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Siegfried: Page 618
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thought) was not a choice he made: it was itself the product of natural necessity, for Alberich’s acquisition of the power of the ring through the renunciation of love is Wagner’s metaphor for the birth of human consciousness itself, the Fall, which of its own nature left animal instinct, the life of mere feeling, far behind. The point here is that the birth of the gods (i.e., the evolution of man from animal ancestors, and his involuntary invention of the gods), and their demise (the end of religious belief) are as much products of natural necessity, Erda’s ur-law, as instinct (love) itself.

{{ As Wotan acknowledges further that it is Erda’s spirit which moves men, and that her mind is behind men’s brooding, there sounds in the orchestra what may be a reference to a string fanfare heard in S.3.3 when Bruennhilde, after having fearfully resisted sexual union with Siegfried, finally acquiesces and accepts him as her lover. This fanfare may be based on #140. The score will need to be examined to see whether this motif variant’s presence can be confirmed. }}

Erda asks who it is who has awoken her, and Wotan answers “Your awakener am I.” Is it possible that she, the mother of all beings, and Wotan’s former lover, does not recognize him under his disguise as the Wanderer, when Alberich recognized him under this disguise in moonlight at night? While it seems quite likely that Mime did not recognize Wotan under his disguise until Wotan produced a thunder clap with his Spear, the fact that Alberich recognized the Wanderer as Wotan right away would seem to preclude the possibility that Erda would not recognize him. We will revisit this question near the end of this scene, where it is raised again in a manner which should provide us our answer. I would suggest at this point, however, that there is a sort of formal, ritualistic aspect in Wotan’s conversation with Erda, at least initially, a distancing such as one finds in certain formal contexts in which the parties speak of themselves in the third person.

[S.3.1: B]

We come now to the real nub of the drama, for in the following conversation Wotan will make the same two requests of Erda which he made in the finale of R.4. He will ask how, or whether, he can alter fate (i.e., alter the truth), or, barring that, how he can free himself from the fear which foreknowledge of his inevitable fate engenders, i.e., how he can cease to be conscious of knowledge which he has found intolerable. Clearly, these are rhetorical questions, since Wotan has already told Alberich in S.2.1 that he has resigned himself to the fact that nothing can be altered, and also found his answer to both these questions in his daughter, the sleeping Bruennhilde, who, in loving union with the artist-hero Siegfried, will inspire Siegfried to create artworks which render the terrible world and its horrors harmless by sublimating tragedy into beauty, providing mankind at least temporary relief from his unhealing wound:

 

Erda: (#97:; #15 vari? [or some other motival or musical foreshadowing of the mood during Siegfried’s approach as Wotan waits for him in S.3.2?]) My sleep is dreaming, my dreaming brooding, (#59a:) my brooding the exercise of knowledge (:#59a). (#2:) But when I sleep, then Norns keep watch: (#19?:) they weave the rope and bravely spin whatever I know (:#2; :#19?) - why don’t you ask (#2:) the Norns?

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