Friday 29 September 2023

Zooming Das Rheingold, Iolanthe and Jephtha

The summer course on Parsifal in association with the Wagner Society of Scotland won't have quite ended when I descend to the bottom of the Rhine for my Autumn term Opera in Depth Zoom course on 9 October. But thanks to Paul Schofield's excellent book The Redeemer Reborn, proposing Parsifal as 'the fifth opera of Wagner's Ring', I feel halfway back in the world of the tetralogy already. Scholfield's tenet is fortunately merely a peg on which to hang his perceptions about the links between Wotan and Amfortas, Siegfried and Parsifal, Brünnhilde and Kundry, Alberich and Klingsor. 

A practisiing Buddhist, Schofield is plausible on how intensely Wagner studied the religion at the time when he was embarking on an eastern version of the Parsifal theme, Die Sieger - and I'm grateful to him for fuller outlines on that. In fact, all Wagner operas connect, from the redeemable curse for blasphemy shared by the Dutchman and Kundry, the parallels between Tannhäuser's Venusberg and Klingsor's realm, onwards, and while the reincarnation idea is interesting, it's not the most potent aspect of the book, which is beautifully and clearly written. As usual in most studes of Wagner, there's nothing about the music of this infinitely rich swansong- though Schofield proves himself capable of writing about it in his description of what happens at the end of Götterdämmerung, but as far as it goes it's provided good food for thought. The comparisons between different mythologies are especially enlightening.

We had the most marvellous Kundry/Act 2 class with Linda Esther Gray, but I'll write about that in a separare post. John Tomlinson, a generous supporter of the courses, will be coming to talk about Gurnemanz next week, and we'll watch part of Act 3 with him in Harry Kupfer's production. Meanwhile, Barrie Kosky's Rheingold has offered plenty of food for discussion. My review of it is here, and I'll add another of Monika Rittershaus's images. This one is of Sean Panikkar's handsome Loge with his toad-in-a-bag, having tricked Alberich in Nibelheim.

Though I don't think all the ideas work, the musical-dramatic fusion between singer-actors and orchestra, thanks to Pappano, is absolutely remarkable and minimised the discomfort I had sitting on my special cushion for over two and a half hours. I used to like Rheingold least of the four Ring operas, but I've come to treasure its modernity, its satire, its infinite possibilities for staging. Some folk have already complained that I go on to more Gilbert and Sullivan - some didn't get it even after passionate pleading for The Yeomen of the Guard in two classes - but Arthur certainly knew his Richard, and like all good parodists, he loves what he spoofs so brilliantly. Serse/Xerxes made me fall more in love with Handel, so I'm happy to spend three Mondays on Jephtha. Once again, all details here (click to enlarge and contact me if you want to sign up). 

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