Saturday, September 15, 2012

Götterdämmerung

So, I'm watching the Met's production of Götterdämmerung on PBS. They decided to start the broadcast at 10:00 PM, which means it won't be over til 3:00. Right now it's 11:00, so I just have the length of the "eternal Hamlet" left to go.

Obviously, this opera is a masterpiece. It hardly needs my endorsement. The orchestration is amazing, and it's a huge achievement for any cast of singers to pull it off.

But it's also a tad ridiculous.

For one, no dramatic work should be five hours. Especially when you consider the other three operas in the cycle. I mean, come on. The whole thing is an infamous 14 hours with no breaks for intermission.

Also, let's look at this from a feminist perspective. Siegfried frees Brünnhilde from her father's prison, so she gives up her immortality and identity so she can stay in the kitchen and look after his ring. In exchange for standing up to her father, she has to stay at home and wait for her crazy, drugged up, unfaithful husband. She willfully goes from one identity-crushing male relationship to the next.

Let's talk about how Wotan is a total butthole. Really irresponsible, intemperate, and (frankly) stupid. No where near as cool as the actual Odin.

But let's take a minute to appreciate how FREAKING COOL the staging is. "The Machine" is a masterstroke. It's so simple, but they're able to do virtually anything with it. It's so great to look at during all those lengthy Wagner interludes.

I'm getting pretty weary of this whole, meeting-someone-for-five-minutes-then-trying-to-marry-them business. I know that was the standard thing in drama for a long time, but after Much Ado About Nothing and to a lesser degree,  Taming of the Shrew, I don't think you can get away with that kind of laziness in character development.

But Wagner doesn't strike me as a great Romantic. (See what I did there?)

I cannot hear Siegfried's horn theme without thinking of Elmer Fudd:
O mighty warrior of great fighting stock,
might I inquire to ask,
eh…What's up doc?

You know, this thing works pretty well as a commentary on our economic woes. When you think about it, all the problems in this opera (including and especially the melt down [I can't help myself] at the end) stem from people being selfish/living beyond their means. Wotan takes out a huge mortgage he can't afford to pay for his big new house. And all this at the expense of the environment (World Ash Tree). Forget Wagner being an anti-Semite. He was a freaking hippie.

"A hero claims your hand, by force if necessary." So…you're a rapist?

I like immortal Brünnhilde better. She's so lovely.

The art direction for this thing is largely impeccable. BUT the sword and the ring look like garage sale fare. The former looks like it just got pulled out of a five year-old's costume closet, and the latter looks like a glowing ringpop.

Hey, hey! Two hours down. Only three to go!!! We've gone from the eternal Hamlet to your average non-extended Lord of the Rings film.

Nothung, take note: this was a chaste courtship. My sword (HUGE phallic symbol) will rest between me and Gunther's bride.

Alberich's repeated, "Schläfst du, Hagen, mein Sohn?" has taken on a special poignancy for me in the wee hours of the morning. Sei treu, Michael. Sei treu.

Man, the orchestral writing is really top notch. So many great textures. Also, the Gibichungs' hall is SO COOL LOOKING! I love the statue of Wotan hanging out in the background. He looks like a good old Pontifex Maximus.

And now everybody's grabbing the spear and swearing by Hagen's huge manhood.

Since everyone but Gunther and Brünnhilde has left the stage, I think they should work in "Let's Get It On" instead of the original music. Why not update the production a little bit?

Whew! Two acts down, one to go. Time for a little seventh inning stretch.

And by that I mean, more Diet Dr. Pepper. Honestly, I think my bladder is doing more to keep me awake than the caffeine.

"And yet, if I weren't married, I'd totally do one of these sexy mermaids." Why are we supposed to like Siegfried again?

As much as I don't like Wotan, this opera could use a little Bryn Terfel. Also, his costume design in this opera is the coolest.

I love the string writing for the song where Siegfried recounts what the birds sang to him. Also, the dude playing Siegfried looks perfect for the part. I'm sure his glorious wig is helping, but still.

I've been noticing the sun in the background all along, and I like it. It's a nice motif to have in an opera titled "Twilight of the Gods." Ooooh! Fun parody idea. Do a mashup of Twilight and Götterdämmerung. Only problem is, Kristen Stewart would play Brünnhilde! BAHAHAHAHAHA! I guess she could pull off the being-asleep portions of the role.

I love how long it takes people to die in an opera. I think La Traviata wins for the longest opera death, though. I mean, she started dying before the opera begins, and then hours later she finally kicks the proverbial bucket.

COOL effect of Gunther washing his hands in the river. I'm telling you, The Machine was maybe single the best idea in this production.

At this point in the opera, it feels like the gods have been relegated to the cheap seats.

Also, Wagner, you have less than an hour to wrap this thing up. I hate to be rude, but don't you think you're spending a little too much time on the funeral procession stuff?

And as we hear Siegfried's leitmotif, he raises his hand for a fist bump from Brünnhilde. Oh, denied!

Speaking of leitmotifs, obviously Brünnhilde has the coolest.

Brünnhilde's "Ruhe, Ruhe," could be both a command and a plea. Everybody shut up. I need peace.

Why didn't Wotan just move all that wood from the ash tree somewhere not right next to Valhalla? It seems like a lot of his problems could have been solved if he'd taken fire safety more seriously.

Okay. The puppetry on that horse is freaking awesome.

I'm confused. Is it the fire from Siegfried's pyre that burns down Valhalla? Cause didn't they do that right on the shore of the Rhine? And didn't the Rhine overflow?

This is really kind of an unsatisfying ending. I did not care about Siegfried, and Brünnhilde literally burning the world down seems a little spiteful and myopic. Wagner's gods seem way more Hellenistic than the "real" Norse gods. You could just change some proper nouns and call this, "Zeus Gets his Comeuppance." The Odin I know is a much sadder, wiser god. And Loki is one of the most sympathetic tragic figures in any mythos. Here, "Loge" is hardly a footnote.

Well, whatever. I did it. I watched all five hours, starting at 10:00 PM. I'm glad I finally got around to seeing at least two of the four operas. I still don't get Wagner, but I get why people get Wagner, if that makes sense. I still don't think he's a great dramatist or storyteller. I think he was a great orchestrator. And honestly, I have to respect the scope of the cycle.

I'm watching the behind the scenes interviews after the opera, and Siegfried/Chris-Hemsworth-look-alike, Jay Hunter Morris, sounds like an absolute effeminate hick. It is hilarious! I can't stop laughing. I love it when my fellow Southerners represent. I never would have guessed that he was a total redneck. His website is THE BOMB! [Edit: This sounds a little mean. But seriously, I love this guy. He did a fantastic job, and from the interviews I've seen, he has zero ego. Maybe "hick" and "redneck" are too strong. How about cowboy? Without a doubt, he is the world's greatest Wagnerian cowboy.]

Why am I still awake? Oh yeah, I have two liters of Diet Dr. Pepper running through my system.

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