Making an Opera's Plot Understandable

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Ralph
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Making an Opera's Plot Understandable

Post by Ralph » Sun Feb 19, 2006 8:22 am

From The New York Times:

DIRECTIONS

By JAMES R. OESTREICH
Published: February 19, 2006

It is all too easy to make fun of opera plots. Even the great Verdi maestro Riccardo Muti joked recently that he would be hard pressed to lay out the plot of "Il Trovatore."

A few decades ago, the San Francisco Opera offered a classic synopsis of another Verdi tangle, "Simon Boccanegra." Referring to the conspiracy against the doge, the writer reported in dead earnest that several characters had to be imprisoned "until the plot had cleared." Wouldn't it be nice if we could do that with other contorted plots? "O.K., everybody into the slammer, and we'll let you out one at a time when we figure out just what it is you do here." But more often, characters wander free — and engage one another in dizzyingly complicated dynamics.

Pitying the poor operagoer who is left to sort it all out, one high-profile production has undertaken a novel bit of Mozartean whimsy. The program book for a production of "La Finta Giardiniera" that was part of the recent Mozart Week in Salzburg, Austria, and will be revived this summer at the Salzburg Festival, included a five-page synopsis of the convoluted plot. But instead of describing it in sentences and paragraphs, it offered something between a schoolgirl's doodle and a molecular diagram, sketching the characters' various love interests and misadventures with hearts, arrows and mere wisps of verbal description.

The "Fake Gardener" of the title, Sandrina, is Marchesa Violante Onesti, disguised and presumed dead. She is in love with Count Belfiore, who is in love with Arminda, a gentlewoman. Violante's servant Roberto — also disguised, as Nardo — loves Serpetta, the Mayor's maid, who loves the Mayor (Podestà), who loves Sandrina. Meanwhile, Ramiro — oh, forget it.

In the diagrams, the hearts, color-coded in various combinations and shadings, mean in love with (red), jealous of (yellow) and angry at or hurt by (blue). The asterisks indicate mild confusion (one), moderate to strong confusion (two, in Act I) and insanity (three). "Sucht" means seeks; "folgt," follows.

Can the complexities of opera, with its heated passions and secret schemes, really be explained in a two-dimensional diagram? And if so, why not the rest of life? Daily interactions might go a lot more smoothly if they were preceded by a cheat sheet warning of jealousy and confusion. Even if the warnings were in German.

The Salzburg production didn't make the opera's plot, which hardly repays a moment's serious contemplation, all that much easier to follow: it transplanted the action from the Mayor's garden to a home gardening depot, and confusion ran a pretty steady two and half asterisks. Perhaps, with or without an engaging synopsis, all will be lucid in a more modest production of "La Finta Giardiniera" at the Little Opera Theater of New York, beginning on Wednesday. Just don't bet the farm on it.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Feb 19, 2006 2:38 pm

For most of the standard repertoire, reading the story before the patron puts his butt in the seat would suffice. Of course, the regulars don't need to rely on program-notes writers because they could sing it in the shower.

Howerever, for silly confections like La Finta Giardiniera such solutions as a five-page synopsis of the convoluted plot is overkill. This simple disclaimer is more than adequate:

Silly story provides excuse for some fine music and pretty decent singing. Forget plot. Listen to music!
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Charles
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Post by Charles » Mon Feb 20, 2006 2:24 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:For most of the standard repertoire, reading the story before the patron puts his butt in the seat would suffice. Of course, the regulars don't need to rely on program-notes writers because they could sing it in the shower.

Howerever, for silly confections like La Finta Giardiniera such solutions as a five-page synopsis of the convoluted plot is overkill. This simple disclaimer is more than adequate:

Silly story provides excuse for some fine music and pretty decent singing. Forget plot. Listen to music!

Amen!

Wagner's absurd plots, mostly devoid of meaningful actions (I except Meistersinger), are based on a simple premise - the heroine must die at the end of Act III no matter what, and often the hero also. If the heroine does not die, she must fall into a swoon which is indistinguishable from death except to experts on Schopenhauerian philosophy. There is a usenet group where they discuss these absurd plots as if they were great tragedy worth of Aeschylus or Shakespeare. The merest word or casual allusion in Der Ring is dissected for weeks for its hidden cosmic meaning as if counting angels on the head of a pin. The glorious music, which is the real worth of these works, is rarely even mentioned. As they say, it takes all kinds...

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Post by Cyril Ignatius » Mon Feb 20, 2006 3:45 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:For most of the standard repertoire, reading the story before the patron puts his butt in the seat would suffice. Of course, the regulars don't need to rely on program-notes writers because they could sing it in the shower.

Howerever, for silly confections like La Finta Giardiniera such solutions as a five-page synopsis of the convoluted plot is overkill. This simple disclaimer is more than adequate:

Silly story provides excuse for some fine music and pretty decent singing. Forget plot. Listen to music!
And for people like me, reading the story might not lead to picking up much of the plot anyway, at least not much byond the program notes you get at the door. For many of us it is about a combination of great music and wonderful staging scenery along with the ability to pick up meaning from individual scenes.

In short, opera is to be loved - there's no urgent need to let plots or story lines interfere.
Cyril Ignatius

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Post by RebLem » Tue Feb 21, 2006 2:29 am

Actually, explaining opera plots is a good place to keep Ronald Reagan's demand in mind--keep it all on one page.

Not a very good idea for complex matters of public policy, methinks, but a damn good limitation for the narration of an opera plot.
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dzalman

Post by dzalman » Tue Feb 21, 2006 4:55 pm

Charles wrote:Amen!

Wagner's absurd plots, mostly devoid of meaningful actions (I except Meistersinger), are based on a simple premise - the heroine must die at the end of Act III no matter what, and often the hero also. If the heroine does not die, she must fall into a swoon which is indistinguishable from death except to experts on Schopenhauerian philosophy. There is a usenet group where they discuss these absurd plots as if they were great tragedy worth of Aeschylus or Shakespeare. The merest word or casual allusion in Der Ring is dissected for weeks for its hidden cosmic meaning as if counting angels on the head of a pin. The glorious music, which is the real worth of these works, is rarely even mentioned. As they say, it takes all kinds...
It sure does -- including types such as yourself who make ignorant, even absurd, statements such as the above in all earnestness. The "real worth" of works like the Ring resides in the organic unity of text and music. Each without the other is dramatically incoherent, and cannot stand.

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Post by Huckleberry » Tue Feb 21, 2006 7:23 pm

dzalman wrote:
Charles wrote:Amen!

Wagner's absurd plots, mostly devoid of meaningful actions (I except Meistersinger), are based on a simple premise - the heroine must die at the end of Act III no matter what, and often the hero also. If the heroine does not die, she must fall into a swoon which is indistinguishable from death except to experts on Schopenhauerian philosophy. There is a usenet group where they discuss these absurd plots as if they were great tragedy worth of Aeschylus or Shakespeare. The merest word or casual allusion in Der Ring is dissected for weeks for its hidden cosmic meaning as if counting angels on the head of a pin. The glorious music, which is the real worth of these works, is rarely even mentioned. As they say, it takes all kinds...
It sure does -- including types such as yourself who make ignorant, even absurd, statements such as the above in all earnestness. The "real worth" of works like the Ring resides in the organic unity of text and music. Each without the other is dramatically incoherent, and cannot stand.
Right you are! We'll come to you, dzalman, for lessons on the meaning of life, the true value of high art, and well-tempered and courteous speech.
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Post by Charles » Tue Feb 21, 2006 8:01 pm

dzalman wrote:
Charles wrote:Amen!

Wagner's absurd plots, mostly devoid of meaningful actions (I except Meistersinger), are based on a simple premise - the heroine must die at the end of Act III no matter what, and often the hero also. If the heroine does not die, she must fall into a swoon which is indistinguishable from death except to experts on Schopenhauerian philosophy. There is a usenet group where they discuss these absurd plots as if they were great tragedy worth of Aeschylus or Shakespeare. The merest word or casual allusion in Der Ring is dissected for weeks for its hidden cosmic meaning as if counting angels on the head of a pin. The glorious music, which is the real worth of these works, is rarely even mentioned. As they say, it takes all kinds...
It sure does -- including types such as yourself who make ignorant, even absurd, statements such as the above in all earnestness. The "real worth" of works like the Ring resides in the organic unity of text and music. Each without the other is dramatically incoherent, and cannot stand.
You are the ignorant one, Dzalman. You know nothing of the nature of tragedy, and worse, you do not know that you do not know. Go see a decent production of the Orestaia and see if Wagner's Ring, (where dramatically believable motives are few and far between, especially in the final two operas), can hold even a small candle to it as a coherent and unified drama. Probably in your profound stubborness and ignorance you will imagine it can, or that the music saves the drama, but that won't make it so.

dzalman

Post by dzalman » Tue Feb 21, 2006 8:19 pm

Charles wrote:
dzalman wrote:
Charles wrote:Amen!

Wagner's absurd plots, mostly devoid of meaningful actions (I except Meistersinger), are based on a simple premise - the heroine must die at the end of Act III no matter what, and often the hero also. If the heroine does not die, she must fall into a swoon which is indistinguishable from death except to experts on Schopenhauerian philosophy. There is a usenet group where they discuss these absurd plots as if they were great tragedy worth of Aeschylus or Shakespeare. The merest word or casual allusion in Der Ring is dissected for weeks for its hidden cosmic meaning as if counting angels on the head of a pin. The glorious music, which is the real worth of these works, is rarely even mentioned. As they say, it takes all kinds...
It sure does -- including types such as yourself who make ignorant, even absurd, statements such as the above in all earnestness. The "real worth" of works like the Ring resides in the organic unity of text and music. Each without the other is dramatically incoherent, and cannot stand.
You are the ignorant one, Dzalman. You know nothing of the nature of tragedy, and worse, you do not know that you do not know. Go see a decent production of the Orestaia and see if Wagner's Ring, (where dramatically believable motives are few and far between, especially in the final two operas), can hold even a small candle to it as a coherent and unified drama. Probably in your profound stubborness and ignorance you will imagine it can, or that the music saves the drama, but that won't make it so.

You once again betray your abject ignorance of Wagner's music-dramas which are every bit as powerful, coherent, and unified as any drama written by the Greeks, or even by Shakespeare himself. In Wagner's music-dramas the music IS the drama, not an adjunct to it; drama built on the armature of the text. That's the very essence of what music-drama is; what it's all about. As repeatedly in the past, you again make the cardinal error of mis-taking the text as that which contains the drama, and the music as something accompanying and / or coloring it. That's abjectly ignorant thinking, and dead wrong.

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Post by Charles » Wed Feb 22, 2006 5:49 pm

dzalman wrote: You once again betray your abject ignorance of Wagner's music-dramas which are every bit as powerful, coherent, and unified as any drama written by the Greeks, or even by Shakespeare himself. In Wagner's music-dramas the music IS the drama, not an adjunct to it; drama built on the armature of the text. That's the very essence of what music-drama is; what it's all about. As repeatedly in the past, you again make the cardinal error of mis-taking the text as that which contains the drama, and the music as something accompanying and / or coloring it. That's abjectly ignorant thinking, and dead wrong.
With or without the music, Wagner's plots are in general maudlin and full of unbelievable actions, especially suicides for inadequate reasons, with which the normal human heart cannot identify. The plot of Gotterdammerung in particular is as mawkish and ridiculous as possible, with or without music, and would have to be improved a lot to come up to the level of a Harry Potter book, let alone a Greek tragedy. Aeschylus' tragedies have lost their music yet have been vital enough to found and continue to influence an entire art form. Wagner's Ring without the music would sink like a stone a lot deeper than the bottom of the Rhine. With the music it has enough vitality to survive, even though its music overall is inferior to that of his better operas.

dzalman

Post by dzalman » Wed Feb 22, 2006 6:07 pm

Charles wrote:With or without the music, Wagner's plots are in general maudlin and full of unbelievable actions, especially suicides for inadequate reasons, with which the normal human heart cannot identify. The plot of Gotterdammerung in particular is as mawkish and ridiculous as possible, with or without music, and would have to be improved a lot to come up to the level of a Harry Potter book, let alone a Greek tragedy. Aeschylus' tragedies have lost their music yet have been vital enough to found and continue to influence an entire art form. Wagner's Ring without the music would sink like a stone a lot deeper than the bottom of the Rhine. With the music it has enough vitality to survive, even though its music overall is inferior to that of his better operas.
If you feel that Wagner's plots in his music-dramas (i.e., those works post-Lohengrin) are "in general maudlin and full of unbelievable actions, especially suicides for inadequate reasons,") well, you're entitled to your personal opinion even though it flies in the face of the informed critical opinion of history for over a century. Concerning Götterdämmerung, most informed Wagnerians see a problem with that work, as do I. The cause and nature of the problem is covered in some detail in this article by A.C. Douglas; an article with which I'm in total agreement. Concerning the lost music for the Greek tragedies, no one knows for certain what its substantive dramatic function actually was if substantive it was, but as those tragedies give pride of place to the poetry (text) in any case, it's an almost sure bet that it didn't have the primary dramatic function that music has in Wagner's music-dramas. As for your comments on the music for the Ring, the less said about those comments the better.

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Post by Charles » Thu Feb 23, 2006 12:18 pm

dzalman wrote:
Charles wrote:With or without the music, Wagner's plots are in general maudlin and full of unbelievable actions, especially suicides for inadequate reasons, with which the normal human heart cannot identify. The plot of Gotterdammerung in particular is as mawkish and ridiculous as possible, with or without music, and would have to be improved a lot to come up to the level of a Harry Potter book, let alone a Greek tragedy. Aeschylus' tragedies have lost their music yet have been vital enough to found and continue to influence an entire art form. Wagner's Ring without the music would sink like a stone a lot deeper than the bottom of the Rhine. With the music it has enough vitality to survive, even though its music overall is inferior to that of his better operas.
If you feel that Wagner's plots in his music-dramas (i.e., those works post-Lohengrin) are "in general maudlin and full of unbelievable actions, especially suicides for inadequate reasons,") well, you're entitled to your personal opinion even though it flies in the face of the informed critical opinion of history for over a century. Concerning Götterdämmerung, most informed Wagnerians see a problem with that work, as do I. The cause and nature of the problem is covered in some detail in this article by A.C. Douglas; an article with which I'm in total agreement. Concerning the lost music for the Greek tragedies, no one knows for certain what its substantive dramatic function actually was if substantive it was, but as those tragedies give pride of place to the poetry (text) in any case, it's an almost sure bet that it didn't have the primary dramatic function that music has in Wagner's music-dramas. As for your comments on the music for the Ring, the less said about those comments the better.

In addition to your other errors you put words in my mouth. I said nothing about post-Lohengrin. I include all his plots, including Lohengrin and Tannhauser , with their inadequately motivated swooning-suicides, in my statement (again excluding Meistersinger). (I also include Lohengrin and Tannhauser as works in which the music is more consistently on the highest level throughout, minute to minute, than it is in Der Ring.)

What 'pride of place' and 'almost sure bet?' Who or what gives you that uninformed idea? The Greek tragedies fused text, music AND dance into one whole. Several ancient descriptions, which you have evidently not bothered to read (while calling ME ignorant), testify to the power of the music and dance as well as the text in the overall experience and catharsis of the tragedies. Only a Western chauvinist would assume that Greek music was secondary because it lacked modern Western devices. What IS highly unlikely is that the Greeks, who invented tragedy and created epic and lyric poetry, architecture and sculpture (and easel painting, according to contemporary descriptions, though none has survived) of the highest order, would have produced music any less great. On Greek music in general, many ancient writers testified to its power. Plato even suggested in The Republic that it be banned in the 'ideal' state, such was its power to distract and spellbind the soul. You make a totally unwarranted assumption in saying that the text was primary. More likely is that held a similar relation to the music as in modern opera.

My point was that Aeschylus' text, the only part which COULD survive given the absence of musical and choreographic notation in ancient times, was and is powerful enough to both found an entire art form and continue to be a living influence on it to this day. An achievement which Wagner's texts could not even hope to be compared with. You will note that his influence on art in the generations after his death was overwhelmingly musical, in the developments of the large-scale symphony and harmonically through polytonality toward atonality. The influence of his drama was nil, being rooted as it was in the overwrought milieu of the Victorian melodramatic potboiler, which doesn't survive today as a living influence.

You admit Gotterdammerung is flawed. The climax of a tragedy is its fruition. By your own admission, this final opera, the climax and fruition of the series, is unsatisfying textually. How can this then be a worthy tragedy? Where is the catharsis which is the core of tragedy? Case closed. No need to find out why. Who cares? All the meaning necessary is in the work, or as is the case here, is not in the work. As for reading AC Douglas, one does not seek truth or enlightenment in the gutter.

dzalman

Post by dzalman » Thu Feb 23, 2006 12:44 pm

Charles wrote:My point was that Aeschylus' text, the only part which COULD survive given the absence of musical and choreographic notation in ancient times, was and is powerful enough to both found an entire art form and continue to be a living influence on it to this day. An achievement which Wagner's texts could not even hope to be compared with. You will note that his influence on art in the generations after his death was overwhelmingly musical, in the developments of the large-scale symphony and harmonically through polytonality toward atonality. The influence of his drama was nil, being rooted as it was in the overwrought mileu of the Victorian melodramatic potboiler, which doesn't survive today as a living influence.

You admit Gotterdamerrung is flawed. The climax of a tragedy is its fruition. By your own admission, this final opera, the climax and fruition of the series, is unsatisfying textually. How can this then be a worthy tragedy? Where is the catharis which is the core of tragedy? Case closed. No need to find out why. Who cares? All the meaning necessary is in the work, or as is the case here, is not in the work. As for reading AC Douglas, one does not seek truth or enlightenment in the gutter.
Once again you harp on Wagner's text which only, once again, betrays your appalling ignorance of the structure of Wagnerian drama, and therefore your remarks concerning it can be safely dismissed as of no value or import. And also once again, the less said about your remark that the music of Tannhäuser and Lohengrin is superior to that of the Ring the better. As to your uninformed remarks on Götterdämmerung and its flaws, you should have first read the A.C. Douglas article I linked before making them. It exposes what you wrote as the uninformed and thoroughly in error gibberish it clearly is.

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Post by Charles » Thu Feb 23, 2006 1:20 pm

dzalman wrote:
Charles wrote:My point was that Aeschylus' text, the only part which COULD survive given the absence of musical and choreographic notation in ancient times, was and is powerful enough to both found an entire art form and continue to be a living influence on it to this day. An achievement which Wagner's texts could not even hope to be compared with. You will note that his influence on art in the generations after his death was overwhelmingly musical, in the developments of the large-scale symphony and harmonically through polytonality toward atonality. The influence of his drama was nil, being rooted as it was in the overwrought mileu of the Victorian melodramatic potboiler, which doesn't survive today as a living influence.

You admit Gotterdamerrung is flawed. The climax of a tragedy is its fruition. By your own admission, this final opera, the climax and fruition of the series, is unsatisfying textually. How can this then be a worthy tragedy? Where is the catharis which is the core of tragedy? Case closed. No need to find out why. Who cares? All the meaning necessary is in the work, or as is the case here, is not in the work. As for reading AC Douglas, one does not seek truth or enlightenment in the gutter.
Once again you harp on Wagner's text which only, once again, betrays your appalling ignorance of the structure of Wagnerian drama, and therefore your remarks concerning it can be safely dismissed as of no value or import. And also once again, the less said about your remark that the music of Tannhäuser and Lohengrin is superior to that of the Ring the better. As to your uninformed remarks on Götterdämmerung and its flaws, you should have first read the A.C. Douglas article I linked before making them. It exposes what you wrote as the uninformed and thoroughly in error gibberish it clearly is.
You persist in misunderstanding what I wrote about Wagner's texts and music in relation to tragedy, and in conveniently ignoring what I said about Greek tragedy in general, naturally since obviously you haven't studied and don't understand it. There is no further use in arguing with someone who does not or cannot comprehend the simplest statements, but dumbly keeps returning to his original point, which has long since been responded to. I suggest you return to your cave and resume sleeping, guarding the Ring from all comers.

dzalman

Post by dzalman » Thu Feb 23, 2006 3:12 pm

Charles wrote:You persist in misunderstanding what I wrote about Wagner's texts and music in relation to tragedy, and in conveniently ignoring what I said about Greek tragedy in general, naturally since obviously you haven't studied and don't understand it. There is no further use in arguing with someone who does not or cannot comprehend the simplest statements, but dumbly keeps returning to his original point, which has long since been responded to. I suggest you return to your cave and resume sleeping, guarding the Ring from all comers.
I ignored what you wrote about Greek tragedy because it's mostly inapposite to this discussion which deals with the structure and dynamics of Wagnerian music-drama which bears only superficial relation to the structure and dynamics of Greek drama. (That Wagner in his theoretical writings -- written before he'd written so much as a note of the music for his first music-drama -- proposed modeling the dramatic structure and dynamics of music-drama on the Greek model is merely of historical interest as Wagner saw very quickly after writing the music for that first music-drama (Das Rheingold) that the dramatic primacy of music in music-drama knocked his whole theory into the proverbial cocked hat.) And as for misunderstanding what you wrote about Wagner's texts and music, I understood it all too well. And that is that you persist in attempting to disconnect the two, and judge the dramatic worth and influence of each separately; an ignorant and totally in-error approach.

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Post by RebLem » Thu Feb 23, 2006 4:09 pm

Do you two guys write for FANFARE? This sounds like one of their petty little writers' flame wars.
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dzalman

Post by dzalman » Thu Feb 23, 2006 8:09 pm

RebLem wrote:Do you two guys write for FANFARE? This sounds like one of their petty little writers' flame wars.
If one takes his Wagnerian opera seriously (as opposed to its being merely a casual entertainment or something infrequently indulged in), there's nothing in the least "petty" about this argument, war-like though it may be. It goes to the very heart of what Wagnerian music-drama is all about.

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Post by Charles » Sun Mar 05, 2006 2:21 pm

dzalman wrote:
Charles wrote:You persist in misunderstanding what I wrote about Wagner's texts and music in relation to tragedy, and in conveniently ignoring what I said about Greek tragedy in general, naturally since obviously you haven't studied and don't understand it. There is no further use in arguing with someone who does not or cannot comprehend the simplest statements, but dumbly keeps returning to his original point, which has long since been responded to. I suggest you return to your cave and resume sleeping, guarding the Ring from all comers.
I ignored what you wrote about Greek tragedy because it's mostly inapposite to this discussion which deals with the structure and dynamics of Wagnerian music-drama which bears only superficial relation to the structure and dynamics of Greek drama. (That Wagner in his theoretical writings -- written before he'd written so much as a note of the music for his first music-drama -- proposed modeling the dramatic structure and dynamics of music-drama on the Greek model is merely of historical interest as Wagner saw very quickly after writing the music for that first music-drama (Das Rheingold) that the dramatic primacy of music in music-drama knocked his whole theory into the proverbial cocked hat.) And as for misunderstanding what you wrote about Wagner's texts and music, I understood it all too well. And that is that you persist in attempting to disconnect the two, and judge the dramatic worth and influence of each separately; an ignorant and totally in-error approach.
Disconnected or together, The Ring to me is basically a bore except for certain spots of musical, dramatic, or musical-dramatic brilliance. As an organic whole, a musical-dramatic gestalt, it is a great concept but unrealized. Riddled with inconsistencies, scenes of organic musical/dramatic boredom,mawkish plot lines, a non-climax and one of the the most boring leading characters, in musical/dramatic organic terms, in operatic history, in the non-tragic Wotan (who, tellingly, was not even the main character thru much of the writing of the tetrology). And this is not the judgment of an occasional Wagner listener/operagoer, but a dedicated and experienced one, who places Wagner only a little below Bach and Beethoven as an artist. I would attend Lohengrin, Tannhauser, Tristan, Parsifal or Meistersinger with far more enthusiasm than any of the Ring dramas in any guise, except the first act of Walkure. He simply bit off more than he could chew with this idea, mainly because his own political and philosophic opinions kept changing over the years, and the overall plan became inevitably inconsistent within itself. Ironically, in the total art-work he eliminated recitative, which stopped the musical drama cold, and replaced it with long stretches of integrated musical/dramatic dead space which functions really as a kind of super-recitative. The total art-work is much better achieved in Tristan, Meistersinger and Parsifal. And Tristan and Meistersinger were created during recreational 'breaks' from working on The Ring, allowing his artistic imagination free and natural expression of somewhat more limited intellectual concepts, so that they are fresher, more inspired and more unified throughout.

If this is in disagreement to the majority of critical writing on Wagner and The Ring, I can't help it. I am not in a forum to echo others' opinions but to express my own convictions. A minority opinion is not necessarily mistaken, as many instances show. If you disagree, then content yourself with calling me ignorant, as you persistently and ignorantly do, and let it be.

dzalman

Post by dzalman » Sun Mar 05, 2006 7:38 pm

Charles wrote:If this is in disagreement to the majority of critical writing on Wagner and The Ring, I can't help it. I am not in a forum to echo others' opinions but to express my own convictions. A minority opinion is not necessarily mistaken, as many instances show. If you disagree, then content yourself with calling me ignorant, as you persistently and ignorantly do, and let it be.
Your personal response to the Ring is valid for yourself, and therefore cannot be gainsaid, which is much different than the categorical assertions you've previously been making, all of which can be absolutely refuted. I would, however, suggest to you that as your personal response is at odds with almost the entire body of critical response to the work for over a century that you'd be well advised to take the position that the fault lies not with Wagner or the Ring, but with yourself alone, and continue to make the effort to "get it," and to discover where you went wrong.

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Post by RebLem » Mon Mar 06, 2006 9:47 am

dzalman wrote:
Charles wrote:If this is in disagreement to the majority of critical writing on Wagner and The Ring, I can't help it. I am not in a forum to echo others' opinions but to express my own convictions. A minority opinion is not necessarily mistaken, as many instances show. If you disagree, then content yourself with calling me ignorant, as you persistently and ignorantly do, and let it be.
Your personal response to the Ring is valid for yourself, and therefore cannot be gainsaid, which is much different than the categorical assertions you've previously been making, all of which can be absolutely refuted. I would, however, suggest to you that as your personal response is at odds with almost the entire body of critical response to the work for over a century that you'd be well advised to take the position that the fault lies not with Wagner or the Ring, but with yourself alone, and continue to make the effort to "get it," and to discover where you went wrong.
dzalman,

Instead of flaming, why don't you deal with the specific criticisms Charles made?

Is Siegried or is Siegfried not one of the dumbest, most boring characters in all opera/music drama? Do you accept the idea that the story lacks a coherent point of view because Wagner kept changing his political ideas over the years. and I would add, retaining mostly the worst ideas, like his anti-semitism and jingoism as the most consistent thread in his "thought?" What do you say about the point that the absence of recitative handicaps the composer's ability to make the drama a smoothly coherent whole? You say nothing about any of these things; all you do is present generalized flames in response to Charles's reasoned criticism.

You need to knock it off.
Don't drink and drive. You might spill it.--J. Eugene Baker, aka my late father
"We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term."--Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S. Carolina.
"Racism is America's Original Sin."--Francis Cardinal George, former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago.

dzalman

Post by dzalman » Mon Mar 06, 2006 12:49 pm

RebLem wrote:
dzalman wrote:
Charles wrote:If this is in disagreement to the majority of critical writing on Wagner and The Ring, I can't help it. I am not in a forum to echo others' opinions but to express my own convictions. A minority opinion is not necessarily mistaken, as many instances show. If you disagree, then content yourself with calling me ignorant, as you persistently and ignorantly do, and let it be.
Your personal response to the Ring is valid for yourself, and therefore cannot be gainsaid, which is much different than the categorical assertions you've previously been making, all of which can be absolutely refuted. I would, however, suggest to you that as your personal response is at odds with almost the entire body of critical response to the work for over a century that you'd be well advised to take the position that the fault lies not with Wagner or the Ring, but with yourself alone, and continue to make the effort to "get it," and to discover where you went wrong.
dzalman,

Instead of flaming, why don't you deal with the specific criticisms Charles made?

Is Siegried or is Siegfried not one of the dumbest, most boring characters in all opera/music drama? Do you accept the idea that the story lacks a coherent point of view because Wagner kept changing his political ideas over the years. and I would add, retaining mostly the worst ideas, like his anti-semitism and jingoism as the most consistent thread in his "thought?" What do you say about the point that the absence of recitative handicaps the composer's ability to make the drama a smoothly coherent whole? You say nothing about any of these things; all you do is present generalized flames in response to Charles's reasoned criticism.

You need to knock it off.
And you need to know what you're talking about before running off at the mouth like that.

First, I did deal with Charles's "criticisms" -- which are anything but "reasoned" -- in the most pertinent way possible: by pointing out to him that he was considering the text and the music separately, which is a thoroughly ignorant approach, and can't be done with any of Wagner's mature works, the Ring most particularly.

Now to deal with your "criticisms."
Is Siegried or is Siegfried not one of the dumbest, most boring characters in all opera/music drama?
In Siegfried, Siegfried is an adolescent bully but hardly a dummy. In Götterdämmerung, he's either a childlike innocent or a not-too-bright unwitting pawn, depending on how one wants to take him. In neither opera, however, is there anything about him in the least boring.
Do you accept the idea that the story lacks a coherent point of view because Wagner kept changing his political ideas over the years. and I would add, retaining mostly the worst ideas, like his anti-semitism and jingoism as the most consistent thread in his "thought?"
No, I do not accept the ignorant idea that "the story lacks a coherent point of view" for any reason whatsoever -- nor would anyone who actually knows the Ring. The "story" is perfectly coherent throughout, a few inconsistencies of detail and the grand-opera nature of much of Götterdämmerung notwithstanding. As to the rest of your immediately above quote, if you're saying, or even just insinuating, that Wagner expressed any of that in the Ring then what you wrote is arrant rubbish, all of it, and betrays your fundamental ignorance of the tetralogy. Charles refused to read the A.C. Douglas article I linked for him wherein are contained most of the answers to all the above, including the Siegfried business. I trust you'll take the trouble to read it as I refuse to go over ground that ACD has already eloquently laid out.
What do you say about the point that the absence of recitative handicaps the composer's ability to make the drama a smoothly coherent whole?
Wagnerian music-drama replaces completely the thoroughly artificial and drama-and-action-stopping devices of recitative and set-pieces by means of a continuous and fluid dramatic dialogue made up of an organic union of text and music. The sung portion of that dialogue forms the concrete narrative and fact-specific armature of the drama the core of which resides with the orchestra. That's precisely why text and music cannot be considered separately. This is all neatly explained by A.C. Douglas in another article written specifically for neophytes which I trust you'll take the time to read as, again, I refuse to go over ground ACD has already eloquently laid out.

Charles
Posts: 102
Joined: Tue May 20, 2003 7:52 am

Post by Charles » Tue Mar 07, 2006 8:54 pm

dzalman wrote:
RebLem wrote:
dzalman wrote:
Charles wrote:If this is in disagreement to the majority of critical writing on Wagner and The Ring, I can't help it. I am not in a forum to echo others' opinions but to express my own convictions. A minority opinion is not necessarily mistaken, as many instances show. If you disagree, then content yourself with calling me ignorant, as you persistently and ignorantly do, and let it be.
Your personal response to the Ring is valid for yourself, and therefore cannot be gainsaid, which is much different than the categorical assertions you've previously been making, all of which can be absolutely refuted. I would, however, suggest to you that as your personal response is at odds with almost the entire body of critical response to the work for over a century that you'd be well advised to take the position that the fault lies not with Wagner or the Ring, but with yourself alone, and continue to make the effort to "get it," and to discover where you went wrong.
dzalman,

Instead of flaming, why don't you deal with the specific criticisms Charles made?


Is Siegried or is Siegfried not one of the dumbest, most boring characters in all opera/music drama? Do you accept the idea that the story lacks a coherent point of view because Wagner kept changing his political ideas over the years. and I would add, retaining mostly the worst ideas, like his anti-semitism and jingoism as the most consistent thread in his "thought?" What do you say about the point that the absence of recitative handicaps the composer's ability to make the drama a smoothly coherent whole? You say nothing about any of these things; all you do is present generalized flames in response to Charles's reasoned criticism.

You need to knock it off.
And you need to know what you're talking about before running off at the mouth like that.

First, I did deal with Charles's "criticisms" -- which are anything but "reasoned" -- in the most pertinent way possible: by pointing out to him that he was considering the text and the music separately, which is a thoroughly ignorant approach, and can't be done with any of Wagner's mature works, the Ring most particularly.

Now to deal with your "criticisms."
Is Siegried or is Siegfried not one of the dumbest, most boring characters in all opera/music drama?
In Siegfried, Siegfried is an adolescent bully but hardly a dummy. In Götterdämmerung, he's either a childlike innocent or a not-too-bright unwitting pawn, depending on how one wants to take him. In neither opera, however, is there anything about him in the least boring.
Do you accept the idea that the story lacks a coherent point of view because Wagner kept changing his political ideas over the years. and I would add, retaining mostly the worst ideas, like his anti-semitism and jingoism as the most consistent thread in his "thought?"
No, I do not accept the ignorant idea that "the story lacks a coherent point of view" for any reason whatsoever -- nor would anyone who actually knows the Ring. The "story" is perfectly coherent throughout, a few inconsistencies of detail and the grand-opera nature of much of Götterdämmerung notwithstanding. As to the rest of your immediately above quote, if you're saying, or even just insinuating, that Wagner expressed any of that in the Ring then what you wrote is arrant rubbish, all of it, and betrays your fundamental ignorance of the tetralogy. Charles refused to read the A.C. Douglas article I linked for him wherein are contained most of the answers to all the above, including the Siegfried business. I trust you'll take the trouble to read it as I refuse to go over ground that ACD has already eloquently laid out.
What do you say about the point that the absence of recitative handicaps the composer's ability to make the drama a smoothly coherent whole?
Wagnerian music-drama replaces completely the thoroughly artificial and drama-and-action-stopping devices of recitative and set-pieces by means of a continuous and fluid dramatic dialogue made up of an organic union of text and music. The sung portion of that dialogue forms the concrete narrative and fact-specific armature of the drama the core of which resides with the orchestra. That's precisely why text and music cannot be considered separately. This is all neatly explained by A.C. Douglas in another article written specifically for neophytes which I trust you'll take the time to read as, again, I refuse to go over ground ACD has already eloquently laid out.
If that clunky, run-on sentence style is eloquent, Tony Soprano is Winston Churchill... As I've said several times, which you evidently are completely incapable of hearing, as an organic whole The Ring is second rate, period. The only reason I emphasized Aeschylus was to show that HIS trilogy, shorn of its music, makes far more coherent human sense than Wagner's tetralogy, music and drama together in your great big ball of organic togetherness. Do you think that simplistic-profound idea of the bloodstained Douglas (of the 'Let's Go Out Back and Settle This' school of aesthetic discussion) - an organic fusing of music and drama where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts - is so hard to understand?? Or that the idea hasn't been around for a long time even though he seems to think it's his invention? The Ring - you can meld it, weld it, geld it, gel it, smell it, slice it, dice it, rice it, anyway you wish, you can toast it, roast it, roll it, bowl it, dole it, flake it, rake it, bake it, take it any way you want. No would-be profundity from the mudstained Douglas or from you will make it anything but a mawkish, boring and mediocre work of art. There's not anything wrong with the 'organic' idea (it's an obvious attribute of great artworks) IF the work it's being applied to were a good one, which this one is not, really. And no amount of absolutist starry-eyed throwing of fits by you will make it so. Now I know you MUST have the last word...it helps convince you what you're saying is true...and I wouldn't dream of keeping this up any longer, trying to deprive you of it. Have it. I am finished with this thread for good. A medicore mind like yours is not worth any more of my precious time.
Last edited by Charles on Tue Mar 07, 2006 11:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Huckleberry
Posts: 445
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Location: A mostly gentle person in a mostly gentle land

Post by Huckleberry » Tue Mar 07, 2006 11:30 pm

Since it is up for grabs, I think that I'll have the last word.

8)
I finally know what I want to be when I grow up:
Chief Dog Brusher, Music Room Keeper, and Assistant Sunlight Manager
in a hillside Mansion for Ancient Musicians.

SueCan
Posts: 112
Joined: Mon Mar 06, 2006 10:38 pm
Location: Toronto
Contact:

Post by SueCan » Wed Mar 08, 2006 12:05 am

May I make a small technical suggestion to opera companies trying to explain their plots? We are fast becoming a visual people who read charts, bullets and symbols better than words and paragraphs. My dream is to open a progam that presents a character or plot mapping -- full of circles, arrows, one-sentence summaries, and some new form of charting iconography (right word, Corlyss?) that makes me understand RELATIONSHIPS so I can figure out the plot twists without plowing through incomprehensible paragraphs. Possible?

Huckleberry
Posts: 445
Joined: Wed Aug 24, 2005 8:33 am
Location: A mostly gentle person in a mostly gentle land

Post by Huckleberry » Wed Mar 08, 2006 12:24 am

I agree, SueCan. And one could throw in some colour coding to indicate details such as licit love, illicit love (lust), unconsumated adultery (cf. Un Ballo), etc.

And solid lines when the love or lust is heavy, and broken lines when it is waning, and so on.
I finally know what I want to be when I grow up:
Chief Dog Brusher, Music Room Keeper, and Assistant Sunlight Manager
in a hillside Mansion for Ancient Musicians.

dzalman

Post by dzalman » Wed Mar 08, 2006 12:42 am

Charles wrote:If [A.C. Douglas'] clunky, run-on sentence style is eloquent, Tony Soprano is Winston Churchill... As I've said several times, which you evidently are completely incapable of hearing, as an organic whole The Ring is second rate, period. The only reason I emphasized Aeschylus was to show that HIS trilogy, shorn of its music, makes far more coherent human sense than Wagner's tetralogy, music and drama together in your great big ball of organic togetherness. Do you think that simplistic-profound idea of the bloodstained Douglas (of the 'Let's Go Out Back and Settle This' school of aesthetic discussion) - an organic fusing of music and drama where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts - is so hard to understand?? Or that the idea hasn't been around for a long time even though he seems to think it's his invention? The Ring - you can meld it, weld it, geld it, gel it, smell it, slice it, dice it, rice it, anyway you wish, you can toast it, roast it, roll it, bowl it, dole it, flake it, rake it, bake it, take it any way you want. No would-be profundity from the mudstained Douglas or from you will make it anything but a mawkish, boring and mediocre work of art. There's not anything wrong with the 'organic' idea (it's an obvious attribute of great artworks) IF the work it's being applied to were a good one, which this one is not, really. And no amount of absolutist starry-eyed throwing of fits by you will make it so. Now I know you MUST have the last word...it helps convince you what you're saying is true...and I wouldn't dream of keeping this up any longer, trying to deprive you of it. Have it. I am finished with this thread for good. A medicore mind like yours is not worth any more of my precious time.
Oh dear.

RebLem
Posts: 9117
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Contact:

Post by RebLem » Thu Mar 09, 2006 5:21 pm

From what I hear, dzalman and A.C. Douglas are peas in a pod, so to speak. :P I think dzalman thinks he is like the human Jesus and AC Douglas is like the divine Jesus (without the Beatitudes, of course.)
Don't drink and drive. You might spill it.--J. Eugene Baker, aka my late father
"We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term."--Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S. Carolina.
"Racism is America's Original Sin."--Francis Cardinal George, former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago.

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