30 May 2011

the imperfect Wagnerite

On page 18 of the program for San Francisco Opera's Ring Cycle, Francesca Zambello says in her Director's Note:
". . . Wotan gives up an eye to build a mansion he can't afford. . . "

Uh, no, that's not what happens: Wotan has lost his eye in exchange for "gaining wisdom" at the World Ash Tree (I believe he also claims he lost his eye to gain Fricka, or at least that's what he tells her; maybe that counts as "gaining wisdom"). In exchange for building Valhalla, he actually promises to give up to the giants Freia, the goddess of love and eternal youth. This is an important difference because: (1) he doesn't make a sacrifice of his person to build his visionary fortress, he offers something (more precisely, someone) he doesn't really have the right to offer; and (2) he essentially makes the same deal Alberich made to forge the Ring, sacrificing love and youthful happiness for power and authority.

I don't want to be one of those people, but this isn't an abstruse or minor point, since Wotan's need to weasel out of his bargain leads him to steal the gold (and the tarnhelm and the Ring) from Alberich, and is therefore the engine that sets Das Rheingold and the rest of the cycle in motion. It seems like a pretty big misstatement for the director of a Ring cycle. If she had some obscurer meaning in view, I wonder what it was.

2 comments:

sfmike said...

Of course you're one of "those" people. That is a pretty major boo-boo you're pointing out, however. Zambello probably just got confused, but you'd think somebody at the opera company would have noticed the mistake and edited it for her.

Liked your essay/review in the post below. It was an enjoyable production, even with all the dystopia. Nina Stemme is a goddess right now (even though she's been demoted to human in the opera) and she even made the overlong duet scene fabulous. I found Mime totally annoying and unconvincing, but maybe it's just the role itself. Morris as Siegfried was underpowered from both the orchestra and the balcony, but I ended up liking him since he still had the same pleasing, slightly underpowered voice five hours down the road, a total accomplishment. Loved Erda as Native American Jessye Norman, and the orange-jacketed Forest Bird was refreshing, as she's supposed to be.

pjwv said...

By Wagnerite standards I'm really not one of those people, and yeah, I wonder why no one at the Opera pointed out the error. It's difficult to see it as just misspeaking (or "miswriting") because it's basically the plot of Das Rheingold.

Dystopia is what the opening of Siegfried is all about. I like your description of our Siegfried: yes, he ended as he began. As for Mime: it's the role.