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Twilight of the Gods: Page 969
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brass, but then the music, having reached perhaps the greatest volume in the entire Ring, quiets down to a mournful variant of #149, the motif representing Bruennhilde’s loving inspiration of Siegfried’s new adventures. We have seen what became of his most recent, and last, adventure, the betrayal of their love, and of Wotan’s hope of redemption, by both the hero Siegfried and his heroine-lover, Bruennhilde. A key motif which is a hallmark of Siegfried’s history, which Wagner might have placed here but evidently chose not to because he wanted to save it for the finale, is #93, the motif to which Sieglinde sang “Holiest Wonder” in praise of Bruennhilde and the self-sacrificial compassion which prompted Bruennhilde to defy Wotan and intervene on behalf of the Waelsungs, at great risk to herself, thereby saving the as yet unborn Siegfried from Wotan’s wrath.

A number of commentators (including, most prominently, Michael Tanner) have  posed  the  question whether such a naive and childlike hero as Siegfried, who seems to have no nuance, maturity, or depth, deserves such an epic accolade as this heroic musical genealogy. Siegfried deserves it if one understands that his death is the death of the sole foundation we humans have had for our cherished notions of man’s transcendent value, and life’s meaning, since man evolved from animal forebears, and civilization began. We must realize that Siegfried’s seeming vacuity, lack of self-reflection, and innocence stems from Wagner’s deliberate intent to portray in Siegfried Wagner’s idea (based on Wagner’s intense study of his artistic progenitors, and remarkably astute insight into his own nature as a genius of art) of the authentically inspired artistic genius, and that the true, unconscious source of inspiration for his art remains as much a mystery to him as to his audience. Siegfried’s heroism sprang from the fact that he did not know himself, that the capacity of his unconsciously inspired art to offer us redemption depended upon Siegfried’s remaining innocent with respect to his true mainsprings of inspiration. One must understand this to grasp what has been lost with his death, and to grasp also why his personality seems so lacking in content. One must consider that we can’t come to grips with Wagner’s characterization of Siegfried without recognizing that both he and Bruennhilde can only be understood as the conscious and unconscious halves of a single individual, the inspired artistic genius, and that both of them are subsumed by Wotan, Wagner’s Feuerbachian symbol for collective, historical man.

With that proviso in mind, we move now to the climax of the Ring, in which Bruennhilde will sum up its meaning for all of us, and bring about the twilight of the gods and the dissolution of Alberich’s curse on the Ring.

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