Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Nietzsche reflects on his one time pal, Wagner.

".......Wagner represents a great corruption of music. He has guessed that it is a means to excite weary nerves,—and with that he has made music sick. His inventiveness is not inconsiderable in the art of goading again those who are weariest, calling back into life those who are half-dead. He is a master of hypnotic tricks, he manages to throw down the strongest like bulls. Wagner's success—his success with nerves and consequently with women—has turned the whole world of ambitious musicians into disciples of his secret art. And not only the ambitious, the clever, too ... Only sick music makes money today; our big theaters subsist on Wagner...."

Das stimmt. And Fritz was at least as decent an ivory-tickler as RW. Wagner's far more Xtian than pagan; rather, Xtianity, filtered through norse myths. Heroics, the militarism, anti-semitism. Nietzsche realized what a bombastic, pompous, bourgeois, loud bore RW could be. Most modern germans detest that crap, and would prefer Satie. The American hicks who flock to Wagner shows in the Gay Area or El Lay are mostly just opportunists, sort of scots or irish mafiosos. Conspicuous consumption, as Veblen called it: they generally know nothing about German kultur or musick.

Wagner's mostly the Beer Barrel Polka with some ornamentations. Advanced Oom pah pah …..Be assured Bach and Beethoven laugh at Fieldmarshall Wagner somewhere beyond–as do all the great russian and french composers.

Mark Twain was no fan of the Wagnerian spectacle:

""""I have witnessed and greatly enjoyed the first act of everything which Wagner created, but the effect on me has always been so powerful that one act was quite sufficient; whenever I have witnessed two acts I have gone away physically exhausted; and whenever I have ventured an entire opera the result has been the next thing to suicide."""""""

Heh heh.


Anonymous said...

Twain's comment is interesting because I react very differently. I'm usually very impressed with the opening overture, then I settle in to the first act and have some difficulty finding RW's groove. Usually this is because I need to slow down to his pace. His dramatic development is marked by an extreme sense of patience. He is going to reveal the magic of the performance at his pace, not mine. I find the first act to be an exercise in attaining equilibrium with the pacing.

By the second act, I've found the groove, and somewhere along the way I become completely captivated, When the curtain closes on Act 2 I am not close to exhaustion. I am soaking in appreciation for his genius. The third act is pure joy from start to finish and I walk out elevated and empowered. Poor Sam just didn't have the right nerve receptors I guess.

J said...

Wagnerian opera and Irishmen don't seem to go together too well.

I enjoy the Overtures, and a few crescendos, but I am content to listen to the Greatest Hits of Dickie Wagner and the Imperials rather than sit through hours.

It's the Disney-esque stuff that irks me: he's too optimistic and heroic. There's happy ending, in other words. It's not the Sound of Music--or Lawrence Welk---but sort of close, even when he's doing his Parsifal in the Black Forest spooky stuff.

However I would like to take in the full Ring. At that point, Wagner was not just writing "Opera," really: it's more like a Mahabharata sort of spectacle---the birth and death of the Gods (Gotterdammerung). Rather ambitious, and I don't think many normal opera buffs understand what he was getting at: the Ring is some massive philosophical-religious allegory and creation myth, really. Not nearly as Disney-like. There's like a total of two days worth of music, right.

But what do I know. Sorry for the whines on your blog (delete 'em if you want to). Unfortunately Kultur--and opera is Kultur with Kapital K-- doesn't bring home the shekels, unless one has like tenure in the Ivy League.

Google Wagner controversies for some interesting info.: including speculations that The Master hisself had some Hebrew blood.

Anonymous said...


A bit more authentici-tay

Anonymous said...


J said...

The problem is Wagner's penchant for the romantic Ionian. His chromaticism also tends to be ugly and gratuitous: as with the Bacchanale scenes in Tannhauser. Silly, however, much detail; the "leitmotif"--programmatic, as they say. (which is to say, if you don't know what programmatic music is, you probably shouldn't be attending Wagner).

HOWEVER, the Herr Wagner does turn some nice phrases, and themes as it were, and avoids the italiano decorations. His minor key themes are especially powerful.

We here at Contingencies salute the Gothic Wagner--alas the moralist, Ionic Wagner we do not care for. When he follows his Vati Liszt RW produces a decent magic (if occasionally kitschy, and nearly always pompous): when he's doing oom pah pah (even with a lot of chromaticism), who cares, regardless of the resonance of the nordic-meme........... score over libretto--that is the only way; the alternative (i.e opera-night hustling) is the bourgeois, if not mafia...............

Custom Search

Blog Archive