A+ a-
Wagnerheim Logo
Wagnerheim Bookmark System
Twilight of the Gods: Page 782
Go back a page
782
Go forward a page

comique), under the influence of the allegedly half-breed Jewish Hagen, represents the music-dramatist Siegfried’s betrayal of his true nature, symbolized by the proper loving relationship between poetic-drama (Siegfried) and music (Bruennhilde), for the sake of a lighter form of traditional opera represented by Gutrune, where cheap effects, sensuous melody for its own sake without a true relationship to the drama, etc., would be the means to profit, fame, and fortune, rather than art for its own sake. Nattiez tells us that: “Siegfried … perishes for having succumbed to the blandishments of a frivolous brand of opera.” He adds that, Hagen having persuaded Siegfried to perform the role of an opera singer “… encouraged to perform his star turn … ,” “… Siegfried is completely contaminated. He will be punished for having forgotten the woman with whom the poet could have achieved the perfect union of poetry and music,” [Nattiez: p. 88] i.e., the music-drama. But Nattiez has missed the main point: Siegfried doesn’t betray his true identity as a music-dramatist by performing an opera comique at Hagen’s behest, because Hagen prompts Siegfried to tell the assembled Gibichungs how he came to grasp the meaning of birdsong, i.e., Hagen asks Wagner to explain how he became a music-dramatist, with unique insight into the normally unconscious process of artistic inspiration. The narrative history of his past life which Siegfried sings is actually Wagner’s metaphor for the play within the play. It is a cryptic version of the plot of the Ring itself. It is Wagner’s metaphor for his own music-drama.

I will provide evidence in the remainder of our study of Twilight of the Gods that Nattiez did indeed reveal here a portion of Wagner’s allegorical intent, but that he missed the main agenda. I will show that it is not so much that Siegfried betrayed music-drama by resorting to a production of an outmoded, popular, and vulgar operatic genre for the sake of fame and fortune, but that Siegfried’s music-drama betrays its secret of unconscious artistic inspiration, from within, of its own nature, through its musical motifs, which kept the profound secret of the music-dramatist’s poetic intent until he himself betrayed this secret to the light of day within his music-drama, by presenting it to the public. For Wagner, evidently, the mere public performance of his works constituted profanation of what for him was the sacred experience of unconscious artistic inspiration. And I do not mean by this something superficial, such as Wagner’s constant complaints regarding the compromises he had to make in order to produce his works in the theater. I mean rather that by virtue of the unique nature of his music drama, it was inevitable that within it he would ultimately betray his muse, the unspoken secret of the inner process of unconscious artistic inspiration, to the light of day. And Siegfried will indeed betray his muse Bruennhilde by giving her (and her secrets, which Siegfried should have kept) away to his audience, when he gives her to Gunther.

We must consider one last difficulty not encompassed within Nattiez’s thesis: he suggests that Siegfried’s seduction by Gutrune, under the influence of Hagen’s potion, constitutes Siegfried’s betrayal of authentic music-drama for the sake of trite satisfactions like popularity with the audience, won cheaply, and material profit, which more conventional operatic forms can win. But I think otherwise: I believe that Hagen’s influence on Siegfried (and when we speak of Gutrune’s influence we are really speaking of Hagen’s, since Hagen engineers all that Gutrune and even her brother Gunther do to manipulate Siegfried into serving their lowest needs) represents Siegfried’s own (and therefore Wagner’s own) impulse to present his innermost aesthetic intuition and secret knowledge to an audience through his art, an act which ultimately was bound to lead to the betrayal of the secret of unconscious artistic inspiration to his audience. Donington’s Jungian interpretation of Hagen as Siegfried’s shadow (as Dark-Alberich is Wotan’s - i.e., Light-Alberich’s - shadow), representing a disreputable aspect of Siegfried’s own character, has certainly influenced my own

Go back a page
782
Go forward a page
© 2011 Paul Heise. All rights reserved. Website by Mindvision.