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Posts Tagged ‘Richard Wagner’

What do you do with, or about, the inconvenient bits of the past, the bits that simply don’t fit with the present and its values or that create an uncomfortable tension? At least for its first two acts, Barrie Kosky’s Bayreuth production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg seems to adopt Nietzsche’s idea of critical history, holding up the past as something to be judged and overcome, and indeed presenting the past in a way that demands judgement (at the expense, as Nietzsche notes, of anything that could claim to be the ‘real’, complex and ambiguous past). What Kosky holds up for judgement, however, is not the past of late medieval Nürnberg, whose citizens (insofar as they’re supposed to be real, rather than figments of the imagination) are presented on stage as cheerful, simple, well-meaning, semi-anarchic folk, but the past represented by Richard Wagner, and the antisemitic ideas that are taken to taint his work. (more…)

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If you hang a pistol on the wall in the first act of a play, Chekhov remarked, you need someone to fire it in the next act. On the same principle, if you build a big set of the New York Stock Exchange for Götterdämmerung, you’re going to burn it down at the end. Unless, of course, you’re Frank Castorf, in his Bayreuth production of the Ring that reached its conclusion this year. What did you expect – fire, flood, revolution, the destruction of the old order and the birth of the new? People die: Siegfried, Brünnhilde, Günther, the unnamed ‘everyman’ character who’s reappeared in every episode. The system, however, endures, as it was always likely to; the gods may have thoughtlessly set events in motion, and supplied the weapons of destruction, but they are at best mildly inconvenienced.

Götterdämmerung 2017 3 (more…)

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There’s a lovely passage in John Moore’s Brensham Village (second volume of the Brensham Trilogy, one of the great accounts of British rural life), in which Mr Chorlton, the retired prep-school classics teacher, talks about his affection for the absurdities and rituals of the Church of England, agnostic though he is:

The funny thing is that thousands of people who don’t believe in it have the same feeling. I suppose in Greece and Rome, when the old gods fell out of favour and people ceased to believe in their thunderbolts and their power, the crumbling ivy-grown altars were still regarded with a sort of half-amused, half-apologetic affection, and people made an occasional shame-faced sacrifice at them for old time’s sake. That is how I feel about the C. of E. and I still wonder why!

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“The distribution of wealth is too important an issue to be left to economists, sociologists, historians, and philosophers,” remarked Thomas Piketty, in a work noted for its regular references to the novels of Austen and Balzac for insights into wealth and inequality in the nineteenth century. Contrary to the claims to scientific objectivity made by mainstream economics, issues of power and money inevitably have a subjective, psychological and hence political dimension; “democracy will never be supplanted by a republic of experts”, and it is the imaginative artists who can depict the effects of inequality and the workings of the economy ”with a verisimilitude and evocative power that no statistical or theoretical analysis can match.” (more…)

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