Dexter Dalwood‘s You need more than love hangs in the hallway of my flat in Prague. It’s a realist’s take on the Beatles’ All You Need is Love. Party over, drumkit and flowers abandoned, the Summer of Love has given way to an Autumn of emptiness.
Wagner’s Die Walkure, which I saw last night in Leipzig, is another (though lengthier) demonstration of love’s insufficiency. We want to believe that love can conquer all. Fricka will encourage Wotan to help Siegmund defeat Hunding. Brunnhilde, Wotan’s daughter, will drag so many dead heroes back to Valhalla that the hall will soon be full of mead-swilling, sword-swinging louts. Wotan’s rule will be assured ad infinitum, just like Putin’s. Siegmund and Sieglinde will live and love each other forever, never mind who does the ironing. They’ll breed more Walsungs and wrest the ring from Fafner’s grasp. They might even return it to the Rhinemaidens, though I’m less sure of that – love doesn’t necessarily exclude megalomania. Whatever, they’ll all live happily ever after.
But that’s not how it goes, and it probably wouldn’t engage us as deeply if it did (though we’d be done in two days and it would cost us less). Happy endings are rarely persuasive. The runes inscribed on Wotan’s spear, Fricka’s responsibilities as Minister of Marriage, Wotan’s duty to punish the transgressions of his daughter, all conspire to thwart Wagner’s Summer of Love. Compelling and irresistible it may be – some think it the supreme form of human bliss though I prefer music – love nevertheless isn’t enough, whether filial, conjugal, paternal or incestuously romantic (Sieglinde and Siegmund, after all, are siblings). It doesn’t protect. It doesn’t pay the bills. It doesn’t preserve world order.
That may not be good news but it’s true.
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