Love is all there is

Brunnhilde

At the end of it all, after fifteen hours of rollercoaster music, words and drama, Brunnhilde gives thrilling voice to:

Siegfried! Siegfried! See!
Brünnhild’ greets thee in bliss

And spurs her horse, Grane, onto Siegfried’s funeral pyre, to burn in the arms of her hero.

Know’st thou now to whom
and whither I lead thee?
In fire radiant, lies there thy lord,
Siegfried, my hero blest.
To follow thy master, joyfully neigh’st thou?
Lures thee to him the light with its laughter?
Feel, too, my bosom, how it doth burn;
glowing flames now lay hold on my heart:
fast to enfold him, embraced by his arms,
in might of our loving with him aye made one!
Heiajaho! Grane! Give him thy greeting!

(Leipzig Opera projected a deliberately archaic 1904 translation by Frederick Jameson. Even those of us for whom English is a native language, struggled. Reck? Rede? Reft? Leman? Guerdon?)

Whatever – the hall of the Gibichungs then catches fire, the Rhine bursts its banks, and Valhalla, the fortress of the gods, burns and falls. Only the Rhinemaidens rejoice in the gold they’ve repossessed, stolen from them fourteen and a half hours earlier. We’re back where we started.

Was it worth it?

Well, for a start, it’s a different world. The Gods have perished, the world ash tree has become kindling, and the Norns (finally!) have abandoned their wretched spinning of Fate. Fate has been fulfilled, Fate itself is broken.

We must make what we can of that, and of what remains – a world redeemed by love. Amidst the chaos of World Order’s end the orchestra plays the serene and uplifting motif of Redemption. There is hope.

Most of Wagner’s protagonists wanted a different ending – untrammelled power for Wotan, and for Alberich too (neither is the other’s moral superior), five-star hotels and first-class travel, perhaps, for Gutrune, a comfortable married life for Siegmund, eternal life and youth for the minor gods – but power ended up corrupting its possessors, love proved insufficient, both as instrument and consolation, and possessions have proved a curse. Only love – intense, transient and fragile – has possessed true value. It might have been lost, thwarted or defeated, but at its most intense it was eternal.

In Wagner’s music-theatre love creates a world outside time, neither living nor dying. an ideal independent of embodiment, or knowledge or character. It has no future, no past.

It’s noisy, too.

And if that’s how it was for Wagner, he was a lucky man, though the rest of us would gladly do without the liebestod and the immolation, and settle instead for a milky drink at bedtime.

But even Philip Larkin, whose English blood flowed more temperately than Wagner’s, had this to say of an effigy of a married couple, hands clasped in death, on an Arundel tomb:

Time has transfigured them into 
Untruth. The stone fidelity
They hardly meant has come to be  
Their final blazon, and to prove  
Our almost-instinct almost true:  
What will survive of us is love.

 

For more about love, power, redemption, music and musicians see gigglemusic.

8 thoughts on “Love is all there is

  1. Dear Adam

    How I laughed when I first glanced the chosen photo!!!

    You have such a wit combined with incisive critical depth!

    Like Wotan we humans perpetuate moans and groans and dissatisfactions and frustrations…. Only Erde manages to rise, deliver her warning (resigned to knowing that we all need to heed warnings and cautions…) then sinks back to where she came from….

    The romance and agonies when in, and of, love, is all to frequently metamorphosed into an almost banal acceptance of inevitability as our aging bodies creak, ache and hurt til…….. then the whole process starts all over again with the next generation.

    Glad you went on the journey….. But, that photo….was it from old production or the Leipzig current one? What fun…… Xxxxxxxx

    Like

  2. Brilliant!

    Are you posting this and the other recents on gigglemusic?

    If not and if I’m behind you in my suggestion, please consider adding a music essay/ review section to giggle…even once a week or irregularly would be good. Also you could invite others among your music/literary friends like Tony and Tomas etc to contribute.

    Love, a

    Like

  3. Very interested. I didn’t realise Brunnhilde hurled herself onto Siegfried’s pyre. I’ve seen Gott at least six times. Never got this. Thought it ended with the Rheingold going back into the Rhine.

    Like

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