I have just returned from spending 6 hours at a modern multiplex movie theater. Hate the glitz, the ads and especially the totally incongruous pre-show music. I was there to see the HD simulcast of the Metropolitan Opera production of Götterdämmerung, the fourth and last installment of Wagner’s Ring Cycle. If you’ve never learned anything about opera or Wagner before, I must encourage you to at least read up on it. This was my first time getting the whole story and the whole score into my head. I’d heard from my parents about how looooong the operas are. I’d heard snatches of the music, even parodied by Elmer Fudd (“I shot the wabbit…”). I’d heard about Wagnerian sopranos and sniggered at breastplates and horned helmets (hasn’t everyone?). I was not expecting to be emotionally gripped and wrung out on an epic and divine scale, though. The psychology is deeply moving. The music supports it as cinematically and sumptuously as may be humanly possible. The live action, singing and acting, is absolutely intense. Seeing it with close up camera shots accentuates the intimacy, but it may take away from some of the total experience. For this production, the set was designed by Robert Lepage of Cirque du Soliel. It features a monstrous hydrolic machine which often distracts during the quieter instrumental passages as it whirrs and chunks into new positions. Nevertheless, I was spellbound. Particularly, I think, because I found myself identifying with Brünnhilde so painfully, on so many levels. I’ve been left sobbing at the ending of each of the four operas.
Yes, I’m a bit of a drama queen. I was a Voice Performance major in college and spent the last 7 years working for a theater company. I can really get into live performances. I put myself into the skin of the lead soprano every time. But that’s just surface kinship. Like Brünnhilde, my father was a god (in my eyes, at least, for a very long time), and I did everything I could to please him and do the right thing. I ended up disappointed, my sister ended up banished, and the betrayal felt very real. I left my father’s protection and fell in complete and holy love with a hero, a demi-god to many people. He was duped and taken from me by a fatal disease. I felt the anger, the confusion, the crushing grief and vowed to put the pieces together and learn the truth. It took all my strength to face the facts, give up the ring of power, and stand for love. I want to believe that in the end, greed, envy and the renunciation of love will sink down to the bottom of the river and that true friendship and faithful love will rise up. So when our heroine mounts her trusty steed and rides into the funeral pyre with the ring on her finger and all of Valhalla (the gods’ palace) burns up and is engulfed in the flood of the Rhine and the ring finally returns to the river maidens, I experience an emotional catharsis that draws from a deep well of tears.
Brava, Debra Voigt!!!
Drove home in below freezing temperatures, dove under the blankets in my bedroom and looked out the frosty window at this sunset:
It’s like Valhalla is still burning. Will we ever learn? At the end of the world, will love win? The shamans of the Romantic era are telling us it’s possible. Dare I believe?