Gustav Kobbe

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

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Gustav Kobbe

Post by Goldenapples » Sat Mar 01, 2014 12:14 am

I am slowly and methodically reading my way through Paul's marvellous work - and happily playing the motifs as I go. Most fun I've had in years! I'm finding it most interesting to compare Paul's very "today" take on The Ring with that of Gustav Kobbe more than a century ago - and this, too, has inserted links so that one can "play" the snatches of music. At least in my Gutenberg download HTML version this can be done. Are others on this forum aware of Kobbe's works on opera and Wagner in particular? It makes a very nice companion piece to Paul's in-depth analysis though of course Paul has the advantage of a century or more of Wagner analyses, deconstructions, reconstructions and scholarship - all the more impressive to me that he's managed to come up with so much new food for thought for we Wagnerians!

I STILL don't understand why Siegfried is regarded as an "artist-hero" when to me he's at best an instrument of Wotan's will (more than Brunnhilde in my opinion) and at worst an ill-mannered thug who probably suffers from Asperger's Syndrome! Perhaps by the time I get to the end of Paul's book I shall have a better idea of this - Roger hints at it - I suppose it all depends on what level one chooses to regard The Ring. I do sometimes wonder (iconoclastic I know!) if Wagner himself didn't over-mystify it all in order to cover up the very real glitches in plot and motive. Sorry, but I've always found that the libretti jar with, rather than enhance, the musical experience.
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Re: Gustav Kobbe

Post by alberich00 » Mon Mar 03, 2014 3:54 pm

Dear Goldenapples:

How can I thank you for your wonderful review of my poor efforts! Yes, I read Kobbe ages ago but now can't remember what I read.

On "Siegfried" being Wagner's idea of his artist-hero, I presume you'll "get it" once you've waded through my extensive chapters on the subject, but I'd be the first to admit it's not self-evident. His status is best understood in light of his place in Wagner's entire oeuvre, since Wagner's four mature music-dramas have highly systematic conceptual relationships with each other. Siegfried's loving union with Bruennhilde in S.3.3 I've interpreted as Wagner's poetic/musical rendering of his idea of what it's like to be an artist who is unconsciously inspired to create his redemptive artworks. The only self-evident work of art Siegfried creates in the "Ring" (actually, the product of his loving union with his muse Bruennhilde) is the narrative he sings to the Gunther and the Gibichungs in T.3.2, at Hagen's behest, to tell them how he came to understand birdsong. This is actually Wagner's idea of the play within the play (as in "Hamlet"), a miniaturization of the "Ring" for dramatic purposes. Siegfried is, in effect, Wagner himself, and in my interpretation Siegfried's narrative of the meaning of his life is actually Wagner's metaphor for what he achieved in having his own "Ring" performed before an audience. Wagner seems, in his deepest self, to have feared that he might have gone too far, and be revealing secrets to his audience that were best kept concealed. This is also the archetype behind the plots of all of Wagner's other canonic artworks (to a greater or lesser degree) from "The Flying Dutchman" through "Parsifal," though each of these works remain highly distinct from the others based on different aspects of this problem which Wagner addresses in each.

In my interpretation Wotan primarily stands for the very concept of godhead, i.e., religion, and the role it plays in human life, and it was Wagner's view that in the modern, skeptical, secular, scientific age, when religious faith (the gods) is on the wane, inspired secular art falls heir to religious faith's longing for transcendent value and meaning. Siegfried's ill-mannered highly instinctive and evidently unreflective behavior is, in my book, Wagner's self-portrait of the highly self-involved nature of the inspired artist.

I'm dying to find out what you describe as glitches in plot and motive. I may be able to explain at least some of them to you in a way that will redeem them for you, but who knows!

It's funny you should say that the libretti seem to you to jar with, rather than enhance, the musical experience, because, the first time I ever experienced the wonderful Act One of "The Valkyrie" was in a concert performance at the Baltimore Symphony, with three singers but no costumes or staging. I followed along with the libretto. My first impression was that the singing and the drama seemed to interfere with my longing to wallow in the orchestral music. Well, it wasn't until a little later when I actually sat down with libretto in hand and listened to the entirety of "The Rhinegold" and onward, that the libretto/drama and music began to merge for me. Once I got the hang of it, they have become one for me. I've never gone back. As I am today, the libretto and music of all of Wagner's works from, say, "Lohengrin" onward are one of the greatest miracles of art, with no residue or doubt. Well, that's me.

Thanks for this nice appreciation of my most humble efforts.

Your friend from Wagnerheim,

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