Richard Wagner: I Deserve a 500 Year Lifespan


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Well, I know that is impractical, and I am not suggesting you don’t deserve equal time, but I would need at least that to learn everything I would like to learn before my journey is over. It might take me most of that time just to understand Germany’s Richard Wagner.

As many of you know, I began studying opera on my own about a year ago. Prior to that, I never wanted anything to do with the opera. My wife tried so many times to get me to attend a performance, but she would have had an easier time moving a mule. However, as I began to investigate what opera was all about, I found a striking connection between opera and literature. As an archetypal literary critic, I saw similarities between classic novels and opera performances that could not be denied.

My interest was particularly sparked by a television performance of Tristan and Isolde, a tale of two star-crossed lovers as tragic as Romeo and Juliet. Not many people I know ever read Tristan and Isolde, so I was intrigued by the performance. The result was a newfound interest in something I had never experienced.

In university classes, when I stressed the importance of acquiring knowledge, I always told my students, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” I believe that. We should never knock what we do not understand. Understanding opera on the other hand can be complicated. I have a great deal to learn.

In my research, I found Wagner to be jealous, dishonest, bigoted, racist, hypocritical, sexist, and one arrogant human being. Nevertheless, those less-than-admirable qualities do not negate the brilliance of his artistic work. The man revolutionized opera.

Of all his creations, I am finding the Ring cycle, or more specifically The Ring of the Nibelungs, to be the most fascinating. To me, the impact upon the world of opera was similar to that of the Star Wars trilogy created by George Lucas upon Hollywood.

My whole point is that brilliance knows no boundaries. Right or wrong, good or bad, we should respect the artistic work of fellow human beings, especially when they enter the realm of genius.

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Comments

  1. I love your quote, "You don't know what you don't know." Wow. You can apply that everywhere.

    It is all too easy to hate the RESULT because you dislike the person who created it. That is sooooo true. Sometimes it behooves us not to know too much about the face behind the creation (if that will jaundice our appreciation of said creation). However, if we can appreciate the work on its own merit...

    I know that you love discovering new things to enjoy. So exciting for you:)

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    1. Robin: I am fascinated by the things I learn on a daily basis. It is such a large universe and I am so minute.

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  2. I love to go to operas by myself. I always did when I lived in Florida. No such thing as opera in Montana.
    WOW... the description of Wagner being, jealous, dishonest, bigoted, racist, hypocritical, sexist, arrogant.....exactly describes the first Narcissist I ever encountered.

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    1. Manzie: Never really got into it before, but the comparison with literature caught my attention. The description of Wagner - right on the money!

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  3. I really admire your passion for life & learning JJ, you are inspirational. I agree wholeheartedly that we need to respect the artistic talents and flairs of others ... they're what makes this world so colourful & interesting to live in.

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    1. Katherine: I agree. That is what it's all about. If we all thought alike (unless it was like me, of course), life would be boring.

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  4. Like you, I'm a lover of knowledge and learning. If I could be a professional student for the rest of my life, I would.

    Opera sounds amazing. I've never been, but would adore the experience.

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    1. Miranda: I am a professional student. That's the main reason I turned to teaching. It gave me an opportunity to learn as much as I wanted on the job!

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  5. As you know, I am an opera buff and I even have a blog on opera. In the beginning, I confess Wagner was not one of my favorite opera composers because his music is so sophisticated and rich that one takes time to fully understand it. You should alsolearn german (what I did).
    But now he is probably the best for me. His huge work is a masterpiece of the western musical history. And The Ring that you mention is absolutely unique. More than 15 hours (depends on the maestro!) of musical pleasure.
    And I am very excited with the idea that I will have the rare opportunity to see and listen to the whole Ring cycle live, next month, at the Met! How lucky I am!! (And how lucky you are to have the Met!!).

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    1. Fanático_Um: You know your website was my inspiration! I wish I were closer to the Met. I live about 1500 miles away. However, I do get to local performances.

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  6. Hi JJ, I just wanted to say thank you for your last comment. I took the very sad decision to delete my blog last night after receiving constant nasty messages from my husbands Ex I just couldn't cope anymore with them. Maybe in time I might start another one but will keep it private and for friends by invite only. But right now I want to hide away from the invasion and get on quietly with my life and concentrate on the important things like my family :-) Thank you very much for your support and comments over the past few years. I will still be popping into blog land to catch up with everyone. Take lots of care, dee :-)

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    1. Dee: That is very sad news. You are one of the nicest people I have met online, and I will truly miss your input. I do hope you will e-mail me from time to time just to let me know how you and yours are doing. Please keep in touch and check out my blog occasionally.

      It is awful that some people have no respect for others, and you certainly do not deserve such poor treatment. If you do start another blog, please invite me. Best to you, my friend.

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  7. You have touched on an issue that I struggle with sometimes. I can sometimes separate the artist from the art, but not always. (Woody Allen comes to mind.) Why am I inconsistent about this? I don't know.

    As for opera, I have fond memories of dressing up and going with my sister to the opera. Her husband was not keen to go with her, and although I was not drawn to it myself, I did like to go in her company. I enjoyed the pagentry and the music. But most of all I enjoyed watching my sister absolutely swept away by her love of opera.

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    1. Galen: As for Woody Allen, I am with you. As for the opera, some of the pagentry I can do without, and some of the music is not my taste, but the storylines fit right into my literary world.

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  8. As a musician, I have played many pieces of music that go along with Wagner's operas. They are challenging pieces to say the least.
    Why the heck is it that so many gifted artists are so darn close to the line of crazy?! It's just one of those things that has always bugged me...
    Good for you for researching and learning about something that you were not initially attracted to. That is a hard thing to do.

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    1. Jasmine: Being a lifetime learner keeps me going!

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