Critique: 'Finding an Ending' Part 12

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

Moderators: alberich00, Justin Jeffrey

Post Reply
Site Admin
Posts: 464
Joined: Tue Apr 19, 2011 11:03 am

Critique: 'Finding an Ending' Part 12

Post by alberich00 » Thu Jul 21, 2016 11:07 am

PH: What K&S are leaving out of their consideration of the sources of Bruennhilde’s love for heroes in general and for the Waelsung heroes in particular is the role she initially played as a Valkyrie in Wotan’s service, and that she continues to play in Wotan’s service in apparent rebellion against him. As a Valkyrie her role was to inspire worthy heroes to martyrdom so that they, resurrected to immortality in Valhalla, could help protect Valhalla from Alberich’s threat to storm Valhalla with his host of night. Bruennhilde’s and the other Valkyries’ inspiration of the mortal heroes to martyrdom for the sake of Valhalla is ultimately inspired by Wotan’s fear of the twilight of the gods which Erda has foreseen, and which he wishes to forestall. But in Bruennhilde’s rebellion for Siegmund’s and his family’s sake her intent was to spare the hero’s life so that he could serve the wish that Wotan, after all, had earlier confessed to her: he wished, even in his quest for power, to preserve love. The specific mission of the Waelsung heroes, as Wotan confessed it to Bruennhilde, is to do what Wotan’s martyred heroes in Valhalla (who remain under the gods’ rule, and are, according to Wotan himself, deluded by Wotan to serve him) can’t do, kill Fafner to gain possession of Alberich’s Ring so Alberich can’t regain possession of it and destroy the gods. But to do this the hero must make a permanent breach in religious faith, the social contract the god Wotan made with mankind’s egoistic instincts, the giants. After making this irrevocable breach in faith, Siegfried the artist-hero, freed now from religion’s assertion of a claim to truth (the Ring’s power), is going to take aesthetic possession of Alberich’s source of power, rather than employ it to obtain objective power, as Alberich would do. Wotan was able, thanks to his religious conscience Fricka, to trace Siegmund’s ethical conscience, his alleged freedom, back to Wotan’s own influence. But perhaps the artist-hero will be freed from this influence in a way that even the ethical hero Siegmund (the heir to religion’s legacy of an ethic of self-sacrifice) was not, because, according to Wagner, the authentic artist does what he does with no motive, not even the good, but only because he has to. We could argue that Siegmund fought for the good purely from personal instinct, purely because he must, but Wotan doesn’t believe this, seeing himself as having directly influenced Siegmund’s growth into an allegedly independent hero at every turn. But somehow or other the influence of religious belief on authentically inspired secular art, which seems to be the spontaneous product of the artist’s mysterious creativity, will be less discernible.

PH: The sum of this argument, then, is that Bruennhilde’s care for Valhalla’s martyred heroes she selected, her empathic love for Siegmund and Sieglinde and their unborn child, and finally her love for Siegfried, are all motivated by Wotan’s fear of the end which Bruennhilde’s mother Erda taught Wotan. Bruennhilde first, as a Valkyrie in full support of Wotan and the gods, served religious faith by inspiring heroes to martyr themselves so that their legacy of remembrance of their deeds (such as religious saints, and even Jesus, perhaps) would sustain faith, i.e., protect Valhalla (religion) from doubt. Then, as man’s faith in, and expectation of, the promises of religion (such as an immortal life of sorrowless youth eternal in Valhalla, which Siegmund rejected in favor of earthly, mortal love), began to wane, Bruennhilde inspired ethical heroes to stand for what was true and best (as Feuerbach put it) in the old religion, the ethic of self-sacrifice for the sake of love and compassion (note that Wotan himself had already taken this teaching in hand with his son Siegmund). Finally, when even that expedient seemed not to offer a means to redemption sufficiently independent of the old religious faith to withstand the eventual rise to consciousness of the scientific worldview (Alberich’s threat to regain possession of the Ring in order to assert the objective power of truth, which would destroy man’s dependence on his old, consoling illusions and the values sustained by them), Wotan could look to Bruennhilde to inspire the allegedly free artist-hero Siegfried with Wotan’s wishes, which Wotan had planted in his daughter Bruennhilde in his confession to her. From the time of Siegfried’s birth he is already under this influence, which is why Siegfried finds himself, allegedly spontaneously, killing Fafner, taking possession of his Ring, grasping the meaning of the Woodbird’s song, killing Mime, and waking, wooing, and winning Bruennhilde, Siegfried’s muse of unconscious artistic inspiration.

P. 158-159: PH: K&S seem in the following passage to make light of Bruennhilde’s fear of consummating sexual union with Siegfried, as if it represents merely the confusion of a woman whose past experience of love was maternal, sisterly, and empathic (for Siegmund and Sieglinde, and their unborn child Siegfried), but who now faces her erotic nature for the first time:

K&S: “Sexuality floods her [Bruennhilde] with a kind of desire that is new to her; and it mingles with her still-vivid recollections of her previous, virginal, loves. This has an impact for which she is completely unprepared, the meaning of which for her new encounter is beyond her powers of comprehension. In the beginning, she only knows that she is profoundly moved and shaken. The uncertainties of her judgment are indicated by the shifting mood throughout the scene: first elation, then fear and confusion, and finally joyful acceptance as she comes to view herself as having been saved for this new and wonderful event … .”

PH: Though I read K&S’s book ten years ago just after it was published, and hand printed commentary into the margins, I hadn't reread it since then (until now) and certainly forgot much of it, but reading it again now my instincts tell me that K&S are nowhere going to take note of the crucial fact that the culminating moment of Bruennhilde’s fear of the potential consequences of consummating a union with Siegfried (and with all due consideration for Bruennhilde’s natural fear, as a formerly chaste, virginal, divine Valkyrie, of having sexual union with a mortal hero) is accompanied by that same combination of motifs which we heard during Wotan’s explosion of despair just prior to making his confession to Bruennhilde in Valkyrie Act Two Scene Two, namely, #51 (Alberich’s Curse), #82 (A Motif sometimes known as Wotan’s Revolt, a sort of inversion of his Spear Motif #21), #79 (The Motif, derived from #58b, - Wotan’s remark about Valhalla being ‘safe from dread and dismay’ - first heard as Wotan describes Fricka as bringing the same old storm and strife, and which represents her critique of Wotan’s support of the Waelsungs), and #84, one of two motifs representing Wotan’s anger at Bruennhilde for rebelling against him, but first heard when Wotan confessed to Bruennhilde that he couldn’t create a free hero but only serfs. The reason this key motif combination appears here is that Bruennhilde is having a premonition of disaster to come, and the cause of that disaster will be that during Siegfried’s sexual union with her she will impart the very knowledge to Siegfried which Erda imparted to Wotan, and which Wotan confessed to Bruennhilde, Wotan’s unspoken secret, and therefore Bruennhilde fears that in making Siegfried the unwitting, unconscious trustee of this subliminal knowledge, Siegfried might betray it to the light of day. This in fact he does in "Twilight of the Gods" by unwittingly giving his true love and muse of unconscious artistic inspiration Bruennhilde away to another man (Gunther, Wagner’s metaphor for his own audience for his art), by forcing Alberich’s Ring out of her protective hands so that its curse may operate again, and finally, by singing the song of his heroic life in which he exposes to his audience the full meaning of the Woodbird’s song and the secret of Siegfried’s relationship with Bruennhilde. In other words, Siegfried will have exposed to the light of day Wotan’s formerly unspoken secret, and also the means whereby Siegfried and Bruennhilde had formerly kept that secret safe. Thus Siegfried will fulfill Alberich’s threat that Wotan’s own heroes would serve him someday, that Alberich would force himself on their women, and that his hoard (now the Ring) will rise from the silent night to the light of day and destroy the gods. K&S show no sign in their entire book of having registered this crucial motival reference during Bruennhilde’s description of her fear of consummating a romantic union with Siegfried, and their omission, among many others of like import, is fatal to their enterprise.

P. 159-160: PH: In their following remarks K&S dig a deeper hole for themselves by dismissing as ill-conceived Wagner’s dramatization of Siegfried’s own fear of waking Bruennhilde and consummating a loving union with her, which actually stems from the same cause which I described above:

K&S: “But for all the musical richness and brilliance with which the scene ["Siegfried" Act Three Scene Three] begins and continues, Wagner faced at this point a formidable dramatic problem. Naivete is part of Siegfried’s nature; and this entails an ignorance that must somehow be dealt with. Wagner’s solution was to have him express it in lines that at least appear to be among the worst pieces of libretto he ever wrote, from blurting ‘Das its kein Mann! [Better left untranslated!]’ [PH: “That is no man!”] to crying out to his mother’s memory for help. Such lines are at odds with the exceptional tenderness and emotional depth of the orchestration and would seem to represent a tremendous lapse on Wagner’s part at a crucial moment. But upon reflection, we suspect that this scripting is quite deliberate and has a point. For as we see him, Siegfried is meant to be a hero whom it will be difficult to respect, however admirable and appealing he may be in some ways, and to some eyes.

K&S: The ludicrous character of this moment infects the scene that follows. For all its psychological fascination, it has to fail as a depiction of true - and therefore necessarily mutual - love. We simply cannot believe in that between Bruennhilde and Siegfried as we can believe in that between Siegmund and Sieglinde, or that between Tristan and Isolde. (In some ways, the psychological atmosphere induced is closer to that of the Parsifal-Kundry encounter in Act II of Parsifal.)”

PH: It hasn’t yet (and I feel sure it will never have) dawned on K&S that Wagner has not set out here, in the first place, to depict a typical, mutual, romantic love. Wagner is presenting an allegorical love which represents Wagner’s own poetic conception of his own unconscious artistic inspiration, understood in the light of an astonishingly sophisticated allegory which places Wagner’s art in the widest imaginable historical context (i.e., the entire history of the human species). I have already explained in detail why Siegfried is ignorant of his own true identity and history, and how Bruennhilde holds this knowledge for him in order to protect him from Wotan’s paralyzing fear, but also so that Siegfried can instinctively, naively, seemingly spontaneously act on Wotan’s subliminal influence, which Wotan thought, but Bruennhilde and Siegfried only feel. Yes, Siegfried is astonished to see his first woman, and to feel for the first time erotic impulse rather than just a wish for a sympathetic companion, but Siegfried’s fear of waking Bruennhilde, and fear during his love-duet wit her, is accompanied by a motival variant, #137, of Wotan’s Motif #81, the motif sometimes called Wotan’s Frustration, which was first heard as Fricka made Wotan more and more aware that Siegmund was not the free hero Wotan had wished for, but merely the product of Wotan’s own wishes and needs (wishes and needs which he tried to explain to her but that she, as religious faith’s conscience, if you will, could not even afford to admit could concern the gods, because to do so would be to admit that faith in their rule could be subject to doubt). Siegfried is also having a premonition of the danger to come from falling heir to Wotan’s hoard of forbidden knowledge, because Wotan made Bruennhilde its repository, and in winning her Siegfried will be taking possession of the knowledge which Wotan found so unbearable that he couldn’t bear even to speak it aloud, i.e., to become conscious of it, which is why he repressed it into his unconscious mind, Bruennhilde, in his confession to her.

PH: Siegfried calls upon his mother for aid, and in so doing not only invokes the mother who died giving him birth, Sieglinde, but figuratively the mother of us all, Erda, Mother Nature, whom Wotan figuratively killed in positing godhead, i.e, renouncing the real world in favor of illusory belief in transcendent spirit, thus committing figuratively the crime of matricide, which Alberich describes as Wotan’s crime against all that was, is, and will be (Erda's knowledge of all that was, is, and will be). Bruennhilde, who figuratively gave birth to Siegfried (and therefore knew Sieglinde was pregnant when Sieglinde did not, and gave Siegfried his name without even seeking Sieglinde’s input on naming her own child), Siegfried will confuse with his mother (who died giving him birth) after he wakes her.

PH: K&S suggest this love-duet is a bit like that of Parsifal with Kundry, but they don’t really say why. However, given the scope of my interpretation, which embraces all of Wagner’s canonical operas and music-dramas, I can. Parsifal like Siegfried doesn’t know who he is, but Kundry (like Bruennhilde) knows for Parsifal what he doesn’t know, his name and identity. She also knows that Parsifal killed his mother through neglect, and it can’t be an accident that Siegfried meditates on the fact that his mother died giving him birth. For that matter, it can’t be an accident that Tristan’s mother died giving him birth also. All of these are emblematic of the fact that the Wagnerian artist-hero unwittingly falls heir to the original sin of religious belief, the positing of transcendent being (in art’s case its sublimation into artistic expression of man’s longing for transcendent value), which denied Mother Nature, and therefore figuratively murders her, as Feuerbach put it.

P. 160: PH: Here is K&S’s attempt to justify their critique:

K&S: “The difficulty stems from the inequality of the participants. It is not simply that Bruennhilde is Siegfried’s aunt … . She is a figure whose emotional depth has already been sounded - and the echoes of Wotan’s farewell to her periodically remind us of the kinds of love she has known and expressed. Siegfried, by contrast, is at best a naive and insensitive youth, with an astounding (if readily understandable) ignorance of women. (It is an ignorance, moreover, that is not much alleviated subsequently.). The scene is best heard not as a duet but as a pair of monologues, which interrupt one another before culminating in a rather contrived union. In the course of these monologues both characters undergo important transformations. Siegfried’s strikes us as incredible … ; but Bruennhilde’s is a different matter and is of great importance.”

PH: K&S don’t grasp that the main basis for this difference between Siegfried and Bruennhilde is that, as she will tell Siegfried a bit later, she is his self if he loves her in her bliss, and what he doesn’t know she knows for him, for Siegfried had admitted to Fafner: “I still don’t know who I am.” This is crucial not only to understanding the "Ring" but all of Wagner’s canonic operas and music-dramas. The reason Siegfried doesn’t know who he is is that Wotan repressed knowledge of all that he loathed about his own identity and character and history and his fear of his fated end into his unconscious mind Bruennhilde through his confession to her, and thus gave birth to his own reincarnation as the hero who is heroic and fearless precisely because he doesn’t know who he is. Siegfried’s naiveté is a product of Bruennhilde’s holding for him this knowledge. Mime, Siegfried’s polar opposite, was Wagner’s metaphor for all that Wotan loathed in his own nature, and which he repressed into Bruennhilde. But it is Wotan’s fear of the end which ultimately motivates Siegfried’s and Bruennhilde’s love, and, as I have proven above, we hear this in the highly resonant motival music Wagner chose to embody Siegfried’s and Bruennhilde’s fear of the consequences which may follow from their loving union. We begin to see here the fatal price that K&S pay for not grasping the importance of Siegfried in Wagner’s allegory, a price which compels them to confess they can’t really make much of the significance of the entire last two parts of the four part "Ring."

P. 160-161: PH: Continuing to attempt to explain Bruennhilde’s love for Siegfried while lacking most of the information they would need in order to do this question justice, K&S say:

K&S: “She [Bruennhilde] takes him [Siegfried] to be supremely noble and therefore to be loved and cherished - as are all noble things, but beyond all others. So she articulates what she takes to be ‘Wotan’s thought’ - a thought she was previously unable to express but is now seen as asserting the priority of the heroic and worthy, whose epitome she takes to be the youth before her. Something - perhaps her mention of her father, perhaps Siegfried’s (understandably) uncomprehending reaction to her declarations - drives her thoughts back to her past. She considers the relics of her life as a Valkyrie that are around her on the rock - her armor, her horse Grane; and then, just as nostalgic regret overcomes her, Siegfried’s sheer desire surges, and he ‘embraces her violently’ (stage direction).’ “

PH: To an extent we can construe Bruennhilde’s nostalgic look back at all that she is losing in giving way to Siegfried’s desire (her divinity, and her Valkyrie chastity, which according to Feuerbach and Wagner represents mankind’s illusory bid for transcendent value in religious belief) as motivated by the same cause as Wotan’s sudden resistance to Siegfried in "Siegfried" Act Three Scene Two, for in both instances we have the very natural reluctance of man to give up age-old traditions and modes of belief, even in the face of their imminent collapse. However, both Wotan and Bruennhilde ultimately act on the need to move on to the next, post-religious phase, inspired secular art, the redemptive art which Siegfried’s muse Bruennhilde will inspire him to create, in which godhead will live on as feeling rather than as a thought.

PH: Note that K&S’s reference to Bruennhilde articulating what she “takes to be ‘Wotan’s thought’,“ the priority of the heroic and the worthy, is so general and mundane that it terribly impoverishes all that is taking place here. She doesn’t take anything to be Wotan’s thought except her love for Siegfried, embodied by #134, which I have noted is Wagner’s metaphor for unconscious artistic inspiration, the heir to dying religious faith. We heard #134 in "Siegfried" Act Three Scene Two when Wotan told Erda that he no longer feared his end because what is important to him will live on in the love of Siegfried and Bruennhilde. Bruennhilde’s remark to Siegfried that what Wotan thought, she felt, and that was simply her love for Siegfried (#134), has nothing to do with some vague and generalized admiration for heroism per se. Siegfried reacts uncomprehendingly to her declarations because she is the repository for Wotan’s unspoken secret, which she must maintain even for Siegfried, so that, as Siegfried himself will tell Bruennhilde in the Prelude to "Twilight of the Gods," her teaching leaves him untaught.

P. 161: PH: K&S continue to pursue their argument that Bruennhilde’s conflicted feelings for Siegfried stem from her wish to maintain the purity of her empathic love, the only love she knew previously, in face of the new, frightening erotic love which Siegfried pleads for her to embrace, with him:

K&S: “The overt advance prompts a startled and unreceptive Bruennhilde to reflect on love present and love past and to confront the choice between open-ended empathic love and exclusive erotic love, whose nature and power she is now beginning to learn. Her initial fear and shame give way to confusion. We take her to be torn between an ideal of empathic love which has permeated her life up to this moment and the sexual impulses that urge her to an erotic love. To a phrase of melting tenderness PH: #134?], Siegfried reminds her that the wisdom she seems to have lost was supposed to derive from her love for him; but this misses the point, for what is at issue is the form that love is to take, and Bruennhilde has tacitly assumed that wisdom reveals empathic love to be its highest form.”

PH: K&S seem to forget that Bruennhilde had originally protested Wotan’s threat to punish her by leaving her, formerly a Valkyrie virgin, prey to any man who might find her asleep to win as his wife, i.e., prey to his sexual desires. But she was reassured when Wotan agreed to allow only a fearless hero to win her, not by the thought that that fearless hero wouldn’t take her to wife with all that that means, but by the thought that at least Bruennhilde would be giving up her virginity to an authentic hero, worthy of her Valkyrie inspiration. K&S are right that she fears the loss of her virginity in spite of this (just as Wotan in the end was reluctant to give up his power to Siegfried, even knowing that he must, since Wotan had stated in the finale of "Valkyrie" that only the hero who did not fear his Spear could penetrate Loge’s fire and win Bruennhilde), but Bruennhilde fears more than the loss of her virginity. She fears that once she imparts Wotan’s unspoken secret to the hero her knowledge might be lost, and Wotan’s unspoken secret might be subject to betrayal to the light of day. It is precisely this fateful prospect which provided Wagner the entire plot of "Twilight of the Gods," and was therefore the impetus for his creation of the entire "Ring." But K&S have not read Wagner’s libretto text closely enough, nor paid sufficient attention to Wagner’s highly detailed and specific and dramatically apt use of particular motifs and motif combinations, to truly make sense of what is at stake here. Siegfried hasn’t missed any point: here are some relevant passages from "Siegfried" Act Three Scene Three:

“Bruennhilde: (#141) Your own self am I, if you but love me in my bliss. (#87) what you don’t know I know for you: (#134) and yet I am knowing only because I love you. (…) (#141) I loved you always: to me alone was Wotan’s thought revealed. The thought which I could never name; (#83 end fragment based on #54, the Twilight of the Gods Motif - but Motif #83 is the Need of the Gods Motif, the Motif which represents Wotan’s need for a free hero who can do what Wotan can’t, take the Ring from Fafner so that Alberich can’t regain its power and bring about the twilight of the gods) the thought I did not think but only felt … . Because that (#134) thought, could you only guess it! - was but my love for you.


Siegfried: (#140 Variations - one of the Love Motifs based on #64, and originally on #25, part of Freia’s Motif) Wondrous it sounds what you blissfully sing; yet its meaning seems obscure to me. … what you say to me singing, stunned, (#87) I cannot understand. (#137) With my senses I cannot grasp far-away [‘Ferne’] things, since all my senses can see and feel only you. (#137) You bind me in fetters of anxious fear; (#137) you alone have taught me to dread it. No longer hide that courage of mine (#37 - the Loveless Motif, deriving from the so-called Renunciation of Love Motif #18) which you bound with powerful bonds.”

PH: We can see here that Wotan’s thought, which Bruennhilde feels, and which she describes as her love for Siegfried (#134), she imparts to Siegfried only as feeling, so he doesn’t understand it as thought. But Wagner’s musical motifs tell us what that thought is, which Bruennhilde feels, and whose essence is her loving union with Siegfried, and which Siegfried doesn’t conceptually understand, includes the Need of the Gods Motif #83, i.e., the motif associated first with Wotan’s longing for a free hero who can do what the gods can’t, kill Fafner and take possession of Alberich’s Ring so that Alberich can’t regain its power to destroy the gods. Note that when Bruennhilde tells Siegfried that she knows, for him, what he doesn’t know (and previously that she is his self, his identity, if he loves her), we hear #87, the Fate Motif. The knowledge Wotan had imparted to Bruennhilde in his confession was the knowledge of the gods’ fearful fate, the inevitable twilight of the gods, which was the source of that fear which paralyzed Wotan but which Bruennhilde, because she holds this knowledge for Siegfried, protects him from, thereby making Siegfried fearless, except when he is about to wake, woo, and win her and thus inherit Wotan’s hoard of knowledge. We also hear #137, derived from #81, the motif which represents Wotan’s acknowledgment that his allegedly free hero is not free, as Siegfried begs Bruennhilde to consummate their union so he can cease to feel the fear she’s taught him. Lastly we hear #37, a variant on the so-called Renunciation of Love Motif, first heard in definitive form when Alberich cursed love in order to win the Ring and its power. Therefore, what Bruennhilde calls Wotan’s thought, if conscious, would be equivalent to the fearful hoard of knowledge Wotan confessed to Bruennhilde, but, if unconscious, is the foundation of Siegfried’s love for Bruennhilde embodied in #134. It was therefore Wotan’s repressing this fearful knowledge of the gods’ fate into his unconscious mind Bruennhilde that gave birth to Siegfried, and which Siegfried falls heir to, unwittingly, in winning Bruennhilde, Wotan’s repository for this knowledge. The only way for Siegfried and Bruennhilde to free themselves from their fear of sexual union is to consummate it, and in so doing, this gives birth to a redemptive work of art in which the fear which was its original but subliminal source of inspiration can be forgotten.

PH: So now, we can get a fuller grasp of the brief passage which K&S referenced above:

“Bruennhilde: My senses grow clouded; my knowledge falls silent: is my wisdom to forsake me now? Siegfried: (#134) Did you not sing that your knowledge stemmed from the shining light of your love for me? [#134 fades away] Bruennhilde: “(#82 - Wotan’s Revolt, emblematic of his confession of his unspoken secret to Bruennhilde) Grieving darkness clouds my gaze; (#51 Variation - Alberich’s Curse Motif) my eye grows dim, its light fades out: (#82) night enfolds me; (#51) from mist and dread a confusion of fear now writhes in its rage! (#79/#84) Terror stalks and rears its head!”

PH: Keep in mind that Motif #82 actually is the symbol for Wotan’s confession of thoughts he couldn’t bear to speak aloud, to Bruennhilde, his will, that #51 is Alberich’s Curse Motif, that #79 was not only the motif which embodied Fricka’s critique that if Wotan encouraged the Waelsungs he’d be bringing about the end of the gods’ rule, but that #79 is itself a variant of Motif #58b, to which Wotan sang that Valhalla is a refuge from care and fear (fear of Alberich’s curse), and that #84 was first heard during Wotan’s confession when he said he can’t make a free hero but only serfs. These four motifs which embody Bruennhilde’s fear (#82, #51, #79, and #84) are actually the motifs which sounded Wotan’s desperation when Fricka had demonstrated to him the futility of seeking his free hero, who could redeem the gods from Alberich’s Ring Curse, in Siegmund. In response, Bruennhilde pleaded with Wotan to confide in her, and he confessed the fateful knowledge Erda had taught him, and also confessed the futility of his longing for a free hero, to Bruennhilde. Wotan’s fear, then, is the ultimate basis for their loving union, but with Siegfried’s encouragement they are now going to sublimate this into the ecstatic, yet tragic, art, which Siegfried will create, thereby seeming to cast Wotan’s fearful knowledge into oblivion, just as Wotan told Erda, the source of that bitter knowledge, that her knowledge wanes before his will (and, if you recall, Bruennhilde, Wotan’s unconscious mind into whom he repressed this knowledge, is Wotan’s will, before whom Erda’s knowledge wanes).

PH: It will be no surprise to anyone who reads these passages as closely as I have in my interpretation that K&S are ill-informed and naive in their attempt at a response to them, and that they clearly have not done their homework, per the following:

K&S: “Her [Bruennhilde’s] first intimations of sexuality seem to her to bespeak a frightening and dark world, to be contrasted with the lucid image that emerges with the introduction of the ‘Idyll’ theme. (It seems to us that Wagner’s introduction of this theme is a piece of technical brilliance, for he was committed to using music that fits poorly with the superficial mood of the scene, the celebration and expression of erotic love. He solves the problem by using the theme to elicit Bruennhilde’s continuing commitment to a very different type of love - the empathic love that was so vividly displayed in Walkuere.”

PH: In my interpretation Wagner’s introduction of the “Idyll” themes to accompany Bruennhilde’s plea that Siegfried, in so many words, not rape or force her, but join her in loving union, actually represents Bruennhilde’s plea that Siegfried preserve her appointed role as his own sacrosanct muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, who protects Siegfried (unbeknownst to him, as she will tell Hagen and Gunther in "Twilight of the Gods" Act Two Scene Five) from Wotan’s paralyzing fear by holding Wotan’s knowledge (and specifically foreknowledge of the gods' fated demise) for Siegfried and keeping its secret even from him, as otherwise he might expose Wotan’s unspoken secret, and his fears, and even the Ring curse, to the light of day.

PH: So long as Siegfried preserves their love in this sense Bruennhilde can continue to offer Siegfried at least temporary redemption from Alberich’s curse of consciousness. This can be done by inspiring him to create and produce redemptive works of art in the wider world, an act Bruennhilde will later describe as Siegfried’s undertaking new adventures, which she describes as the purpose of her love. The Siegfried Idyll themes to which Wagner set her plea were perhaps drawn from music which was not already part of the interlinking threads of motival music which constitute most of the "Ring" so that Wagner could give one the impression of the miraculous in a world otherwise bound by fate, or natural law, as expressed in the organically related motifs heard throughout the rest of the "Ring." This I believe achieved Wagner’s intent to give the impression of a new, independent paradise, a paradise reborn in art, through music, which Wagner stated was our refuge when god had to leave us. That Wagner employed this musical material possibly for purely personal reasons which audience members could not be expected to know does not contradict its potential use also for the dramatic purpose I have described. However, I am not entirely discounting K&S’s assumption that Bruennhilde’s plea may also express an element of her longing to, in her newfound love for Siegfried, preserve something of her past. Even Wagner himself told Porges that this Idyll music was meant to convey something of Bruennhilde’s nostalgic look back to her earlier days. But what we have in the finale of "Siegfried" is Wagner’s attempt to dramatize the creation of a new Valhalla, the new religion of music-drama, in which music per se, and musical motifs in particular, substitute for the old, incomprehensible religious miracles, with inspired art’s wonder.

P. 161-162: K&S: “Returning to the tone of her earlier expressions of her love for her newfound hero, therefore, Bruennhilde tells him that she has always been working for his good. ‘Ardently but tenderly’ (stage directions), she pleads with him to leave the old - empathic - form of her love undisturbed. Her love, she suggests, is a ‘limpid brook,’ not to be stirred into a roiling torrent. Her plea culminates in an alternative to the sexual intimacy he is urging upon her: ‘… [Love - yourself, and let me be: do not destroy what is your own!].’ “

PH: The explanation for such a remark is easier to understand in my interpretation, because Bruennhilde is telling Siegfried that the whole purpose of her love is to inspire the artist-hero Siegfried, and that he should love himself, i.e., produce the art she inspires (in loving her), and that he should therefore respect her, his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, and leave her be, lest he lose the gift that she offers him. This will become much plainer in "Twilight of the Gods" when Siegfried does indeed betray his love for Bruennhilde, and unwittingly betrays the unspoken secret she kept, to the light of day, thereby losing the benefit of the protection she offered him, which makes him vulnerable to Hagen’s vengeance in Alberich’s behalf. The Rhinedaughters will reference this protection, this gift Bruennhilde offered Siegfried, when they tell Siegfried in "Twilight of the Gods" Act Three Scene One, that (#174a) “ … runes he [Siegfried] knows (#174b) and cannot read them. (#149/#174a) A most hallowed gift was granted to him - (#176) that he’s cast it away he doesn’t know.”

K&S: “He is pressing for a form of love that will make demands of exclusivity and risk unlike any love she has ever known - and there is a poignant reminder of the forms of love she knows so well, as she sings ‘dein Eigen,’ where we hear the lovely descending motif that pervaded Wotan’s leave-taking of her [PH: #98]. She resists, in appreciation of the love she has experienced in her earlier life, and protests - no doubt against her own surging desires as well as against Siegfried’s advances - that love should not be exclusive, and that sexual love must not be allowed to eclipse and supplant the forms of love she has previously expressed, including her own love for the unborn Siegfried. (There is, we think, some excuse for his earlier confusion about whether the love she has originally declared for him is sexual or maternal.)”

PH: Yes, the excuse is that Bruennhilde, the womb of Wotan’s wishes in whom he planted the seed of his desire for a free hero, is Siegfried’s figurative mother. But of course this is not remotely what K&S have in mind. They have backed themselves into a corner futilely pursuing their notion that Bruennhilde is trying to preserve the sanctity of her former empathic love by obtaining Siegfried’s agreement to stick with this and not demand sexual love from her. This actually has nothing to do with the case. I’ll quote a few other extracts from the passage in which Bruennhilde makes her case to Siegfried to illustrate my point:

“Bruennhilde: (#143 - the second of the two Siegfried Idyll themes, expressly linked at its inception with the image of Siegfried as “Hoard of the World, Life of the earth [Erde]!”) O Siegfried! Glorious hero! Hoard of the world! Life of the earth [Erde]! Leave, oh leave me! Leave me be! Do not draw near with your raging nearness! Do not constrain me with chafing constraint!”

PH: In my interpretation (and also in that of Jean-Jacques Nattiez, who independently arrived at this conclusion, as I did in a somewhat distinct way), which draws on what is evident from the libretto text and score, but also from Wagner’s own relevant observations in his writings and recorded remarks, Siegfried is Wagner’s metaphor for the music-dramatist, and Bruennhilde for music. The redemptive music-drama, according to Wagner, can only be created if there is a perfect, loving union between word/drama (the hero) and music (the language of the unconscious mind, the heroine). Bruennhilde is insisting on this to preserve the sanctity and value of the Wagnerian music-drama. However, I went further than Nattiez in construing Bruennhilde as both Wotan’s and Siegfried’s unconscious mind, drawing on Wagner’s description of Elsa's relationship with Lohengrin in his essay "A Communication to My Friends," and also on the allegorical logic of the "Ring" libretto and music. Siegfried has now become heir to Wotan’s unspoken secret, his hoard of runes which Bruennhilde will tell Siegfried she has imparted to him in the Prelude to "Twilight of the Gods." It is for this reason she calls him now “Hoard of the Word” during the sounding of Motif #143, and will also, in the ecstatic climax of their love-duet here in "Siegfried," call him the “Foolish Hoard of loftiest deeds.” He is the foolish hoard because, thanks to her holding for him this knowledge of Wotan’s fate, the source of Wotan's fear of the end, and his wish to be redeemed from it, Siegfried can possess Wotan’s hoard of fateful knowledge yet not suffer from Wotan’s fear. Siegfried is also the “Life of the Earth” (or Erda) because Wagner stated that art redeems what we would otherwise know only as the objective world (Nature as an object of knowledge which grants Alberich power), and grants it life.
Post Reply