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The Valkyrie: Page 426
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#92c, the cadence for Siegfried’s Motif #92, as I’ve described it here, is evidently the basis for Bruennhilde’s vocal line in the last words she speaks (i.e., sings) in the Ring “In bliss your wife bids you welcome,” just before she plunges into Siegfried’s funeral pyre with her horse Grane, in the finale of Twilight of the Gods, intending to join Siegfried in death. This self-immolation sets off a fast-moving train of events which culminates with the twilight of the gods, their burning up in Valhalla. Since #93, Sieglinde’s extravagant praise of Bruennhilde’s compassionate intervention in the Waelsungs’ fate as the “holiest wonder,” and introduced here in conjunction with #92, comes to the fore in the finale as Wagner’s last musical gesture of significance, it is clear that whatever the Ring in the final analysis means, a key part of the explanation can be found here, in this moment.

Bruennhilde, like her mother Erda a prophetess, also foresees that Siegfried will re-forge his father Siegmund’s sword Nothung, whose pieces she salvaged from the battlefield. And Sieglinde herself, inspired by Bruennhilde’s gift of prophecy, anticipates that Siegfried will smile upon Bruennhilde someday. Sieglinde, Bruennhilde foresees, would suffer the special “Noth,” or misery, to which the Waelsung race are doomed by virtue of having to take on the burden of Alberich’s curse on the Ring, in order to free the gods from this curse. She will suffer this “Noth” in order to bring the greatest Waelsung hero to birth. Thus Sieglinde suggests that her woe may be Bruennhilde’s blessing. This concept that the Waelsungs’ “Noth” is the basis for Siegfried’s and Bruennhilde’s marital bliss will be echoed when the Woodbird in S.2.3 tells Siegfried the lovers’ secret, that bliss is made from woe. But this is a variation of Wagner’s metaphor for redemption through unconscious artistic inspiration: through this blessing granted by the artist’s muse (in Siegfried’s case, Bruennhilde) the artist-hero, like Loge, draws advantage – i.e., inspiration – from the most terrible things, to transform them into the sublime. This is the “Wonder” of inspired art.

The new, transcendently beautiful motif Sieglinde introduces while singing her hymn of praise to Bruennhilde, in which she extols the “sublimest wonder” or miracle of Bruennhilde’s intervention to save Sieglinde’s child Siegfried, is #93. #93, as the primary motif which will be heard in the finale of the Ring (T.3.3), is generally regarded as the “Motif of Redemption by Love.” Wagner’s recording secretary he engaged to record all of Wagner’s observations about the Ring during the rehearsals for its premier in 1876, Heinrich Porges, provided the following evidence for this reading, a commentary presumably corresponding with Wagner’s own remarks at the time:

“Into her ecstatic outcry: ‘O hehrstes Wunder!’ Sieglinde must put all the intensity of which she is capable, she must release a great flood of emotion, enraptured and enrapturing.” [* Porges’ Footnote: “It is well known that this supremely lovely melody, banishing the terror of death, is employed at the close of Goetterdaemmerung as the song of redemption that overcomes the power of fate.”]” [872W-{6-8/76} WRR, p. 69]

Porges’ interpretation presumably had Wagner’s imprimatur, but in point of fact Wagner himself never, so far as I know, described #93 as a redemption motif. He said, rather:

“I am glad that I kept back Sieglinde’s theme of praise for Bruennhilde, to become as it were a hymn to heroes.’ “[832W-{7/23/72}CD Vol. I, p. 515]

But we must not let our enthusiasm for the sublimity of the Ring’s finale, and the passionate hopes we invest in the Ring’s sympathetic heroes and heroines, delude us into canonizing #93 as a motif

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