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The Rhinegold: Page 191
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The Rhinegold: Scene Three - Nibelheim: Wotan, Loge, Mime, Alberich, the Nibelungs, and Alberich transformed into a serpent/dragon

Having followed Wotan and Loge into Alberich’s underworld hell, the mines of Nibelheim, we have entered the womb of the earth, or, as Mime will describe it later, in S.1.2, the earth’s (i.e., Erda’s) navel-nest (“umbilical nest”). After having started to familiarize himself with Schopenhauer’s philosophic works in 1854, Wagner applied Schopenhauer’s philosophy not only to the planning of current or future artistic endeavors, but also to a reassessment of his artworks already completed. However, Feuerbach’s influence on the Ring libretto was so thoroughgoing that Wagner only applied those Schopenhauerian concepts to its elucidation in which he found parallels to one degree or another in either Feuerbach’s thought, or Wagner’s own pre-Schopenhauerian conception of the Ring.

An excellent introduction to R.3 is Wagner’s Schopenhauerian comparison between the unconscious artistic inspiration which Wagner presumed was the source of Beethoven’s music, and the (Schopenhauerian) Will’s workshop, where, as Wagner says here (evoking Alberich’s Nibelheim), all moves and stirs as in the earth’s (i.e., Erda’s) bowels:

“ … Rub. plays us the first part of the (Opus) 106 Sonata [Beethoven], and our delight is boundless! … R: ‘It is like being taken into the workshop of the Will, one sees everything moving and stirring as if in the bowels of the earth.’ – ‘Anyone who could translate this into words would have the key to the enigma of the world.’ “ [1055W-{1/17/81} CD Vol. II, p.600]

Wagner adds that anyone who could translate this inspired music into words (as Siegfried will later grasp the conceptual meaning of the Woodbird’s songs #128ab and #129ab) would have the key to the world’s enigma. We will be less ambitious here and merely suggest that Alberich’s nefarious doings in Nibelheim might just possibly provide a key to the enigma of human nature.

[R.3: A]

The action begins with Alberich’s demand that his brother Mime hand over a magic helmet, which Alberich designed but Mime manufactured, known as the Tarnhelm:

(#46?) (Alberich drags the screeching Mime by his ears from a side gallery: #7) (…)

Alberich: You’ll be properly pinched if you don’t finish making the delicate jewel on time, as I ordered. (…)

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