The Barrow-Downs Discussion Forum


Visit The *EVEN NEWER* Barrow-Downs Photo Page

Go Back   The Barrow-Downs Discussion Forum > Middle-Earth Discussions > The Movies
User Name
Password
Register FAQ Members List Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read


Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 05-08-2012, 12:03 AM   #1
jallanite
Shade of Carn Dûm
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Toronto
Posts: 479
jallanite is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Ring Cycle Films

The New YorkMetropolitan Opera’s 2011 Wagner’s Ring Cycleis now available on film in one day showings of each of the four operas in Canada and the U.S. and at later dates in Britain. See:
http://www.marketwire.com/press-rele...gx-1648976.htm ,
http://www.gqti.com/metring.aspx , and
http://www.cineworld.co.uk/films/event/ringcycle .


This has nothing to do with Tolkien per se, but Tolkien in Letters (letter 229) remarks on a comment by his Swedish translator Åke Ohlmarks that The Ring is in a certain way ‘der Nibelungen Ring’. Tolkien answers shortly: “Both rings were round, and there the resemblance ceases.” Tolkien has answered a little too quickly even in respect to the medieval Nibelungenlied where the Ring also resembles Tolkien’s Ring in being made of gold.


But Ohlmarks’ version of the history of the Ring in Germanic literature is correctly called by Tolkien a farrago of nonsense. Tolkien may not have been thinking at all of the tale after that comparative modern Wagner got hold of it. For it is Wagner who first made the Ring into a talisman that bestows supreme power on its possessor. And while the Ring does not bestow invisibility even in Wagner’s tale, Wagner does connect it with a helm of invisibility (the tarnhelm, which would become dernhelm in Old English). In the Nibelungenlied there is instead an invisibility cloak (tarnkappe) and in the Volsungasaga Siegfried (Sigurð) changes shape with Gunther (Gunnar) through the enchantment of Gunther’s (Gunnar’s) mother Grimhild.


But to get back to the films, I posted information on them in a private site viewable only by co-members of the Wellinghall (Toronto) Smial of the Tolkien Society because I thought it was generally of interest Tolkien fans and possibly there might be some desire to get up a party of people to attend. I mentioned I was planning to attend in any case. Barrow-downs’ Bethberry, who is also a member of Wellinghall, was the only one who responded (negatively), but suggested I write short reviews of these films. As far more people would read them at Barrow-downs it seemed more reasonable to post them here and to link to this thread from the private site. And others may join in with comments.



I believe from short clips that these films are to be shown in German only, without English subtitles which may cause difficulties to many potential viewers. See http://ringcycle.metoperafamily.org/ . If you don’t understand German I suggest at least going through an English translation of the operas first.
jallanite is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-08-2012, 12:06 AM   #2
jallanite
Shade of Carn Dûm
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Toronto
Posts: 479
jallanite is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Wagner’s Dream, a documentary by Susan Froemke, is the first of these films, providing an account of what new director Robert LePage wished to accomplish that was new.


See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-cQmMOe1N4 .


LePage was hired as part of an attempt by the Metropolitan Opera to update its image and gain new subscribers. LePage believes that any media, including opera must change and keep changing to hold its audience. Many modern productions of the Ring Cycle however have overdone modern gimmickry. The basic charge is to simply tell the story and to let nothing stand in the way of the story.


Wagner himself was far from satisfied with the original production of the Ring, but Wagner died before the year was out and what changes Wagner had planned are unknown. Indeed, a production of the Ring operas to specification is impossible. How does one start an opera set under the water with three nymphs swimming fluidly when the audience only sees three fat ladies in fish tales? Thin people very rarely have the diaphragm power to be opera singers.


Willing suspension of disbelief is very necessary no matter what is done.


LePage was inspired by the geography of Iceland where the Norse versions of Wagner’s stories were written, having a single set built to cover every scene in all four operas, a set which could be programmed to change shape and colour at the desire of the director. Whether this set entirely works is debatable. Reviewers have different opinions.


Disaster almost strikes at several points. The rainbow bridge does not work properly on opening night of the first opera, but is fixed for later appearances. Deborah Voigt, the singer who plays the Valküre Brünnhilde, trips and falls on her entrance on opening night, but is fortunately not hurt and just gets up and continues, leading some in the audience to think the fall was purposely done. Ben Heppner had originally been scheduled to perform the role of Siegfried, but dropped out in February. Gary Lehman had been slated to perform instead but withdrew only eight days before opening night, citing illness, and Jay Hunter Morris, as understudy, was called in as emergency replacement.


The film stresses that this was the first time that Deborah Voigt had played Brünnhilde, a part which is the female lead in three of the four operas. Emphasis is laid on the amount of work involved in the parts of Siegfried and Brunnhilde, parts that only a handful of singers in the world are even capable of fulfilling because of their difficulty. Both singers are generally rated as successes in this production.


There is nothing here that relates to Tolkien. That will not be true of subsequent reviews of the operatic films themselves.
jallanite is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-08-2012, 08:28 AM   #3
Bêthberry
Cryptic Aura
 
Bêthberry's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 6,055
Bêthberry is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Bêthberry is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Bêthberry is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.
Quote:
Originally Posted by jallanite View Post
Barrow-downs’ Bethberry, who is also a member of Wellinghall, was the only one who responded (negatively), but suggested I write short reviews of these films.
Just to clarify any possible misconceptions which readers here might construe, I said with such short notice I was unable to attend the screenings given other commitments this week. I declined the suggestion to attend but I didn't dismiss or refute the idea of seeing the Ring Cycle films.

I think it's quite an interesting avenue to explore, particularly since Tolkien believed that drama ought to be seen on the stage and not simply read. Given he and Priscilla attended the opera in Florence, one might assume he felt that opera should also be seen and heard rather than read. And this is just such an opportunity.
__________________
I’ll sing his roots off. I’ll sing a wind up and blow leaf and branch away.
Bêthberry is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-09-2012, 02:58 PM   #4
Morthoron
Curmudgeonly Wordwraith
 
Morthoron's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Ensconced in curmudgeonly pursuits
Posts: 2,437
Morthoron is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Morthoron is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Morthoron is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Morthoron is lost in the dark paths of Moria.
Charles Baudelaire said of Wagner:

"I love Wagner, but the music I prefer is that of a cat hung up by its tail outside a window and trying to stick to the panes of glass with its claws."
__________________
And your little sister's immaculate virginity wings away on the bony shoulders of a young horse named George who stole surreptitiously into her geography revision.
Morthoron is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-09-2012, 03:10 PM   #5
jallanite
Shade of Carn Dûm
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Toronto
Posts: 479
jallanite is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Das Rheingold: Commentary

Wagner wrote the Ring Cycle backward. He planned a single opera about Siegfried as he appears in the first half of the medieval Nibeglungenlied, decided to also write an opera about the youth of Siegfried as told in Norse material, then decided that to cover that fully, he needed another opera on the life of Siegfried’s father Sigmund, and yet another opera on the origins of the Ring and the dragon whom Siegfried fights.

Although Wagner takes most of his material from Norse sources, he uses Germanic forms for the names. Here is a table of the cast members of Das Rheingold in order of appearance, omitting only the three Rhine maidens who are Wagner’s own invention, along with the Norse names of the characters and some notes on the names.

Characters:

German/Wagnerian Name
Norse Name
Commentary

Alberich
Andvari
albe ‘elf’ + rich ‘king’; andvari ‘careful’

Fricka
Frigg
The form Fricka is an invention of Wagner or some contemporary folklorist. In southern Germanic mentions and Old English mentions the wife of Wotan/Óðinn is Freia.

Wotan
Óðinn (Odin)[/SIZE]
< Proto-Germanic *Wōđanaz ‘Ecstasy’.

Freia
Freyja
‘Lady’

Fasolt
Hreiðmarr (Hreidmar)
In the Norse version Hreiðmarr is the father of Fafnír and Regin. The name Fasolt is Wagner’s invention.

Fafner
Fafnír

Froh
Freyr
‘Lord’

Donner
Þórr (Thor)
< Germanic *Þunraz meaning ‘Thunder’ and also cognate with the modern English word.

Loge
Loki
Loki survives only in Scandinavian sources. Wagner invents the German form Loge and uses the guess of some commentators that Loki might be connected with fire.

Mime
Reginn (Regin)
Wagner uses the name Mime from the German-influenced Þiðreks saga where Mime is Sigurð/Siegfried’s foster father and Mime’s brother Reginn is the dragon as opposed to the standard Norse story in which Reginn is Sigurð’s foster father and his dragon brother is Fáfnir.

Erda
Jǫrd (Jörd)
‘Earth’

For the text of the opera in English and German, see http://larryavisbrown.homestead.com/...ing0_intro.htm


For the main Norse source in English, see http://www.marxists.org/archive/morr.../chapter14.htm .

For Tolkien’s recreation of this material, see The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrún, “Upphaf (Beginning)” and chapter “I Andvari’s Gold”.

Wagner introduces the idea that Alberich/Andvari gains the gold from which he forges the Ring of Power from the Rhine where it has previously been only a plaything of the nymphs of the Rhine. To do this, Alberich must forswear love forever. Love here seems to be identical with carnal lust. And the river nymphs are so cruel and heartless in their teasing of the ugly dwarf Alberich that one almost feels that it serves them right when Alberich turns on them and steals their gold.


Wagner weaves in parts of a Norse tale of a giant trying to trick the gods by building a citadel in exchange for Freyja as his wife and the sun and moon. Wagner has two giants, Fasolt and Fafner, and the ending is quite different. It is to gain the Ring of Power that Wotan goes to Alberich’s domain, ostensibly to regain it for the Rhine nymphs but really, for himself, to increase his own power.

Nibelungen in most sources is the family name of the royal house who rule the Burgundians from the city of Worms. But in the Nibelungenlied the Nibelungs are originally a northern people over whom Siegfried rules of whom at least some are dwarfs. This led some scholars to believe that the Nibelungs were originally dwarfs in lost sources. Wagner accepted this theory in his opera, but few if any modern commentators accept it. It is the Nibelungenlied that garbled the story by confusing the hereditary treasure of the Nibelungen dynasty of Worms with the originally unrelated treasure which Siegfried won from a dragon but which later would have been reckoned part of the Nibelungen hoard.

In the Norse sources the only power that Andvari’s Ring has is by unexplained means to increase the treasure hoard of its owner. Tolkien ascribes such a power to the seven dwarf-rings.

Wotan takes Alberich by surprise and makes him his prisoner, to be ransomed only by giving up his treasure and the Ring. It is unexplained why Wotan can do this but later cannot directly or indirectly similarly obtain the Ring from its owners. Alberich, on being set free, lays a curse on the Ring.

And so the giants Fasolt and Fafner gain the Ring and immediately begin quarrelling over it. Fafner kills Fasolt and two operas later will appear again as a dragon in a den, lying on a golden hoard. Similarly Tolkien’s Sméagol kills his friend Déagol over the Ring and regresses into a cannibalistic wretch whom most would not now recognize as one who was once a hobbit.

Tolkien quotes his Swedish translator Åke Olhmarks as saying:
.... which was originally forged by Volund the master-smith, and then by way of Vittka-Andvare passed through the hands of the mighty [Æsir] into the possession of Hreidmar and the dragon, after the dragon’s fall coming to Sigurd the dragonslayer, after his murder by treacherous conspirators coming to the Burgundians, after their death in Atle’s snake-pit coming to the Huns, then to the sons of Jonakr, to the Gothic tyrant Ermanrik, etc.
Völund’s ring is different ring, given to him by his wife, not forged by him. There is no story of any ring connected with Völund’s son Witige who appears as a mighty hero not to be identified in any way with the dwarf Andvari who must have been born much earlier. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wudga .) The Nibelungen Ring ceases to be mentioned in medieval texts after it was worn by Siegfried/Sigurð. Mentions of the Ring here after Sigurð’s murder are bogus, save that the characters referenced appear in tales that are linked to the Sigurð story.

Ohlmarks indeed did not know what he was talking about and later became much worse.

A review of the film will follow once I have seen it, later today.
jallanite is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-09-2012, 09:47 PM   #6
jallanite
Shade of Carn Dûm
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Toronto
Posts: 479
jallanite is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Das Rheingold: A Review


Yes, the films do have English subtitles, which is a blessing to me and others who get almost nothing from oral German.


Was the film any good?


It depends on what you mean by any good. I would rate it higher than either John Carter or Wrath of the Titans but below The Hunger Games as a film. But this is not a normal film but rather a film of a live theatrical production without retakes. It would be unfair to compare it with a film where one might expect the director to say to Eric Owens who played Alberich, “You looked a little nervous when singing at a 45 degree angle dangling from the safety wire. Could we do it again, perhaps a few times again?” And all special effects are done live in viewing order, or they just don’t happen.


If you can make allowances for that, this was an excellent film.


You already know from reviews of the live performances that the vocals were excellent, if you like Wagner at all and if you have read the reviews. And you already know that the electronic staging was controversial.


On that matter I think that sometimes it was problematical and sometimes worked magnificently. It was especially effective in the Nibelheim scene where “the machine” which had heretofore served as a floor became the ceiling, enhancing the idea that Nibelheim was down below and also magnificent in the final scene where the gods (actually stunt doubles of the gods) walked up a section of the machine representing the rainbow bridge at an angle greater than 45°.


The leads were all excellent, especially Richard Croft as Loge, Stepanie Blythe as a magnificently fat but sympathetic Fricka, and Eric Owens as Alberich. Loge’s hands were enhanced by a fiery red glow at times and by a fiery glow on the ground wherever he walked. Fricka was beautiful with magnificent red hair and a gorgeous green gown and a very gentle and unharsh manner. Alberich was captivating after the first scene where too many of his slides down “the machine” didn’t work for me.


Bryn Terfel played the one-eyed Wotan with a lock of hair falling over the right side of his face to hide the supposedly empty socket, but in one of this first appearances the eye could be faintly seen through the hair. One of Wotan/Óðinn’s titles is Grey-beard but this Wotan had only black stubble, although a lot of stubble.


Donner had the red hair that fits his character, but no red beard as he should have, since one of Thor’s titles in the Norse Eddas is ‘Red-beard’. His hammer also has a handle like a sledge hammer whereas in the Prose Edda the only fault attributed to Thor’s hammer is that its handle is too short.
jallanite is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-10-2012, 09:50 PM   #7
jallanite
Shade of Carn Dûm
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Toronto
Posts: 479
jallanite is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Die Walküre: Commentary

Wagner now jumps to the early history of Brünnhilde and the history of Siegmund, the father of his ultimate hero. But here the sources are quite variant, and Wagner builds a new story from elements of the Norse story of Sigmund, although rendering the names in German form.

Here is a table of the cast members of Die Walküre in order of appearance, omitting only the eight Valkyries other than Brünnhilde whose names are Wagner’s own invention, along with the Norse names of the characters and some notes on the names.

Characters:

German/Wagnerian Name
Norse Name
Commentary

Siegmund
Sigmund
sieg/sig ‘victory’ + mund ‘power’


Sieglinde
Hjǫrdis (Hjördis)
Sieglinde < Sieglind, the mother of Siegfried in the Nibelungenlied. Hjǫrdis is the name of Sigurð’s mother in most Norse tales. But an earlier wife of Sigmund is named Sigrlinn, she being the mother of Sigmund’s son Helgi Hundingsbane according to one source. The sister with whom Sigmund has intercourse is named Signý. In the Þiðreks saga the wife of Sigmund and mother of Sigurð is named Sisibe.


Hunding
Hunding
Hunding is a foe slain by Helgi son of Sigmund when Helgi was 15, whence he is known as Helgi Hundinsbane. It is some sons of Hunding that are later responsible for Sigmund’s death in Norse tradition.


Wotan
Óðinn (Odin)
< Proto-Germanic *Wōđanaz ‘Ecstasy’.


Brünnhilde
Brynhildr
The Valkyrie in sleep on the mount is named Sigrdrifa in the earliest Norse account and later retellings only dubiously identify her with Brynhildr.


Fricka
Frigg
The form Fricka is an invention of Wagner or some contemporary folklorist. In southern Germanic mentions and Old English mentions the wife of Wotan/Óðinn is Freia who in Norse tradition is differentiated from Frigg.

For the text of the opera in English and German, see
http://home.earthlink.net/~markdlew/shw/Ring.htm


For the main Norse source in English, see http://www.marxists.org/archive/morr...ters/index.htm , chapters I to XII.

For Tolkien’s recreation of this material, see The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrún, “Völsungakviða en nýja (‘The New Lay of the Völsungs’)”, chapters II to IV.


The Norse sources make out Sigmund to be the son of Vǫlsung, son of Rerir, son of Sigi, son of the god Óðinn. Vǫlsung was a powerful king in Hunland until treacherously defeated by his son-in-law, King Siggeir of Gothland. Wagner makes his Siegmund to be a robber along with his supposed father Wälse who was, in reality, Wotan/Óðinn and along with Siegmund’s twin-sister, Sieglinde.


In the Norse sources Óðinn come unnamed and places a sword in Vǫlsung’s oak in his hall. In Wagner’s version it is Hunding’s hall that is built around a tree and there Wotan places the sword which Siegmund is destined to find along with his twin-sister Sieglinde.


When Vǫlsung is slain by Siggeir’s doing along with all Vǫlsung’s children except for Sigmund and Signý, Signý is able to preserve Sigmund’s life and plots to aid him to avenge themselves on Siggeir using her own sons fathered by Siggeir as helpers. None proves suitable and by Signý’s grim command Sigmund slays them. Then by magic, Signý lies with her brother Sigmund, he not knowing it is Signý, and Signý bears a son named Sinfjotli who proves worthy, is brought up by Sigmund, and aids him in his revenge. When Siggeir’s hall is burnt, Signý willingly goes to her death in it.


Sigmund fathers Sigurð much later on another wife.


Wagner has much changed this tale to make it into a wildly incestuous love match in which both Siegmund and Sieglinde know that they know that they are brother and sister and do not care that love making is forbidden in such a case..


In the Norse sources Sigrdrifa, the Valkyrie who is sometime identified with Brynhildr, is cast into a sleep by Óðinn when she caused a warrior named Helm Gunnar to die in battle instead of Agnar, Audi’s brother, against Óðinn’s wishes. Nothing else is known of these warriors. Wagner ties his tales strongly into the main plot by making Brünnhilde instead attempt to save Siegmund and cause Hunding to be slain.


That Wotan fathered the nine Valkyries on the Earth goddess is Wagner’s invention.


Arguably the most popular Wagner piece, the Ride of the Valkyries: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PHINKZrwRs .


Tolkien’s story of Túrin, available in various versions in various places, also contain an incestuous carnal relationship between brother and sister.



Film review on Saturday.
jallanite is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-12-2012, 08:34 PM   #8
jallanite
Shade of Carn Dûm
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Toronto
Posts: 479
jallanite is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Die Walkürie: A Review


The film began at 10:00 am and ended a little after 3:00 pm and I have no memory of being bored in the least, though I did space out and miss short bits here and there.


Part of the reason for the length is that two intermissions were included: each including short bits of interviews and other documentary-type material followed by twenty minutes of shots of the stagehands setting up for the next Act and of the theatre audience, the cinema lights being turned on while this portion of the film ran.


Musically the production was superb, as most reviews of the live performance indicate.


The use of “The Machine” of stage setting had varied success.


Hunding’s hall was particularly disappointing. “The Machine” was up in the air for this set, providing a backdrop of what was supposed to be the upper part of the back wall of the hall. Below this backdrop the space was clear, looking out on a blank set which was supposed to represent the sky beyond the hall. I could not help thinking that with about half the wall missing, it must be extremely cold in Hunding's hall, especially as flakes of stage snow were falling during the beginning of the Act. That was rather distracting.


More distracting were the two centre panels of the machine which were placed much father forward in the set to represent the trunk of the tree around which the hall is built. The bark of the tree was created by a light projection onto the tree which worked well until either Siegfried, Sieglinde, or Hunding came between the tree and the audience which happened quite often. The projection was so bright that it then could still be seen over the bodies of the characters making it obvious that the bark on the tree was a projection or that for some reason the characters were supposed to be appearing as ghosts with the bark background showing through. Annoying!


The ride of the Valkyries was done through the machine by having the eight Valkyries each sitting on one panel of the machine, all facing the audience, the panels on which they were sitting bobbing up and down to simulate a gallop. Each Valkyrie dismounted by having the panel on which she was sitting slant down so that the forward part of the panel touched the floor of the stage. Then she slid down the panel. Meanwhile the dialogue indicates that all the Valkyries are not supposed to be riding together.


Admittedly no production of Die Valkürie has ever convincingly shown the horseback riding of eight Valkyries through a stormy sky on stage.


The machine did work well in the final entombment of Brünnhilde. But what we saw of the emergence of the fire barrier around Brünnhilde’s tomb was too complicated to describe properly to anyone who has not seen it without taking many times more space than I wish to devote to it. The machine seems to work best when used to show the impossible where there is no firm indication of what is happening in the audience’s mind. Then it looks spectacular.
jallanite is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-15-2012, 12:56 PM   #9
jallanite
Shade of Carn Dûm
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Toronto
Posts: 479
jallanite is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Siegfried: Commentary

Wagner now jumps to the early history of Siegfried. Wagner mostly builds his story from Norse elements, although rendering the names in German form.

Here is a table of the cast members of Siegfried in order of appearance, omitting only the forest bird, along with the Norse names of the characters and some notes on the names.

Characters:

German/Wagnerian Name
Norse Name
Commentary

Mime
Reginn (Regin)
Wagner uses the name Mime derived the German-influenced Þiðreks saga where Mímir is Sigurð/Siegfried’s foster father and Mímir’s brother Reginn is the dragon as opposed to the standard Norse story in which Reginn is Sigurð’s foster father and his dragon brother is Fáfnir.


Siegfried
Sigurð (Sigurd)
Seigfried < sieg ‘victory’ + fried‘power’, Old English Sigefriþ. Sigurð < sigi ‘victory’ + weard ,‘guard’; Old English Sigeweard (Siward). These are two separate names which have been anciently confused in stories.

Wotan
Óðinn (Odin)
< Proto-Germanic *Wōđanaz ‘Ecstasy’.

Alberich
Andvari
albe ‘elf’ + rich ‘king’; andvari ‘careful’


Fafner
Fáfnir


Erda
Jǫrd (Jörd)
‘Earth’

Brünnhilde
Brynhildr
The Valkyrie in sleep on the mount is named Sigrdrifa in the earliest Norse account and later retellings only dubiously identify her with Brynhildr.

For the text of the opera in English and German, see
http://home.earthlink.net/~markdlew/shw/Ring.htm

For an English-only version of the lebretto illustrated by the incomparable Arthur Rackham, see http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/ron/index.htm

For the main Norse source in English, see http://www.marxists.org/archive/morr...ters/index.htm , chapters XII to XXIV. This goes a little past the opera.

For Tolkien’s recreation of this material, see The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrún, “Völsungakviða en nýja (‘The New Lay of the Völsungs’)”, chapters V to VI. This also goes a little past the opera.

Wagner here follows mostly the Norse version, adding only appearances of Wotan/Óðinn and Alberich/Andvari which connect to the Ring plot he has invented.

Wagner follows the Þidreks saga in which a fatherless and motherless Siegfried is brought up only by Mímir/Mime/Regin, although in the Þidreks saga Mímir does have other apprentices. In the Norse version of Sigurð/Siegfried’s meeting with the Valkyrie, Siegfried is uniquely presented as a boy who does not understand what fear is and Wagner increases that element in his presentation.

Much of this tale reappears in Tolkien’s story of Túrin, in which the elements he uses are greatly reshuffled. In The Book of Lost Tales, Part Two, “Turambar and the Foalókë”, Tolkien writes:
A great cunning and wisdom have they [drakes and worms], so that it has been long said amongst Men that whosoever might taste the heart of a dragon would know all tongues of Gods or Men, of birds or beasts, and his ears would catch whispers of the Valar or of Melko such as never had he heard before.
Only in the Norse version of the story of Sigurð story of his conflict with the dragon is anything like this told in surviving medieval tales.

Túrin also is held in converse with the dragon and in his later battle in which Túrin slays the dragon, he does so from underneath, in both cases resembling Sigurð. Túrin also becomes involved with a particular dwarf named Mîm.

Film review on Thursday.
jallanite is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-18-2012, 12:37 PM   #10
jallanite
Shade of Carn Dûm
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Toronto
Posts: 479
jallanite is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Siegfried: A Review

Possibly the best film yet

The singing was, of course, superb.

The acting was performed magnificently.

Jay Hunter Morris as Siegfried was marvellous in the arguably most difficult role in all of opera. He played off Gerhard Siege’s Mime wonderfully. Mime was a riot. Jay Hunter Morris was the understudy for the Siegfried role but accepted playing the part for real when Gary Lehman who had been rehearsing for the role withdrew for health reasons only eight days before opening night, Gary replacing Ben Heppner eight months previously. Like in a film story, Jay “walks away” with the role, immediately becoming the definitive Siegfried. But Jay had previously played Siegfried for the San Francisco Opera beginning in June 2011.

“The machine” and other electronic gimmickry mostly worked perfectly. There were very few occasions where the overprojection was so strong as to appear obvious. Live projections of the singers’ faces were projected on the stage floor through a device which distorted the images to seem to be reflections in rippling water. The bird, which later sings, is an interactively animated bird with mouth movements that synchronize automatically with the live sounds of the singing. In one fantastic scene the bird appears projected onto Siegfried’s shirt for several minutes, interactively responding to Jay Hunter Morris.

Fafner the dragon was less successful, only a very large marionette capable of limited movement and not particularly terrifying. Then the dying Fafner vanishes for a moment and reappears in his original shape as a giant, giving realism to Fafner’s dying moments (when most of Fafner’s singing occurs) that otherwise would have been lacking.

Siegfried breaking through the flame barrier is done non-realistically but magnificently.

The comic moment near the beginning of the opera when Siegfried brings a live bear into Mime’s cave to terrify Mime is of course done with a human in a bear costume, but with the bear mostly hidden behind portions of the scenery.


The final part of the this version of the opera from Brünehilde’s awakening appears in audio at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dI_3zh6bQUE .

I know that many of you won’t understand what the fuss is about. But understanding any kind of complex music, whether it be Wagner’s musical drama, Appalachian folk, Indonesian gamelan music, Hindu bhajan music, free jazz, and so forth needs attention over a period of time to understand and internalize the various tropes of that music.

Modern western rock is equally incomprehensible to those unexposed to it.

Last edited by jallanite; 05-18-2012 at 12:41 PM.
jallanite is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-18-2012, 05:59 PM   #11
jallanite
Shade of Carn Dûm
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Toronto
Posts: 479
jallanite is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Götterdämmerung: Commentary
This opera name sounds in English like profanity: the Damning of the Gods. But Dämmerung in German means only ‘twilight’. See http://dictionary.reverso.net/german...d%C3%A4mmerung . It may be related to the English word dim. Compare Tolkien’s Lake Evendim, a name which means ‘Lake of Evening Twilight’.

Wagner translates German Dämmerung from Old Norse ragnarǫk (from ragna ‘of the gods’ + rǫk ‘fate’ with a glance at stanza 39 of the Poetic Edda poem Lokasenna and at the Prose Edda where the form ragnarøk(k)r appears instead, røk(k)r there meaning ‘twilight’.
Here is a table of the cast members of Götterdämmerung in order of appearance, omitting only those that do not have distinctive Old Norse names. The table includes the Old Norse names of the characters and some notes on the names.

Characters:

German/Wagnerian Name
Norse Name
Commentary

Brünnhilde
Brynhildr
The Valkyrie in sleep on the mount is named Sigrdrifa in the earliest Norse account and later retellings only dubiously identify her with Brynhildr whom Gunther/Gunnarr marries in place of Siegfried/Sigurð.

Siegfried
Sigurð (Sigurd)
Seigfried < sieg ‘victory’ + fried‘power’, Old English Sigefriþ. Sigurð < sigi ‘victory’ + weard ,‘guard’; Old English Sigeweard (Siward). These are two separate names which have been anciently confused in stories.

Gunther
Gunnarr (Gunnar)
Based on the historical Gundahari, King of the Burgundians in the city of Worms who were crushed in battle in 436 by Huns called in by the Roman general Aetius. In 437 Gundahari perished and his kingdom was destroyed by another onslaught of Huns. In one account one of his legs is cut off early in his career. In Old English texts he is Guðhere.

Hagen
Hǫgni (Högni)
Hagen/Hǫgni is connected to Gunther/Gunnarr in legends. In German accounts he is a vicious, grim, uncontrollable but cunning brute. He is sometimes a full brother of Gunther/Gunnarr; sometimes his half-brother, being fathered by an elf (whom Wager identifies with Alberich); and sometimes is apparently not closely related to Gunther/Gunnarr. In two accounts he is one-eyed. In Old English texts he is named Hagen.

Gutrune
Guðrún (Gudrún)
In tales of German origin she is named Kriemhild or Grímhild. The form Gutrune is Wagner’s own.

Alberich
Andvari
albe ‘elf’ + rich ‘king’; andvari ‘careful’

For the text of the opera in English and German, see
http://home.earthlink.net/~markdlew/shw/Ring.htm .

For an English-only version of the libretto illustrated by the incomparable Arthur Rackham, see http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/ron/index.htm .

For the main Norse source in English, see http://www.marxists.org/archive/morr...ters/index.htm , chapters XXV to XXXII.

For a German medieval source see the The Nibelungenlied, http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/nblng/index.htm , Adventures I to XIX.

For Tolkien’s recreation of this material, see The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrún, “Völsungakviða en nýja (‘The New Lay of the Völsungs’)”, chapters VII to IX.

For the independent tale of Walter of Aquataine see http://www.asatru.es/paginas/Walthar...%20Goth%20.htm . This relates how Walter lost an arm, Hagen lost an eye, and how Gunther lost a leg.

The Norse and German versions are not very far apart here. Wagner chooses the version in which Hagen is the slayer of Siegfried. The Norse versions here introduce a half-brother of Gunnarr and Hǫgni named Gutþormr who physically kills Sigurð instead of Hǫgni. Wagner adopts the version in which Hagen is the son of an elf and identifies the elf with Alberich.

In all the medieval versions the Ring is only jewel that Siegfried/Sigurð takes from Brünhilde/Brynhildr and then gives to his legal wife, giving rise to the quarrel between the two women over whether Siegfried/Sigurð had lain with Siegfried/Sigurð, a quarrel which by becoming open impugns the king’s reputation and leads to Siegfried/Sigurð’s death. The Ring has no other significance. The Norse versions add the detail of a curse on the Ring but nothing more.

Wagner alone is responsible for the idea that the Ring bestows supreme power, although he does not carry this through with rigid logic. In the original medieval accounts it is never said what became of the Ring after Brünnehilde/Brynhildr learned that Siegfried/Sigurð’s wife had it. Wagner adds the detail that Hagen kills Gunther, which renders void the many medieval accounts of the subsequent fall of Gunther and Hagen at the hands of the husband of the person corresponding to his Gutrune or of that person herself.

Wagner instead has Hagen slain by Rhine maidens, characters he himself has introduced into the story. The medieval accounts tell his Gunther/Gunnarr and Hagen/ Hǫgni sank their ancestral treasure, including the treasure that came from Siegfried, into the Rhine to prevent the Huns from getting their hands on it. By identifying the Rhine with Andvari’s stream in the Norse version, Wagner adapts different elements of the original stories into a coherent, but unique, plot structure.
jallanite is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-20-2012, 01:46 PM   #12
jallanite
Shade of Carn Dûm
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Toronto
Posts: 479
jallanite is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Götterdämmerung: Review

Introduction

This film is of course, mostly superb. Its the conclusion of Wagner’s Ring Cycle and, as such, one of the most praised pieces in the history of opera.

So perhaps it might be more interesting to instead try to find everything that might possibly be wrong with it.

Opera

First, why an opera? An opera limits one to (mostly) fat singers orating in a most artificial music style. In most adaptations of traditional stories, one must cast out or downplay what is most effective in the originals. Surely if a musical drama is even considered desirable, then one more in tune with the surviving originals would be more suitable.

Opera today is supported not by any mass audience but by public funds and private donations by extremely wealthy individuals and by large corporations.

Story

The centre of the medieval story is the fall of the Nibelungs in which Gunther and Hagen are deceived into going to what purports to be just a friendly party at the court of Attila the Hun. But the fix is in! Hagen, realizing they have stepped into a death trap, begins matters in his traditional way by openly murdering his and Gunther’s nephew at the banquet. In the end almost everyone on both sides is killed.

But Wagner, after telling his version of the events leading up to the main course, untraditionally kills off Gunther and Hagen quickly, leaving out the main story altogether. It is as bad as Shakespeare leaving out the second part of the story of Hamlet (including Hamlet’s Scottish wife), Shakespeare giving a tragic ending to the story of King Lear, and as bad as the recent Hollywood films First Knight and King Arthur which ignore the genuine medieval stories for mediocre modern invention.

It is very little better than leaving out Tom Bombadil and the Scouring of the Shire from Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films.

Even taking only Götterdämerung into consideration, and allowing that some simplification is justified, what point in Wagner messing up in his presentation of the quarrel over the Ring? In all surviving medieval accounts that present this quarrel, Siegfried has given the Ring to his wife and she flaunts the Ring openly to Brünnhilde in a quarrel over precedence to show that her husband, not Gunther, had actually won Brünnhilde and that after taking the Ring from Brünnehilde as spoils, Siegfried had bestowed the Ring on her, his true love and wife. Wagner, unlike his sources, makes the quarrel over the Ring be directly between Siegfried and Brünnhilde.

Brünnhilde’s fiery suicide on Siegfried’s pyre of which Wagner makes so much is mentioned in the sources only in the Norse Lesser Lay of Sigurð and in the Norse Vǫlsungassaga. It may well be a late and unessential addition to the story. In the Þiðreks saga and in the Nibelungenlied Brünnhild/Brynhildr is last mentioned viciously and joyfully exalting over the corpse of Siegfried/Sigurð who had betrayed her and then is never referred to again.

Wagner does not integrate all his sources well and does not integrate them with his his own interpretation of the Ring as a ring of supreme power. Why does Wagner’s Brünnhilde remain on her rock and not accompany Siegfried out into the world? Wagner’s Brünnhilde knows about the Ring and its power but says nothing of it to Siegfried. Exactly how does the Ring passing through fire dissolve Alberich’s curse? Alberich had simply taken the Rhine gold by force from the Rhine maidens. Why cannot he or anyone willing to forswear love / carnal lust simply do so again? How does Alberich’s forswearing of love / carnal lust agree with Alberich’s fathering Hagen on Grimhild, King Gibich’s wife? At the end the return of the Ring to the Rhine apparently undoes the forging of the Ring and sets everything back to the beginning, so why do Wotan and the gods perish. Valtrauta earlier strongly implied that if only Brünnhilde had cast the Ring into the Rhine before the complications began that everything would be all right for the gods.

Presentation

Grane, Siegfried’s horse, is represented by a life size puppet, but not a realistic one as in the dramatic production of The War Horse. (See http://www.mirvish.com/shows/warhorse .) Instead it appears as a puppet of the plate steel armour apparently worn by the horse. Is Grane supposed to be invisible when he isn’t wearing his plate armour?

Fortunately Grane doesn’t sing.

Siegfried continues to breathe when supposedly dead. That’s a difficulty that arises when the camera provides a closer view than one would normally get in the theatre.


The chorus of courtiers take both Siegfried’s death and Gunther’s death rather casually. They seem to know they are in an opera and are taking the opportunity to enjoy the music without raising any fuss.

Some might claim that anti-racist political correction has been taken too far. Some of Gunther’s courtiers are of Asian origin. That can be explained however. Historically the Huns were of Asian origin, not of Germanic origin, and contemporary descriptions indicate their Asian appearance. It is likely enough that the historical Burgundian kingdom included some Huns among their warriors. A dark-skinned maiden at court is more difficult to explain but not impossible. See http://evoandproud.blogspot.ca/2010/...n-britain.html . What is true of Britain would presumably be true of other parts of what was once the Roman empire.

I Take It All Back (Mostly)

Despite my qualms, Wagner’s Ring Cycle has since its first appearance in full in 1876 been recognized by enough people as a superb musical work that it must be so accepted. That my complaints are mostly valid just don’t matter. The naysayers are often people who claim not to like any opera. There are a smaller group of people who like opera in general but do not like Wagner and the reverse is true.

Most of those who very much like Wagner quite recognize most of my complaints, but just don’t care. For them, the work transcends any criticism, however valid that criticism might be.
jallanite is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-20-2012, 04:28 PM   #13
Bêthberry
Cryptic Aura
 
Bêthberry's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 6,055
Bêthberry is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Bêthberry is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Bêthberry is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.
I wonder how much the mechanical staging effects owe to similar staging in the LotR musical? Did you see the musical when it opened in Toronto? I didn't but heard there were similar problems with getting all the lifts to work correctly.

Does viewing the Ring cycle give you a different perspective on LotR? What are the parallels between the two works? There are two books out (well, one already published and the other forthcoming) that look at Wagner and Tolkien. They sound interesting. One is Tolkien and Wagner:The Ring and Der Ring by Christopher MacLachlan and the other is Wagner and Tolkien: Mythmakers by Reneé Vink. Very intriguing comparison between Gandalf and Wotan, apparently in the first! (I haven't read the book.)

Both are from Walking Tree Publishers and can be found here.
__________________
I’ll sing his roots off. I’ll sing a wind up and blow leaf and branch away.
Bêthberry is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-22-2012, 11:01 AM   #14
jallanite
Shade of Carn Dûm
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Toronto
Posts: 479
jallanite is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
I didn’t see the Toronto Lord of the Rings musical either.

Problems with new mechanical scenery devices are normal enough. In computerese it is usual to interpret leading edge as bleeding edge. If you are trying something entirely new, it should be expected that it will not work altogether properly. The genuine bugs in “the machine” had been worked out by the time the films had been made.

Beyond that, opera itself depends a lot on willing suspension of disbelief in any case.

I really don’t see many parallels between Wagner’s Ring Cycle and the Lord of the Rings beyond the totally obvious. Both have a supreme Ring of Power. Sméagol’s killing of Déagol parallels Fafner’s killing of Fasolt. The are more parallels between the Siegfried story and Tolkien’s story of Turin.

Wagner and Tolkien have almost no philosophical base in common and Wagner changed some of his ideas during his writing of the Ring Cycle which partly leads to the contradictions within his work. Partly the problem is that Wagner is adapting stories where the originals have nothing to do with a Ring of Power. Tolkien’s work is far more coherent. Wagner’s popularity has more to do with his amazing music, individual pieces of drama, and the panache with which he carries off the impossible.

The Ride of the Valkyries, in particular, succeeds on its own terms, unconnected with Wagner’s basic plot.

For years I have heard various people announce that they planned to write an essay comparing Wagner and Tolkien but none of these planned efforts have appeared. I suspect that this is because when these persons began to seriously think about it there is so little that is similar beyond the grossly obvious.

Wotan/Óðinn is of course obviously similar to Gandalf in some ways. But so are Merlin, Maugis of Aigremont, Väinäimöinen, Teiresias, Elijah, Elisha, Vashistha, Visvamitra, and some other traditional figures.

Last edited by jallanite; 05-22-2012 at 11:42 AM.
jallanite is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-23-2012, 11:50 AM   #15
Bêthberry
Cryptic Aura
 
Bêthberry's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 6,055
Bêthberry is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Bêthberry is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Bêthberry is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.
Quote:
Originally Posted by jallanite View Post
For years I have heard various people announce that they planned to write an essay comparing Wagner and Tolkien but none of these planned efforts have appeared. I suspect that this is because when these persons began to seriously think about it there is so little that is similar beyond the grossly obvious.

Wotan/Óðinn is of course obviously similar to Gandalf in some ways. But so are Merlin, Maugis of Aigremont, Väinäimöinen, Teiresias, Elijah, Elisha, Vashistha, Visvamitra, and some other traditional figures.
The first book I referenced has already been published while the other is listed by the publisher as forthcoming. Given that Walking Tree is a very credible, respectable press, I think both books should be interesting.
__________________
I’ll sing his roots off. I’ll sing a wind up and blow leaf and branch away.
Bêthberry is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-12-2012, 07:40 PM   #16
jallanite
Shade of Carn Dûm
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Toronto
Posts: 479
jallanite is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
The first book, Tolkien and Wagnar: The Ring and Der Ring by Christopher MacLachlan I have found to be mostly horrible.

MacLachlan does a reasonable job in showing that some scholarly and fan comment on Tolkien are misguided but the shows himself to be even more misguided. He misinterprets Tolkien’s famous statement:
Both rings were round, and there the resemblance ceases.
MacLachlan understands this to refer to Wagnar, but Ohlmarks’ statement includes a large amount that does not appear in Wagnar at all and Tolkien correctly refers to this being from the “Old Norse″ side and finds it a farrago of nonsense. It is even more so if one attempt to interpret it as a summary of Wagnar’s Ring Cycle.

MacLachlan ignores the rest of Ohlmarks’ rubbish and interprets it be mean that Tolkien is lying about the influence of Wagnar’s Ring Cycle on his work when the letter is not about the Ring Cycle at all. MacLachlan then attempts to show that there is a purposeful conspiracy begun by J. R. R. Tolkien and continued by his son to deny the influence of the Ring Cycle on The Lord of the Rings.

The claim is that Tolkien based almost the entire Lord of the Rings on Wagnar’s Ring Cycle and no-one has noticed until now. But the parallels MacLachlan draws between the two works require a great amount of special pleading to accept. In two cases MacLachlan thinks that it proves something that he thinks that Jackson’s film resembles Wagnar more than the book.

His main point is that Wagnar’s Wotan is the prototype to Tolkien’s Gandalf and tries to make Gandalf’s career to resemble Wotan’s, principally by trying to claim that Gandalf increasingly withdraws from the action. This means that Machlachlan must ignore Gandalf’s healing of Théoden and later the increase in courage that comes when Gandalf wanders among the defenders of Minas Tirith, as supposedly Gandalf like Wotan should be leaving all actions to others at this time.

MacLachlan claims more than once that the post-resurrection Gandalf noticeably performs less magic than the pre-resurrection Gandalf. That is simply not true.

In an Appendix MacLachlan blames Christopher Tolkien for not including more on the Ring Cycle in an Appendix on The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún but does not mention any details in the Ring Cycle also found in The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún that are not in the Norse texts which answers why more does not appear. Apparently it does not bother MacLachlan at all that the Nibelungenlied, or the Thiðreks Saga, or William Morris’ The Story of Sigurd the Volsung and the Fall of the Niblungs, or other medieval or more modern reworkings are not treated by Christopher Tolkien here. He doesn’t see anything but Wagnar.

One outrageous statement by MacLachan on page 106 is complete fantasy:
Later Tolkien would try to identify his Necromancer with Sauron himself, thus trying to connect the plots of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Ring, although in fact problems of chronology would in the end defeat him.
The second book is Wagnar and Tolkien: Mythmakers by Renée Vink and it is a very different book, quite wonderful. Vink clearly indicates that Tolkien’s “Both rings were round, …” statement is not related to Wagnar at all and mostly simply talks about differences and similarities between Tolkien and Wagnar. She has great fun in cutting up the work of more than a hundred authors who have tried to distort either Tolkien or Wagnar to fit what they wish were true. She also fully discusses Wagnar’s use of alliteration and other Norse poetic devices in Wagnar’s librettos and Tolkien’s rendering of the Old Norse lays in The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún.

This book is almost perfect in my estimation.

I have had a review of MacLachlan’s book published in the August issue of Nancy Martsch’s fanzine Beyond Bree. A review of Vink’s book and a discussion of Tolkien’s “Both rings were round, …” statement have been accepted for forthcoming issues.

Last edited by jallanite; 09-12-2012 at 10:25 PM.
jallanite is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 11:26 PM.



Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.9 Beta 4
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.