Here is my review of Chapter Seventeen concerning "Twilight of the Gods" from "The Wagner Experience" by Paul Dawson-Bowling.
P. 304: DB launches this chapter with a rebuttal to G.B. Shaw's claim that in "Twilight of the Gods" (the first of the libretto texts of the "Ring" tetralogy to be completed, but the last for which Wagner composed the music) Wagner dropped the ball in his effort to give dramatic unity to the entire "Ring." DB: "Shaw declared that he could not find in it a single bar that carried the same conviction and immediacy as the earlier parts of 'The Ring.' Personally, I find it overwhelming in its conviction and immediacy, sustained by great flights of imagination that absorb and annul the discrepancies; but discrepancies there are, and the challenges which 'Goetterdaemmerung' posed for Wagner were many and great."
PH: I am on the whole happy that DB has said this, because I like him have always experienced "Twilight" as a natural culmination to the "Ring," though unlike me, DB finds this persuasiveness and unity mostly in what Wagner's music (rather than the libretto) contributes to this feeling of dramatic conviction. In this view, DB echoes Michael Tanner, who has stated that the unity of the entire "Ring" is primarily a function of its music, not its plot and libretto. I couldn't disagree more. In the following extended commentary (which I reproduce complete), DB presents some of his doubts re the dramatic and/or conceptual coherence of "Twilight of the Gods" with the other "Ring" music-dramas:
P. 304-305: DB: "The chapter on 'The Ring' explained how Wagner was really still saddled with his idea for an opera, 'Siegfrieds Tod,' when he came to compose "Goetterdaemmerung.' Its matrix and form remained those of 'Siegfrieds Tod,' resulting in a mismatch with the three other parts of the cycle which it had called into being. In form those reflect and extend the principles of Wagner's treatise, 'Opera and Drama,' but 'Siegfrieds Tod' was planned as an opera, a successor to 'Lohengrin,' and 'grand opera' was what the libretto still remained when he developed it into 'Goetterdaemmerung.' It offered scope for operatic numbers, a duet swearing oaths of loyalty, a trio plotting vengeance, one almost-aria for Hagen and another for Waltraute. There are processions and a chorus of vassals at full throttle, and these were all features which 'Opera and Drama ... [was] supposed to consign almost entirely to the past."
PH: In the main, I do not disagree with DB's assessment that in many respects the libretto of "Twilight of the Gods," being the oldest of the "Ring" librettos and the one closest in time to Wagner's most recently completed opera "Lohengrin," reflects a style more in sync with Wagner's previous romantic operas than with his forthcoming revolutionary music-dramas, but DB's comment that Wagner was "saddled' with the libretto of "Siegfrieds Tod," the original version of "Twilight of the Gods," out of which grew the three prior librettos for, first, "Siegfried," then "Valkyrie," and finally "Rhinegold," written by Wagner in reverse order from the chronological trajectory of the plot, is tapping into a common thesis that Wagner was saddled with a revolutionary hero Siegfried whose destiny had less and less to do with the character in whom Wagner gradually invested more interest, Wotan. But DB has omitted something very important. Wagner in "Epilogue to 'The Nibelung's Ring' " noted that the plot of "Twilight of the Gods" is very like the plot of "Tristan and Isolde," for in both works the hero, under an influence alien to him, betrays his true love by giving her away to another man, with tragic consequences. Not only did the librettos of "Rhinegold," "Valkyrie," and "Siegfried" evolve naturally out of Wagner's attempt to present the back-story for why Siegfried had to die, but furthermore, "Tristan and Isolde," which Wagner himself described as a variation on his plot for "Twilight of the Gods," the libretto out of which the entire "Ring" tetralogy grew, represents the next stage in Wagner's development of his revolutionary music-dramas, after he had already completed the entire libretto for the "Ring," and had written two thirds of its music. In other words, we have here evidence of an extraordinary conceptual unity which Wagner continues to develop in his subsequent music-drama which many regard as the most revolutionary of all. This cannot be an accident. I believe my online book on the "Ring" posted here at wagnerheim.com provides ample evidence that in spite of its sometimes retro stylistic features, "Twilight of the Gods" is both dramatically and conceptually not only fully coherent with the rest of the "Ring," but is the dramatic and conceptual climax of the "Ring," so much so that Wagner, after completing its libretto, produced an astonishingly revolutionary variation on "Twilight of the Gods" in "Tristan." I will go further and say that once one grasps Siegfried not as a Shavian socialist revolutionary, but rather as Wagner's metaphor for the secular artist-hero who falls heir to man's religious longing for transcendent value when religion is dying as an idea, one can see that Siegfried appears again not only in Tristan, but in Walther von Stolzing and Parsifal. In fact, in a certain sense, Parsifal is the reincarnation of all of Wagner's prior heroes, with some caveats.
P. 305: In the same vein, DB adds: "Then again, 'Goetterdaemmerung' occupies a different world from the rest of 'The Ring.' It disturbs the unity and continuity of the cycle that the sublime myth, which easily absorbed the human scenes of 'Die Walkuere,' comes down to earth for the human world of 'Goetterdaemmerung,' bumping roughly into civilization and its discontents. From now on the real action continues in the human world, and the realm of the divine fades into the background. Siegfried himself downgrades from a mythical hero into a more ordinary being. His heroic ability to see through fraud has evaporated. The text itself adds to the disunity because it does not equal the dramatic penetration of the other parts of 'The Ring.' Wagner still had a superb libretto, but even the wonderful figure of Bruennhilde becomes simpler and starker, and more operatic. Hagen, the son of Alberich, is relatively two-dimensional, unalloyed envy and 'Neid', and Gunther and Gutrune, Hagen's half-siblings, are sketchy creations compared even with the giants in 'Das Rheingold,' let alone Loge or Fricka. Wagner's responses to the challenges of 'Goetterdaemmerung' simply awaken renewed admiration and amazement. He eventually accomplished a unity with the rest of 'The Ring' so flawless that all the difficulties are lost to view in performance, and most people are not even aware of them. He succeeded in fusing the earthier, human world of 'Goetterdaemmerung' into the mythical world of 'The Ring's
'first three parts, and the supreme means and resource for his achievement was the music."
PH: I disagree with DB when he suggests that Wagner's characterization in "Twilight" falls short of that for his other three "Ring" librettos, though as I have said I agree that "Twilight' contains a number of retro stylistic aspects which indicate he had not yet fully, in the first of the "Ring" tetralogy librettos he completed, evolved a libretto entirely consistent with the demands of his revolutionary music-drama. DB is at least partly persuaded that his thesis is correct thanks to the received wisdom that Wagner has, by the time he's completed the libretto to "Rhinegold,' started to lose interest in Siegfried as a revolutionary hero who is to redeem mankind. But I would argue instead that Wagner has been conceptually and dramatically working his way towards the "Ring" plot since he started completing "The Flying Dutchman," and that it is a natural outgrowth of problems presented in "Dutchman," "Tannhaeuser," and "Lohengrin," as I have demonstrated in my writings on the relationship of these works to the "Ring." DB follows Tanner in suggesting that Wagner unified "Twilight" with the rest of the "Ring" through the miracle of his music alone, while I have demonstrated not only that "Twilight" is the natural dramatic and conceptual climax to the three preceding "Ring" dramas, but that by grasping Wagner's allegorical logic we can also understand the conceptual unity of the "Ring" with all of Wagner's other canonic operas and music-dramas.
PH: In my interpretation, the discontinuity DB speaks of above, between the mythical and divine aspects of the three prior "Ring" librettos, and the earthy and human aspects of 'Twilight,' are a natural consequence and development of Wagner's overall plot concept, that the final drama of the tetralogy was to constitute the demythologization of the world. This was, in my view, central to Wagner's view more or less from the time he began to contemplate the question, why did Siegfried have to die, which he wrote the rest of the "Ring" to answer. Wagner had to go back to the beginning of humanity itself to explain why Siegfried, the individual artist-hero of modern times, was predestined by man's own nature and history to failure. The discontinuity, such as it is, is central to the plot itself, and not the result of Wagner's inability to unify his material dramatically or conceptually.
PH: However, I very much like what DB has to say in his following commentary on the way in which Wagner's music links "Twilight" with the "Ring" as a whole, so I reproduce it here:
P. 305-306: DB: "The music does three particular things. First, it transforms the libretto, subtilizing its characters, conferring on them a color and depth which were missing in the text. It is because of the music that the papier mache Gutrune, for example, becomes beautiful, poignant and tragic. Secondly, the music enabled Wagner to do again what he had already done in 'Die Meistersinger' and fuse opera and symphonic music drama. Nothing could have transformed 'Goetterdaemmerung' completely except a radical reworking of the text and plot, and trying to work this out would have been daunting even for Wagner. Instead he converted a problem into a triumph by supplying the operatic numbers of 'Goetterdaemmerung' with an orchestral 'accompaniment' which was supremely symphonic. He composed music which gave to 'Goetterdaemmerung' many features of music drama as he had conceived it, drawing it back into the dramatic cycle as a whole. A third provision of the music is the lattice of unifying connections that comes from the leitmotives. It brands new motives for Gunther, Gutrune, 'Magic Deceit', 'The Vengeance Pact', and for 'Siegfried's Funeral', but it rejuvenates many old ones, such as the Rhine, 'the Hero', Valhalla, 'Fate', the Tarnhelm, Siegfried's 'Horn Call', and 'Alberich's Curse of the Ring'. Leitmotives from earlier parts of 'The Ring' sing again in this final installment and create a network of cross references which holds the cycle together. Old and new react in new elaborations, new harmonies and counterpoints, new symphonic developments,. Sometimes the result is then a symphonic transformation, as happens when the first beginnings of 'Das Rheingold' reappear, more resplendent than ever, in the entr'acte known as 'Siegfried's Rhine Journey', or when the music from 'Siegfried' which expressed the hero's ascent through the fire returns at the end of 'Goetterdaemmerung' Act I." [... Etc.].
PH: On the whole I like what DB has to say here of the role Wagner's music plays in tying "Twilight" to the rest of the "Ring," but unlike DB I see this musical unity as a direct reflection of the libretto's dramatic and conceptual unity, and not as something adventitious, not something miraculously achieved through the music in spite of the alleged discontinuities between 'Twilight' and the other 3 "Ring" dramas.
P. 306-307: DB: "As well as the music there was another resource, a second mechanism by which Wagner connected 'Goetterdaemmerung' back to the rest of 'The Ring,' in that he prefaced each of its acts, all firmly located in human society, with mythical scenes which he rewrote for the purpose."
PH: It is received wisdom that Wagner originally incorporated these reminiscences into "Siegfried's Tod" in the event that it would be presented as a stand-alone opera, but, once Wagner had decided to dramatize these scenes to which these reminiscences allude (at least several of them, not all) in antecedent music dramas, as part of a tetralogy, he nonetheless kept several of them because they provided wonderful opportunities to do precisely what DB says, indicate through transformations of musical material first introduced in the earlier music dramas the advancement of time, and the overall dramatic and historical context for the here and now. Therefore, DB is right to say the following:
P. 309: DB: "The Norns weave the history of the world from the rope and into it, declaiming incantations as they spin. They describe the past, present and future ages of 'The Ring,' and because Wagner put so much of this onstage in the earlier 'Ring' dramas, he has been criticized for not pruning out the Norns' scene. However it is not superfluous, and far from getting rid of it, he rewrote and extended it to tell new and different things."
P. 310: DB: "The Third Norn grasps the rope and predicts that the day will come when the god [Wotan] will thrust the splintered shafts of his spear deep into Loge's chest, sending sparks and flames leaping up from the burning spear which the god will hurl into the branches and timbers heaped around Valhalla [PH: the remains of the World-Ash Tree]. (In the event, the flames that consume Valhalla do not require anything so brutal, and as far as I know nobody has explained the discrepancy.)"
PH: It don't think we need to be so literal here. Loge's fire is one of Wagner's primary symbols for the gods' (i.e., for humankind's) dependence on humankind's self-deceit for their survival. This is the particular sense in which Wagner reinterprets the Norse God of Fire and God of Lies. Loge also partakes of something of Prometheus (as does Bruennhilde), and of Satan. Furthermore, Loge's importance to the gods in redeeming them from the truth is inherited by Wotan's Waelsung heroes, particularly the artist-hero Siegfried, who continues (though unwittingly) Wotan's programme of employing self-deceit, or Wahn, to hide the bitter truth and replace it with a consoling illusion. This makes Loge in effect the archetype for the Waelsung heroes as redeemers. Perhaps we can better understand the Norns' figurative prophecy from this perspective. In a sense, Loge's fire of Wahn, or self-deceit, is what brings down, as well as burns down, the gods and their abode Valhalla. And Siegfried is of course speared in the back by Hagen, while Bruennhilde herself (becoming here Wotan's and Loge's agent) lights Siegfried's funeral pyre and jumps with Grane into it, so that it spreads out and finally brings down and burns up not only Gibichung Hall (the earthly Valhalla?) but Valhalla itself.
P. 311: DB: The Norns and their picture of Valhalla contribute to the darkening of this final installment of 'The Ring.' This is due to the mood of their own scene, and to the altered state of mind which they describe in Wotan and which is confirmed by Waltraute when she tells Bruennhilde (and us) of it, later in Act I. The background of Wotan's gloom gives an ashen hue to the whole work. Wagner never made it known why Wotan had changed so drastically since the end of 'Siegfried."
PH: Yes Wagner had made it known, in his famous multi-page letter to August Roeckel in which he attempted to explain some apparent inconsistencies in the "Ring" to him. Wagner said, specifically, that Wotan doesn't come to the conclusion that he must find a way to have Alberich's Ring restored to the Rhinedaughters until he realizes that Siegfried, like Wotan himself, will fail (i.e., that Wotan's hope for redemption through Siegfried's loving union with Bruennhilde will fail). This letter from the 1850's is in my chronological anthology of the writings of Ludwig Feuerbach, and the writings and recorded remarks of Wagner, posted here at wagnerheim.com.
P. 311: DB: "There is another inconsistency with the end of 'Siegfried' concerning the timescales. The Norns' scene comes at the end of the day when Siegfried awakened Bruennhilde [PH: How do you, DB, know this? It is not self-evident], and so it is barely twenty-four hours since Wotan encountered Siegfried, but the Norns create the impression that much time has passed since then, time enough for Wotan to return to Valhalla with his spear broken, command his heroes to fell the world ash and pile the wood round Valhalla, and take his place on his gloomy throne to wait for the end. The Norns also give the impression that these events are not new. Myths often contain discrepancies of time, and they do not matter unless they create a jolt, a mismatch between separate timescales in different strands."
PH: In truth, the time between Siegfried's loving union with Bruennhilde in S.3.3 (Wagner's metaphor for the artist-hero's unconscious artistic inspiration, which gives birth to a redemptive work of art, or many works of art, since it is archetypal and perhaps outside of our normal time frame) and their emergence in T.P.B, after the Norns' scene, is indefinite. For all we know they may have lived together for a long time and had loving union many times, repeating each time what they say to each other in T.P.B (keeping in mind that what they say to each other is metaphorical and allegorical, not realistic in the sense of an Ibsen drama; see my online chapter on T.P.B here at wagnerheim.com for evidence). In any case, Siegfried is an archetype for the modern secular unconsciously inspired artist-hero and need not represent one particular artist, though there is good allegorical logic to support the thesis that Siegfried and Bruennhilde, taken together, represent Wagner himself as the music-dramatist who falls heir to religious man's longing for transcendent value in our modern, secular, skeptical age of science.
P. 311: PH: Here DB pursues the question of relative time and chronology in 'Twilight": DB: "In this instance, the 'Rhine Journey' which Siegfried makes between the end of the Prologue and the beginning of Act I lessens the sense of inconsistency because Wagner left vague the length of time Siegfried takes to make the journey. Wagner intended 'Goetterdaemmerung' to conform to the unity of time, as do the other parts of 'The Ring' and 'Die Meistersinger,' and they do each roughly take place over twenty-four hours. In giving the name of Prologue to the first two scenes [of 'Twilight'], Wagner was separating it off so as not to spoil the unity of time within the main work."
PH: I agree with DB that Siegfried's "Rhine Journey" is probably meant by Wagner to represent a considerable period of time during which Siegfried has engaged in various adventures (which are just Wagner's metaphor for the creation of various works of inspired art), not the least because, by the time he arrives at the Gibichung Hall he has transformed into a more worldly man than the naive Siegfried we met with in "Siegfried," and makes wry comments about women's ways which seem to be the product of vast experience. Deryck Cooke pointed out that the new, highly harmonized, brassy version of Siegfried's Horn Call evokes his advancement in worldly experience, his maturation.
PH: However, Wagner stated that thanks to his musical motifs of foreboding and reminiscence, he could achieve the ideal unity of time and space in spite of dramatizations which involve considerable time and take place over any conceivable extent of space, because through such musical motifs all space, and all time, can be rendered here, and now, in the absolute present. This is precisely what Siegfried meant when, in S.3.3, he admonished Bruennhilde that what she was and will be for him, she must be now, today, and that only through this passion in the now could he forget the fear she'd taught him. Thus it is through the language of the unconscious, music, that man can figuratively, or at least in feeling if not in fact, become transcendent, feeling as if freed from time and space and foreshadowed horrors.
P. 313: DB: "Bruennhilde has the wisdom to recognize that while marriage can be the great aim and fulfillment of life, it also functions as a base camp, a safe haven from which to set out and achieve important things outside it. She tells Siegfried she never wants her love to limit him; he must be free to go on to new things, new successes in the world beyond. Her only concern is that she can never repay him for all that he has given her. She has just bestowed on him all the lore and wisdom that were hers as a divine being. Her wisdom is now shared and her power has now gone from her; but because he has made her so infinitely rich through his love, she wishes she could bring him yet more in return. 'You utter wonder,' answers Siegfried, 'I can never repay you for what you are to me, and what you give me, yourself and all your wisdom. However, just for something in return, however inadequate, I give you this ring. Everything that I have so far achieved and been has gone into it. Keep it as a sacred greeting, a symbol of my trust and devotion.' In return she gives him her horse, Grane, to help his worldly achievements, and he responds that his achievements all stem from her. He wears her colors now and all his past and future successes are vested in her. He says that he is simply an extension of her identity ... . ... he says that it is her soul that confers his courage on him ... ."
PH: DB doesn't see what is at stake here, but he gives it his best shot given his assumptions. Bruennhilde's inspiration is leading Siegfried to leave her to undertake new adventures, and in my interpretation this means that Siegfried has just obtained sufficient inspiration from his unconscious mind, from his unconscious confrontation with the hoard of forbidden knowledge which Wotan learned from Erda and imparted to Wotan's and Erda's daughter Bruennhilde through his confession, to produce, in the outer world of men and women, an inspired, redemptive work of art. Siegfried's Rhine Journey may well represent many such inspirations, and public productions of inspired works of art, over a period of time. However, since the last part of the "Ring" tetralogy concerns Siegfried's death, in this final part of the "Ring" we will only see Siegfried perform one such work of art for an audience, and that is the narrative he sings, at Hagen's behest, for Gunther, Hagen, and the Gibichung hunting party in which Siegfried basically narrates the story of his life, the pretext being his intent to explain to Gunther how he came to grasp the meaning of woodbird song, or music, i.e., how Wagner became the music-dramatist that he is. In this final work of art the artist-hero Siegfried will unwittingly reveal to the world the secret of his unconscious artistic inspiration, and in doing so will have betrayed the secret which Bruennhilde (his unconscious mind) had kept for him. Wagner saved a dramatic representation of the actual production of a redemptive work of art, in which the secret of its inspiration is maintained and not disclosed, in Walther's redemptive master song which he performs in "Mastersingers" Act Three. In giving Bruennhilde, Siegfried's muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, away to another man, Gunther, per Hagen's influence, Siegfried - if we keep to the metaphor - is actually permitting his audience to peer into the womb of night which heretofore was Siegfried the artist-hero's privileged and secret domain. Siegfried is inadvertently, in the very work of art he created in order to redeem mankind from the truth, exposing that terrible truth to view. For in giving away his muse Bruennhilde, he is also making manifest to his audience the knowledge she had held for Siegfried and kept secret. Bruennhilde will later (T.2.5) blame herself for having granted Siegfried access to her secret hoard of knowledge. That Siegfried was the heir to Wotan's hoard of knowledge is seen in Bruennhilde's calling Siegfried "Hoard of the World," and saying in T.P.B that what the gods (i.e, Wotan) taught her (a "Hoard" of hallowed runes) she's imparted in turn to Siegfried.
PH: So, as one can see, DB's following remark about the "base camp" is entirely off base: DB: "The one thing that neither of them [Siegfried and Bruennhilde] emphasizes sufficiently is the 'base camp' and the importance of maintaining it."
PH: The model for Siegfried's leaving the so-called base camp, his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, is to be found in "Tannhaeuser," in Tannhaeuser's insistence that he must leave his muse Venus for his own sake, but also in order that he can sing her praises to the world. Venus curses him by suggesting that he will not find what he seeks in the outer world, which will condemn him (because he is predestined to expose the secret of his sojourns with Venus to his audience), but will have to return to her, penitent, to obtain his redemption. In other words, the artist-hero must return to his muse for more inspiration each time he is more agitated by his wound that will never heal, his rising consciousness of the bitter truth which it is the underlying purpose of art to hide. Note that Siegfried praises Bruennhilde as his sole source of inspiration and courage even as he leaves her here in T.P.B. In my interpretation, Siegfried is saying that it is thanks to Bruennhilde's protection, thanks to his having an unconscious mind, that Siegfried is fearless (because Bruennhilde holds for Siegfried that knowledge which, if conscious, would paralyze him into inaction like Wotan), and thanks to her being the repository for the secret hoard of knowledge which Wotan imparted to her, Siegfried can safely draw inspiration from it to produce redemptive works of art in which he, and we, can forget our existential angst.
P. 315: DB, describing how Siegfried during his Rhine Journey ends up at the Hall of the Gibichungs, says: "... the name 'Gibichungs' refers both to the whole population and to its ruling dynasty, consisting of King Gunther and his sister, Gutrune, who are seated on thrones in the great hall of their rule. Nearby at their banqueting table is their half-brother, Hagen, whose father Alberich had seduced their mother with the aphrodisiac of gold, wealth. Alberich's intention in begetting Hagen was [to] create a grey parallel to Siegfried, someone to carry out his purposes as Siegfried carries out Wotan's. The difference is that Wotan was eager for a free spirit to replace him, whereas Alberich wanted Hagen to be himself reincarnate. Alberich discovers, as other fathers have done, that his offspring has developed a striking independence that was not part of the plan."
PH: As usual, my interpretation takes a different tack. Having read Alberich as the potentiality in man for objective consciousness, which leaves no room for "ought," or value, but is geared toward truth, and the knowledge of the truth which though potentially bitter for man, can grant him power over his environment and over his fellow men, I read Hagen as the ultimate product of that objective Ring-consciousness, the modern scientific spirit, which seeks knowledge at all costs, and in fact, in order to assert its freedom to do so, must also discredit those human illusions like religion, ethics, and art, which might thwart the quest for total power through knowledge. During his confession to Bruennhilde, Wotan complained to her that though he himself could not create his free hero, Alberich had succeeded where Wotan had failed. What Wotan meant was that the man of objective consciousness is not divided against himself by the need to maintain illusions, and is in this sense free, because he doesn't have to lie to himself. Such a man has no need to lead a double life, lying to himself about what he inwardly knows. Alberich openly admits the true nature of the world and the truth that he is solely motivated by egoism, the quest for power. Therefore, Hagen is free in a way that even Siegfried is not, because Siegfried, thanks to his unconscious mind Bruennhilde, depends on feeling rather than fact, and, as an artist-hero, lives within a subjective dreamlike state. Just as religious belief was historically in a war with the rise of scientific consciousness and with the freedom of inquiry, in the past several hundred years (witness Galileo and Darwin), so Siegfried represents that inspired secular art, such as Wagner's art, which takes the reins from religion when it can no longer sustain belief in the face of scientific reduction. Hagen isn't so much Alberich reincarnate, as DB suggests, but the full flowering of the potential which Alberich, as Wagner's metaphor for objective consciousness (Ring consciousness), represents. Hagen is the modern scientific world. Siegfried is juxtaposed to Hagen as the representative of secular art as heir to religion, in its war with science. Though Wagner never, so far as I know, stated that Hagen was the reincarnation of Alberich, he did state that Wotan is reincarnate in Siegfried.
P. 316: DB: [Hagen says:] "... that both Gunther and Gutrune are in their prime, but that neither is married, and when Gunther asks who would make him a worthy wife, Hagen tells him of the noblest woman in the world, living on a mountain summit surrounded by fire. Only a man so fearless that he can break through the flames can win her. At this point, the music conjures up a vision of the magic fire surrounding Bruennhilde and even echoes of the woodbird's song, with the implication that Hagen has learnt about them from his father. To Gunther's question whether he is up to the task, Hagen answers bluntly that it is for someone stronger. Who is there that can be stronger, asks Gunther petulantly, and Hagen explains that there is the son of Siegmund and Sieglinde, who was brought up strong in the forests. His reputation as a hero comes from vanquishing Fafner, the dragon who guarded the Nibelung hoard, but he is the right man for Gutrune."
PH: It is noteworthy that both Mime and Hagen so often seem to be omnipotent, to know so much. Keep in mind that in my interpretation, and to a certain extent in the Jungian Donington's interpretation, Wotan is construed in a sense as everyman and all-men, and all the characters to one degree or another are subsumed by, and in, Wotan. There are many passages in the "Ring" libretto which make more sense if we construe the speakers allegorically, as representing a class of men/women, or a class of human endeavor or experience. Hagen knows instinctively that though science may be free in the modern age to inquire after knowledge of the outer world, perhaps the greatest secrets are to be found in the nature of man himself, his mind, his religion, his arts. Hagen knows instinctively that where religious faith has feared to tread, the realm guarded by existential fear, or Fafner, that is where he will find those sources of illusory meaning which interfere with the full exploitation of the power of knowledge most vulnerable to exposure as illusions. And Siegfried the archetypal artist-hero, and his ultimate product, the Wagnerian music-drama, as the last refuge of man's religious longings, is the perfect object of Hagen's inquiry. But Siegfried, under threat from the reductive tendencies of the modern age, will himself, inadvertently, collaborate with this spirit to expose his secrets to view for analysis, in his very efforts to produce the ultimate redemptive work of art, the "Ring," for that is what Siegfried's ultimate art-product, his song narrating the story of how he came to grasp the meaning of the Woodbird's song, represents. It is the play within the play (as in "Hamlet"), a miniaturization or epitome of the entire "Ring" itself.
PH: In my interpretation Siegfried being wed to Gutrune represents Siegfried being wed to a false muse, the antithesis of Bruennhilde, and in the long run Siegfried's betrayal of his true love and muse Bruennhilde, both in giving her away to Gunther and in wedding Gunther's sister Gutrune, represents Siegfried becoming too conscious of who he is. Once the artist-hero is so conscious of his art's mainspring, he can no longer store unbearable knowledge in his unconscious mind nor obtain inspiration from it there. The womb of night (as in "Tristan") has been ripped open and exposed to light, just as Tannhaeuser involuntarily, as if under a spell, exposes the fact of his sojourn in the Venusberg in the song he'd authored and composed in order to win his ideal muse, Elizabeth's, hand in marriage. Jean-Jacques Nattiez in his "Wagner Androgyne" had suggested that Siegfried under Hagen's influence, and in betraying his true love Bruennhilde, ceases to be the authentically inspired music-dramatist and instead succumbs to the allurements of Opera Comique and Grand Opera (Gutrune on Nattiez's view represents a sort of French harlot as metaphor for these retro operatic genres), but I believe that reading is incorrect, for the artwork which Siegfried does perform before his public at Hagen's behest is Siegfried's explanation of how he came to be authentically who he is, how he came to grasp the meaning of the Woodbird's song, and to win Bruennhilde, i.e., how he came to be an authentically inspired music-dramatist, the creator of the "Ring." Therefore Siegfried is self-betrayed from within his own most authentic self, his nature as an unconsciously inspired music-dramatist.
P. 316: DB: "... Hagen suggests that they exploit a drug, a potion in their possession. This could make Siegfried forget all other women and fall in love with Gutrune. At this point Wagner brings back the theme of the Tarnhelm and extends it into something further, paired chords with a strange slippery sweetness which provide the leitmotive known as 'Magic Deceit'."
PH: Deryck Cooke noted the family kinship among Loge's transformation motif, the Tarnhelm Motif, and the Potion Motif. What is at stake here is the nature of Wagnerian Wonder, whereby Wagner's musical motifs of foreboding and reminiscence, their capacity to disclose various logical and emotional links, otherwise perhaps hidden, among various phenomena of life and human psychology, allow Wagner's audience a unique entré into his own unconscious mind, his own unconscious artistic intuition, as Wagner himself said when he described how in this way Wagner would grant his audience a clairvoyance equal to that of the artist himself. In this way Wagner turns himself into his audience, and his audience into himself. This is at least part of what is implied in Siegfried transforming himself, with the aid of Alberich's Tarnhelm, into Gunther, for the purpose of winning Bruennhilde for Gunther.
General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung
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