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The Ring of the Nibelung
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list of “pillars” above, but also to show how our new allegorical understanding will establish the Ring as the basic frame of reference within which we can understand all of Wagner’s other canonical romantic operas and music-dramas. For they are each systematically linked conceptually with all or part of the Ring, which can be construed as their master myth or archetypal model. The Flying Dutchman, for instance, is a cryptic version of what would become the Ring. Tannhaeuser is a seedbed for the plots of Siegfried, Twilight of the Gods, Tristan and Isolde, The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, and Parsifal. Lohengrin is not only the seminal point of departure for the revolutionary music-dramas which followed, but is specifically the basis for two key plot elements of the Ring: (a) Wotan’s confession to Bruennhilde, and (b) Wotan’s punishment of Bruennhilde with banishment and deprivation of godhead in order that his heir Siegfried, the mortal, secular artist-hero, can win her and take aesthetic possession of the hoard of fearful knowledge Wotan imparted to her. The plots of Tristan and Isolde and Twilight of the Gods, as Wagner said himself, are essentially identical. The Mastersingers of Nuremberg is a variation on the plots of The Valkyrie and Siegfried. And Parsifal, as has long been suspected, is indeed virtually the fifth and final part of the Ring, in which many of its unresolved issues are resolved, but it is also the work in which all of Wagner’s prior canonical artworks culminate, for all of their primary protagonists are, so to speak, reborn in those of Parsifal.

Virtually dozens of hitherto incomprehensible conundrums, apparently impenetrable mysteries, and seemingly irresolvable contradictions in Wagner’s drama, music, and their relationship, in the Ring and his other canonical artworks, can be construed with clarity thanks to this allegorical approach. Its success suggests that those former exegetes who described the Ring as unsusceptible to dramatic or conceptual analysis within one level of meaning or frame of reference had not asked the right questions, and/or had not proposed a sufficiently all-embracing, universal thread of narrative logic, to grasp the Ring’s allegorical grandeur and dramatic unity. This I believe explains why, during the early years in which I developed my basic reading of the Ring, when I read everything available on Wagner by other authors, I discovered, often to my surprise, that though a number of talented writers on Wagner had made discoveries of great explanatory value, which I was able to incorporate into my own work, many of these same authors often failed to follow up the implications which logically followed from their seminal insights. But worse, in many instances the very insights that gave them an authentic entre into Wagner’s creative work, became a stumbling block to further exploration. A few examples will suffice.

Nietzsche, Wagner’s former friend and latter-day critic, had more access to Wagner and his works than anyone, and should have known, as no one else could, just how extraordinarily prescient the plot of Wagner’s Ring was – especially considering its colossal debt to Ludwig Feuerbach’s critique of religion – with respect to Nietzsche’s own mature philosophy. Yet, when one surveys the entire body of Nietzsche’s Wagnerian critique, the Ring libretto is rarely discussed at all, and if so, generally only with biting condescension. In one notorious example, Nietzsche argues that the sole reason Wotan, in his role as the Wanderer, wakes Erda in Siegfried Act Three Scene One, is that we haven’t heard a soprano voice in a long while, so Wagner needed a pretext to produce one at this point. [‘The Case of Wagner’: p. 175] Nietzsche’s critique is preposterous in view of the fact that this is actually one of the crucial moments in the Ring, when Wotan wills the end of the gods (religious faith), which Erda foretold, only because he is persuaded that his ideals will live on in the love of his heirs, the hero Siegfried and heroine Bruennhilde (Wagner’s metaphor for the music-dramatist Siegfried’s unconscious artistic inspiration by his muse). The entirety of Siegfried Act

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