|Wotan from Die Valkure|
The local PBS station, WNED, is running Wagner's Ring Cycle this week. This magnum opus is sixteen hours long and is divided into four operas. Now usually I am not a fan of opera but the Ring Cycle has held a special place in my heart ever since watching a similar marathon telecast many years ago. It really has to be watched on four successive nights... taking it all piecemeal just doesn't have the same effect. This has given rise to some serious problems however.
I am half Norse and not at all German so I have taken a great interest in Norse mythology. Hence I have read much of the Poetic Edda, Snorri's Edda and in particular the Volsungasaga in the William Morris translation. Snorri Sturluson begins his Edda with the startling statement "In the beginning Almighty God created heaven and earth and everything that goes with them and, last of all, two human beings, Adam and Eve, from whom have come families." He goes on the explain that Odin and the rest of the Norse gods were chieftains and warriors whose exploits had become legendary. This carefully worded prologue allowed him to present the entirety of Norse mythology to his predominantly Christian audience without seeming to advocate heathen worship. I for one am extremely grateful for I have enjoyed these tales for years without ever once forgetting that these gods are quite mortal.
|Met stage set for Die Valkure|
The problem is that poor Barona has never read the Volsungasaga much less been exposed to the mediating influence of Snorri. He simply does not know how seriously wrong the Germans have gotten much of this material. I mean who could possibly see the Niblungs as the heroes of the piece? Sixteen hours of Wagner may well be too much for the poor fellow, leaving him in a fragile state of mind open to all sorts of influences. Keep him in your thoughts...