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Thread: Religion in Wagner's Parsifal: Christian opera, Buddhist opera, both, or neither?

  1. #61
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tdc View Post
    I think aspects of morality can be learned in various places, for example I think Tolkien's LotR is an excellent allegory. I try to take each work on it's own terms. Learning what we can from a multitude of sources is a great thing, but I think it is important not to make religions out of what we learn. Religions tend to attempt to place the whole truth in a box, but I think the truth is too big to fit in any box.
    I agree with this, and would add that if we assume that "learning" from experiences of art is equivalent to "learning" from an essay or academic course or Sunday school lesson, then we're not understanding the unique value of art. Music, especially, isn't addressed primarily to our rational faculty, but to our feelings. A friend of mine used to say that the novels of George Eliot "educate the feelings." Wagner insisted that his operas be understood first and above all with the emotions. It's a misconception that his works are ideological tracts; Parsifal, for example, does not offer religious instruction, even though its story has strong moral implications. The primacy of art's appeal to the emotions is no reason to dismiss it as useless in cultivating our understanding of reality, since nothing is more real to a human being than the life of the emotions. Mankind has always expressed his perceptions of life in art, and that's because it supplies, at its best, something essential that complements the work of reason, not only giving concreteness to the mind's abstract understandings but arousing feelings with which the mind may never have engaged.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Jun-05-2019 at 07:33.

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  3. #62
    Senior Member MacLeod's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tdc View Post
    I think aspects of morality can be learned in various places, for example I think Tolkien's LotR is an excellent allegory.
    If it is, it wasn't deliberate. Tolkien disliked allegory and would reject any simplistic interpretations of his works. He also wanted to keep religion out of The Lord of the Rings, so whatever meanings the reader derives will arise because of the soil in which the story grew, not because of the visible branches and leaves (Tolkien's own metaphor).

    Having said that, I agree. Whatever morality I have reflected on in art and story, it's not come solely from a Catholic upbringing but a number of sources.
    "I left TC for a hiatus, but since no-one noticed my absence, I came back again."

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    Senior Member NLAdriaan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    You seem to be giving art works with religious themes and associations extraordinary power over human life. What artistic creations, besides perhaps those created for purposes of official propaganda, can you think of that have actually been taken up by governments and churches for evil purposes? Artists themselves tend not to be comfortable with that sort of thing. Wagner certainly wasn't; if you were actually to look closely at his works you would find an outright hostility to power structures and an almost anarchic plea for human freedom. Parsifal presents a vision of a moribund religious tradition which can be saved from itself only by the act of a spiritually free agent from outside its stern walls, the "innocent fool made wise through compassion." Left to itself, the "official church" of the Grail would have died of its own illusions.

    I'd venture to guess that your awful vision of a "fantastic recipe of sex, quasi-religion and self-sacrifice" and of "megalomaniac fantasies" - lumping together such diverse artists as Wagner, Lucas, Tolkien and Rawling - arises from some personal viewpoint (a religious one?) not much informed by close acquaintance with these artists' work. Of the four, only Wagner was a large enough cultural force to have an impact that might threaten the social order, and what threats may have come in his wake were mainly not his own doing. I think we're well past the need for warnings about invidious "alleged" deeper meanings in Wagner, and not in much danger from works of art which are now simply major contributions to our cultural heritage. Books are still being written, by the way, on the fairly deep meanings that await the receptive inquirer into Wagner's art. There are even threads worth investigating right here on TC.
    The Nazi government has adopted Wagner (and Bruckner) as their favoured Holocaust songwriter. At the same time they ruled out many other composers such as Mahler. The Soviet Government has attempted to control the works of Shostakovich. It can be said that churches are entirely founded on works of art and fantasies, starting with the lyrics, the buildings and including the music. Hiding behind this facade are the abusive powers. Music, and art in general, matters for dictators.

    You seem to put Wagner exactly in the elevated position, idolizing him as the only one who is 'large enough' etc. You seem to be offset by the idea of Wagner being in the same league as Tolkien, Lucas and Rawling. And then you start to frame me as not well informed on the alleged deep meanings of Wagner's art.

    Woodduck, you are a fan. Nothing wrong with it. And it goes with eloquence. But with a fan it is difficult, if not impossible to debate.

    I leave you with the alleged deeeeeep meanings of Wagner's mind. I won't ever see a God in Wagner, but at most a megalomaniac attempt to become one, one of many. And Wagner apparently still has followers, good for him. I still like Wagners music though, good entertainment. Also Rawling, Tolkien and Lucas have die-hard fans for their creations, so I see Wagner rightfully in this league. For spiritual and religious directions in music, I stick to JS Bach, Messiaen and some others.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NLAdriaan View Post
    The Nazi government has adopted Wagner (and Bruckner) as their favoured Holocaust songwriter.
    The Nazi government is past, and both Wagner and Bruckner were dead well before there was a Nazi party so neither were a "Holocaust songwriter."

    That being said, both of those composers were representatives of "good German music" that was held up and supported. But so were Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and more. I rarely hear discussion of Beethoven being tainted by association with the Nazis, though there were plenty of performances of his symphonies at prominent and propagandistic events. They somehow used the 9th symphony and pretended the Ode to Joy supported their cause, which to my mind is on the order as ridiculous as pretending that Wagner's operas had anything to do with Nazism.

  6. #65
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NLAdriaan View Post
    The Nazi government has adopted Wagner (and Bruckner) as their favoured Holocaust songwriter.
    Evidently you've accepted the popular conflation of Hitler's personal passions with "the Nazi government" and its functions (he would probably have liked that conflation, but we should be more precise). Hitler adored Wagner's operas and got cozy with his descendents, but the obedient rank and file just fell asleep at performances. There's no evidence that Wagner's music was played at concentration camps, as some have alleged. He wasn't the most performed opera composer in Nazi Germany (that was Verdi), and wasn't even Hitler's favorite composer (that was Franz Lehar). Bruckner is even less relevant to any point you're making about the co-optation of art. And as for Parsifal, Goebbels eventually banned its performance. Too pacifist, apparently.

    The Soviet Government has attempted to control the works of Shostakovich.
    And what does that tell you? It tells me that the spirit of art is essentially anarchic, and that autocrats are afraid of it. If Hitler had really understood what Wagner was saying he'd have realized that he and all dictators stood accused, not flattered. But why am I telling you this, since you've said you'd rather not know what Wagner's works are about?

    It can be said that churches are entirely founded on works of art and fantasies, starting with the lyrics, the buildings and including the music. Hiding behind this facade are the abusive powers. Music, and art in general, matters for dictators.
    That's a bundle. Churches are not "founded" on works of art, and can do perfectly well without them, but of course it's natural for humans to express their feelings and beliefs in art. The music and architecture of churches are designed for a particular use, and can be used by people whose motives we either approve or disapprove. There's no reason here to be suspicious of art as such and to issue warnings about its possible abuse by "powers."

    But how does any of this relate to Wagner and Parsifal? Are you laboring under the impression that he intended his "festival play" to be a "religion" and to "hide abusive powers behind its facade"? Well, he didn't. And to my knowledge no religious or political institution has attempted to use it to advance its causes. A four-hour opera would serve such a purpose very poorly in any case.

    You seem to put Wagner exactly in the elevated position, idolizing him as the only one who is 'large enough' etc. You seem to be offset by the idea of Wagner being in the same league as Tolkien, Lucas and Rowling. And then you start to frame me as not well informed on the alleged deep meanings of Wagner's art.
    As a creative genius, and with respect to the importance of his work for his own art form and for western culture in general, Wagner is not in the same league as Tolkien, Lucas or Rowling. And I haven't "framed" you as anything; you "framed" yourself when you said, "As to Parsifal and Wagner in general, I don't really analyse the deeper layers, I just listen to the music and enjoy it. To me, Wagner produced fairytales on music and I do not want to dig deep." Well, if you don't dig, you're unlikely to find anything below the surface. It also leaves you in a poor position to suggest that there's nothing there and that people who think there is, and who appreciate what they find and want to talk about it, are somehow suspect and need you to warn them about "abusive powers."

    For spiritual and religious directions in music, I stick to JS Bach, Messiaen and some others.
    So your chosen vehicles of "religious direction" are legitimate and safe, and require no warnings about co-optation by church and state? Where's that cynicism now?

    I leave you with the alleged deeeeeep meanings of Wagner's mind. I won't ever see a God in Wagner, but at most a megalomaniac attempt to become one, one of many. And Wagner apparently still has followers, good for him. I still like Wagners music though, good entertainment. Also Rawling, Tolkien and Lucas have die-hard fans for their creations, so I see Wagner rightfully in this league.
    Well, you'll see what you want to see and not see what you don't want to see. I'd guess that hardly anyone nowadays sees a "god" in Wagner; Cosima has been dead since 1930, and Hitler since not long after that. The "debunkers" are behind the times; I get the feeling that your views on Wagner, like those of many others who aren't really interested in "digging deep," are still shaped by the post-WW II mythology of storm-troopers descending from the clouds to the Ride of the Valkyries.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Jun-06-2019 at 04:44.

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    Senior Member NLAdriaan's Avatar
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    Dear Woodduck, you're idolizing Wagner. Good for you and your fellow believers, enjoy yourselves. But further discussions are a waste. This is just another no-go thread here at TC.

    As a creative genius, and with respect to the importance of his work for his own art form and for western culture in general

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    I find it confusing how some people judge a certain piece of art or an artist while at the same they openly admit to never have taken a closer look at the work, to never have analysed the "deeper layers".

    Another case of that is deeming opera productions trash after having seen one or two photos of them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by interestedin View Post
    I find it confusing how some people judge a certain piece of art or an artist while at the same they openly admit to never have taken a closer look at the work, to never have analysed the "deeper layers".

    Another case of that is deeming opera productions trash after having seen one or two photos of them.
    This, exactly this!

    Some also can't separate the person from the person's art (until it happens to be the creator of the artworks they enjoy most and then they will forgive anything!)

    N.

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    I'm going to play Devil's advocate, in order to stimulate more discussion. I think it is worth noting that Wagner's art and his thinking were to an extent a reflection of the times he lived in. This could be used for, or against him.

    As far as being "representative of 'good German music' that was held up and supported, like Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven," to be fair, these composers came from an era when "God" was actually believed in, along with Christ and miracles, and the religious elements of their music was not as ambiguously unorthodox as Wagner's, and not manifestations of the new religious thought of Friedrich Schleiermacher and Ludwig Feuerbach; so there is some validity in NLAdriaan's perspective, even if much of it is exaggerated, and even if we disagree with most of it.

    "I'd guess that hardly anyone nowadays sees a "god" in Wagner"
    may be specifically true for a "God," but it still has, as you have admitted, a "religious" content, and we can't ignore the centuries-long
    connection with Western art & religion. If I can see a "religious" content in John Cage's music, and if Bach's chorales are still being used in Church, then to make Wagner's "religious content" purely artistic, and separated from any orthodox Western religious traditions in art, seems a bit desperate.
    True, "
    Churches are not 'founded' on works of art, and can do perfectly well without them," but this ignores the close relation; there is overlap, and one can choose or choose not to recognize this.
    If there is admittedly "religious content and symbolism" in Wagner, then to either see it as purely art, or as promoting religion or religious ideas of
    Schleiermacher and Feuerbach becomes a purely personal matter, not an objective fact.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Jun-06-2019 at 14:35.
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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    I'm going to play Devil's advocate, in order to stimulate more discussion. I think it is worth noting that Wagner's art and his thinking were to an extent a reflection of the times he lived in. This could be used for, or against him.
    I'm not sure who the Devil is here, but your observation is true of most artists, no? It doesn't seem remarkable in Wagner's case.

    As far as being "representative of 'good German music' that was held up and supported, like Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven," to be fair, these composers came from an era when "God" was actually believed in, along with Christ and miracles, and the [/COLOR]religious elements of their music was not as ambiguously unorthodox as Wagner's, and not manifestations of the new religious thought of Friedrich Schleiermacher and Ludwig Feuerbach; so there is some validity in NLAdriaan's perspective, even if much of it is exaggerated, and even if we disagree with most of it.
    NLAdriaan made only one discussable point: art can be used for nefarious purposes. The relevance of that to this thread is approximately nil. No one here is likely either to use Parsifal for any such purpose - what purpose could that be? - or to be seduced by the work's emotional power into submitting to what he calls "abusive powers," secular or ecclesiastical.

    I'd guess that my juxtaposing the words "religion" and "Wagner" pressed a red button in his mind, and that he felt some righteous obligation to make us all aware of the peril to our souls. It's predictable that some people will go all funny inside at the mere mention of either of those things, even - or especially - when they know little about what's actually being discussed, and that they'll be unable to resist an opportunity to find an infidel to slay. That NLAdriaan should end up with nothing more trenchant than "Woodduck, you are a fan" was also predictable, and a waste of time and forum space. I and others here are very well aware that my interest in Wagner's works is something a good deal weightier than "fanhood" and is in fact rather well-informed.

    "I'd guess that hardly anyone nowadays sees a "god" in Wagner"[/I] may be specifically true for a "God," but it still has, as you have admitted, a "religious" content, and we can't ignore the centuries-long connection with art & religion. If I can see a "religious" content in John Cage's music, and if Bach's chorales are still being used in Church, then to exclude Wagner's "religious content" from the Western tradition should be no exception.
    I don't know what you're saying here. No one should assume that discussing a work's religious content constitutes a propagandist advocacy of that content. On the other hand, there's no reason to declare a priori that there's nothing to be gained from the experience or discussion of such a work.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Jun-06-2019 at 15:55.

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NLAdriaan View Post
    Dear Woodduck, you're idolizing Wagner. Good for you and your fellow believers, enjoy yourselves. But further discussions are a waste. This is just another no-go thread here at TC.

    Wagner's stature is well-established and doesn't depend on anyone's "idolization." Your ignorance of the artistic substance and cultural impact of his work is massive, and your disparagement of it, and of those who actually understand it, is an embarrassment.

    The only thing that's a waste is the perverse effort of uninformed, sour nay-sayers like you to squelch the interest and pleasure of others.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Jun-06-2019 at 17:41.

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  17. #72
    Senior Member stomanek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Wagner's stature is well-established and doesn't depend on anyone's "idolization." Your ignorance of the artistic substance and cultural impact of his work is massive, and your disparagement of it, and of those who actually understand it, is an embarrassment.

    The only thing that's a waste is the perverse effort of uninformed, sour nay-sayers like you to squelch the interest and pleasure of others.
    why oh why does a perfectly noble attempt to discuss religion in Parsifal have to end in this awful mud slinging

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Wagner's stature is well-established and doesn't depend on anyone's "idolization." Your ignorance of the artistic substance and cultural impact of his work is massive, and your disparagement of it, and of those who actually understand it, is an embarrassment.

    The only thing that's a waste is the perverse effort of uninformed, sour nay-sayers like you to squelch the interest and pleasure of others.
    It is very clear that you are way too touchy and protective about Wagner. You've reacted very badly to everyone who has dared to express a view about Parsifal, or Wagner's status, that doesn't fit your preconceived ideas. I hardly think that the comment above to which you respond deserves this kind of remark.

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stomanek View Post
    why oh why does a perfectly noble attempt to discuss religion in Parsifal have to end in this awful mud slinging
    Why quote my protest of the very thing you ask about? Why not quote the mud-slinger who provoked that protest? And didn't you yourself enter the discussion back at post #33 solely in order to criticize me for an innocuous statement of opinion, demanding that I "prove" an aesthetic judgment? That was certainly calculated to muck things up a bit, wasn't it?

    It happens to thread after thread on the forum. No topic, no matter how carefully it's framed, is too serious or substantial to be trivialized and diverted with irrelevancies and personal putdowns, and it can happen quickly. In the first three days of this thread's existence, four people entered demonstrating - and actually admitting - that they had no real interest in the subject, and making deprecatory remarks about Wagner, the opera, and me. One of the four had her post deleted at my request and has mercifully not returned to inflict further damage.

    I've been tempted to write off the experiment and ask the mods to lock the thread. There's no pleasure in having to play kindergarten cop.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tdc View Post
    I think it has become a cult worldwide. Early Gnostic Christians believed the teachings in the bible to be symbolic allegories, not completely literal historic facts, but were accused of heresy. The church demanded people believe that Jesus was the literal son of God who walked on this earth, and was physically resurrected after death, and that one must believe this tale on faith and nothing else or be burned at the stake. This belief is how one gets to heaven. (It makes very little difference how immoral one is in this life as long as one believes in Jesus). This idea is what turned Christianity into a cult, and is one of the primary reason I think for so much tolerance of evil and immoral behavior in the world. How so many people can still believe this today is shocking and shows that religion is a form of mind control.
    In order to keep within the rules of this Forum, I will confine my comment to saying that I find this description of Christianity is not just lacking comprehension but is totally incorrect. Furthermore, I'm not going to waste my time on the likes of you trying to explain where you've got things badly screwed up.

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