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The Rhinegold: Page 130
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nature, our feeling that subject and object are one. Consciousness, wakefulness, becomes the hallmark of our alienation from this feeling of oneness with nature, i.e., our conscious quest to force Nature to satisfy our needs and our longing to grasp the whole, and unconsciousness, the bliss of dreaming, in contrast, can be identified with our artificial attempts to restore this feeling of oneness in religion and art.

Another very intriguing aspect of Alberich’s acquisition of power through renunciation of love is Wagner’s oft-stated view (stated especially often in the early 1850’s when he was completing the Ring libretto, but even late in life) that his artistic creativity was compensation for his inability to find love in the real world:

“ … for me true, pure artistic creativity is little other than a surrogate for something which I know to be my most basic need but a need which I am never allowed to satisfy.” [592W-{10/28/52} Letter to Robert Franz: SLRW, p. 271]

“ … art for me is a substitute for a life of unsatisfied desire … ! I pour out into my art the violent need I feel for love, a need which life cannot satisfy … .” [593W-{11/11/52} Letter to Luise Brockhaus: SLRW, p. 274]

And, speaking of the composer Beethoven’s creative gift, the secret of his inspiration, Wagner said, more generally, that:

“ ‘… the life of the spirit goes its own way and has nothing to do with actual experiences – indeed it is, rather, the things one does not find which provide the images.’ “ [975W-{8/16/79} CD Vol. II, p. 355]

Donington noted how similar this makes Wagner to Alberich [Donington: P. 56-57], who is able to forge the Ring of power only after being thrice rejected in his quest for love. One can’t help suspecting that Wagner in some sense saw himself in Alberich’s plight, that Alberich gives birth to the entire Ring drama through his artificial attempt to compensate, with the Ring’s power, for his irrevocable loss of love.

[R.1: N]

Alberich now makes his desperate bid for world-power by renouncing and cursing love:


Alberich: Still not afraid? Then whore in the dark, you watery brood! (He reaches out his hand towards the gold.) (#12) Your light I’ll put out, (#12) wrench the gold from the rock (#12) (#19?:) and forge the avenging ring (:#19?): so hear me, you waters: - (#18:) thus I lay a curse on love (:#18)! (He tears the gold away and plunges into the depths. #12. Impenetrable darkness suddenly descends on all sides. The girls descend after him.)


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