dramatic interpretation of The Ring of the Nibelung

Wotan’s Story (God-the-Father’s {Religion’s} Story - Wagner’s Old Testament)

Chapter One - The Rhinegold: The story of the birth of the Folk and their first form of thought, religion (represented by Wotan). This is an account of the origin of our human civilization, and its foundation upon mythology, the belief in a divine cosmogony. Wotan, Wagner’s image of the historical Folk, initiates civilization (Valhalla) on the basis of the artistic self-deceit of religious belief instead of objective knowledge. Wotan’s dependence on Loge is Wagner’s metaphor for man’s dependence on artistic self-deceit, while Alberich’s Ring-power is his metaphor for the power objective knowledge brings. Wotan’s renunciation of Erda’s knowledge of all that was, is, and will be (the sin of world-renunciation Alberich accuses him of committing, which Alberich’s curse on the Ring is intended to punish), in favor of man’s futile bid for transcendent meaning, divinity, and immortality, is the essence of Alberich’s curse on the Ring: all men will by nature long for what they cannot possess or cannot enjoy if they did. This is the unhealing wound, the nature of the conscious mind which compels man to complete the incomplete.

Chapter Two – The Valkyrie: This is an account of the waning of religious belief and its direct influence on human affairs. Wotan, striving to ensure the survival of man’s religious impulse through the influence of his (religion’s) moral idealism on the revolutionary hero Siegmund, is forced to acknowledge that Siegmund’s heroism and love are merely the product of Wotan’s own fear and self-deception (i.e., the influence of our religious legacy on the morality of self-sacrifice). Recognizing that he (the idea of divinity) can no longer intervene in human affairs directly, Wotan turns inward for consolation. Having inexorably accumulated – thanks to Alberich’s curse - a Hoard of knowledge of himself (i.e., human nature) and the world (Mother Nature – Erda) which will in time destroy belief in the gods and the Folk’s transcendent value, Wotan transfers the Folk’s primevally unconscious inspiration (represented by his daughter by Erda, Bruennhilde) to his heir, the artist-hero, Siegfried. Wotan will be reborn as Siegfried, minus the memory of his true identity, thanks to his confessor Bruennhilde. Wotan attains rebirth as Siegfried by repressing his own bitter self-knowledge - his unspoken secret, that he is a craven, cowardly hypocrite who is dependent on a belief in transcendent ideals which are predestined to destruction by the truth - into his unconscious mind, Bruennhilde, through his confession to her. Bruennhilde, now Siegfried’s unconscious mind, will impart Wotan’s unbearably abhorrent, fearful Hoard of self-knowledge, and longing to consign this Hoard of knowledge to oblivion (which is the profound secret of his poetic intent), to Siegfried, subliminally.

Siegfried’s Story (The Artist-Hero-as-Savior’s Story - Wagner’s New Testament)

Chapter Three - Siegfried: The secular artist Siegfried (Wagner) falls heir both to the Folk’s Hoard of objective knowledge (Alberich’s Hoard of treasure and Wotan’s Hoard of knowledge of the earth, or Erda, which he confessed to Bruennhilde), and to dying religious belief’s essence, the longing for infinite satisfaction of feeling. In this way he unwittingly becomes the champion of the Folk’s futile longing for transcendent value, and redeems religious feeling (music, religion’s last refuge) temporarily from destruction by scientific analysis. Fafner, the guardian of Alberich’s Hoard, Tarnhelm, and Ring, insures that the sources of Alberich’s power, and his objective knowledge, remain inaccessible to the Folk. Fafner represents Wotan’s fear of the truth, religious faith, which holds freedom of thought (Alberich/Hagen) hostage. Siegfried must kill Fafner (faith’s fear of truth) in order to free religion’s essence, musical feeling, from the intellectual contradictions of dogma and faith, and take aesthetic, artistic possession of Alberich’s fearful Hoard of knowledge, to render his curse harmless. Siegfried’s unconscious artistic inspiration by Wotan’s (the historical Folk’s) fear of the truth (Fafner), is depicted in Siegfried’s loving union with Bruennhilde, his muse, who imparts to him unconsciously, i.e., musically, the contents of Wotan’s fearful confession. This provides a key insight into the nature of Wagner’s musical motifs, and Siegfried’s fear. What Wotan thought, Siegfried will only feel, thanks to Bruennhilde, who holds Wotan’s (Light-Alberich’s) and Alberich’s Hoard of knowledge for Siegfried. Art - which according to both Feuerbach and Wagner stakes no claim to the truth (the Ring and its power), and thus owns itself a mere game, a mere fiction, or mere feeling (music) - thus replaces religion, which staked a claim to the truth which was false because it was unsustainable in the face of science’s (Alberich’s/Hagen’s) valid claim. Wotan’s only hope is that Siegfried’s heroic deeds of art, inspired by his muse Bruennhilde’s love, will be invulnerable to Alberich’s curse on religion’s (the gods’) false claim to the truth (Ring), and redeem religion’s essence, its music, from Alberich’s and Hagen’s (modern science’s) threat.

Chapter Four – Twilight of the Gods: The story of the demise of art and the artist – the last stand of the Folk’s futile bid for transcendent meaning – at the hands of scientific analysis. Siegfried unwittingly reveals the secret of his formerly unconscious artistic inspiration by giving his muse Bruennhilde - who keeps the secret of his true identity as heir to the Folk’s (Wotan’s) futile bid for transcendence – away to his audience, represented by Gunther and the Gibichungs. In Siegfried’s narrative of the story of his life in act three of The Twilight of the Gods, instigated by Hagen (Wagner’s symbol for the scientific, skeptical spirit of the modern world), in which Siegfried exposes his true relationship with his muse Bruennhilde to the public, Wagner provides a metaphor for his own Ring. By interpreting the Woodbird’s song (music, God’s last refuge) conceptually, at Hagen’s behest, Siegfried (Wagner) the music-dramatist betrays the secret of the Folk’s ageless, unconscious poetic intent to consciousness. The tragedy is that in the very effort to provide religious mystery, the noumenal, one more lease on life in an increasingly scientific, de-mythologized world, Wagner the Nibelung - Wotan as Light- Alberich - unwittingly dredged the last refuge of religion, the mystery of unconscious artistic inspiration, up from the silent depths of night to the light of day.
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