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Thread: How should we interpret the end of Gotterdammerung?

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    Default How should we interpret the end of Gotterdammerung?

    'How are we to interpret the end of Gotterdammerung'?

    Percy Scholes in The Oxford Companion to Music concludes his entry on the Ring, 'Valhalla is seen in the distance in flames - final illumination of that twilight of the gods which is now to darken into eternal night'. But I have also heard it suggested that it is the end of the gods only, not of the world, and that Wagner intended this to mark the beginning of a new world of humanity without gods.

    Is there any unambiguous record of what Wagner himself intended, or did he intend to leave the question open, or perhaps modify his intentions for the conclusion of the Ring over the twenty plus years of its creation?

    Any thoughts would be welcome.

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    My take was that it was meant to be the end of the old order and that going forward man was free to forge his own destiny free from the tryanny and machinations of gods.

    I'm not great at the interpretation side, I tend to focus on the music and the literal plot rather than looking for full meaning.

    I hated writing literature essays at school.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bellerophon View Post
    'How are we to interpret the end of Gotterdammerung'?
    if go by the music, it is doomsday for all -



    while gods and heroes leave for nirvana; this motif repeats in the finale -


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    But what does the so called 'redemption through love' motif actually mean? In the libretto doesn't it say that people come emerging out of the shadows at the end. Hence the idea that it's time for a new order to move things forward.

    N.

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    While we are waiting for Woodduck to share his extensive knowledge, I can explain my own views. For me the human transformation and constant renewing is one of the main topics of the whole Ring cycle. Wagner himself said that that "the development of the whole poem sets forth the necessity of recognising and yielding to the change, the many-sidedness, the multiplicity, the eternal renewing of reality and of life." This is what Wotan finally understands when he wills his own destruction. The great achievement of Wotan's decision was a fearless human being, Siegfried, who united with Brünnhilde becomes the redeemer of the world. It must be kept in mind that in Romantic Germany, the understanding of Eternal Feminine, that was further developed by Goethe, was a very common theme. Wagner even quotes a part of the last verse of Faust when explaining Brünnhilde's sacrifice. Differently from Sieglinde's sacrifice, Brünnhilde's is absolutely conscious and thus more effective - the similarity between Sieglinde's and Brünnhilde's sacrifice is emphasised through Sieglinde's leitmotif that is also called Redemption motif and that is the motif that ends the whole Ring. Wagner says that Brünnhilde is the real conscious redeemer of the Ring.

    Wagner saw Siegfried as the man of future, a man who has never learnt fear and is thus greater than the gods. Wagner writes that when Siegfried encounters the Rhinemaidens, he finally grasps the higher truth and the understanding that death is better than the life of fear. Wotan's life was full of only fears and thus this contrast actually makes sense. From Wagner's letter to Roeckel: "Confess, in the presence of such a being, the splendour of the gods must be dimmed." The need for this destruction is something that arised from Wotan's deepest convictions (Wagner though doesn't exactly explain what he means by these "convictions" as he says that it can be understood by everyone who follows the course of the whole opera and drama with its natural and simple motifs...).

    When I read Wagner's letters to Roeckel then I feel that one of the themes that Wagner emphasises through the ending or "end" in general is that this is the requirement for love, one has to create Siegfried who lives fearlessly through love as Wotan did. Wagner points out that the loveless relationship between Wotan and Fricka is a result of their opposition to the universal law of change and renewal. Therefore I feel that the whole Ring is just an example of one step of human transformation among an infinite amount of similar steps. I don't feel it's actually anything definite.
    Last edited by annaw; May-19-2020 at 13:17.

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    Quote Originally Posted by annaw View Post
    While we are waiting for Woodduck to share his extensive knowledge, I can explain my own views. For me the human transformation and constant renewing is one of the main topics of the whole Ring cycle. Wagner himself said that that "the development of the whole poem sets forth the necessity of recognising and yielding to the change, the many-sidedness, the multiplicity, the eternal renewing of reality and of life." This is what Wotan finally understands when he wills his own destruction. The great achievement of Wotan's decision was a fearless human being, Siegfried, who united with Brünnhilde becomes the redeemer of the world. It must be kept in mind that in Romantic Germany, the understanding of Eternal Feminine, that was further developed by Goethe, was a very common theme. Wagner even quotes a part of the last verse of Faust when explaining Brünnhilde's sacrifice. Differently from Sieglinde's sacrifice, Brünnhilde's is absolutely conscious and thus more effective - the similarity between Sieglinde's and Brünnhilde's sacrifice is emphasised through Sieglinde's leitmotif that is also called Redemption motif and that is the motif that ends the whole Ring.

    Wagner saw Siegfried as the man of future, a man who has never learnt fear and is thus greater than the gods. Wagner writes that when Siegfried encounters the Rhinemaidens, he fianlly grasps the higher truth and the understanding that death is better than the life of fear. Wotan's life was full of only fears and thus this contrast actually makes sense. From Wagner's letter to Roeckel: "Confess, in the presence of such a being, the splendour of the gods must be dimmed." The need for this destruction is something that arised from Wotan's deepest convictions (Wagner though doesn't exactly explain what he means by these "convictions" as he says that it can be understood by everyone who follows the course of the whole opera and drama...).

    When I read Wagner's letters to Roeckel then I feel that one of the themes that Wagner emphasises through the ending or "end" in general is that this is the requirement for love, one has to create Siegfried who lives fearlessly through love as Wotan did. Wagner points out that the loveless relationship between Wotan and Fricka is a result of their opposition to the universal law of change and renewal. Therefore I feel that the whole Ring is just an example of one step of human transofrmation among an infinite amount of similar steps. I don't feel it's actually anything definite.
    Great analysis, it has certainly helped me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Conte View Post
    But what does the so called 'redemption through love' motif actually mean?
    its melody sounds like a farewell, so it is unlikely there's going to be anything to start again with.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zhdanov View Post
    its melody sounds like a farewell, so it is unlikely there's going to be anything to start again with.
    This is too dependent on person. It might not sound this way to someone else and opera consists of music AND drama. Especially in the case of Wagner. Those two things should definitely not be separated and with every motif analysis it's important to analyse it throughout the Ring not only one of its occurrences.

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    Quote Originally Posted by annaw View Post
    opera consists of music AND drama.
    okay, the drama, and this motif appears first when Siegliende leaves the scene.

    this is the last we'll see of her, for she dies later on.

    a farewell, that is, a farewell.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zhdanov View Post
    okay, the drama, and this motif appears first when Siegliende leaves the scene.

    this is the last we'll see of her, for she dies later on.

    a farewell, that is, a farewell.
    It sounds like a hymn to Brunhilde's sacrifice in order to save Siegfried. In other words Brunhilde's human act of compassion is brought to mind in contrast to Wotan's having to follow his laws as dictated by Fricka. I see this as pointing the way to what the new moral order should base itself on with Wotan's law not being needed anymore.

    N.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Conte View Post
    It sounds like a hymn to Brunhilde's sacrifice in order to save Siegfried.
    no, it sounds like waving goodbye, and Sieglinde has no idea of what sacrifice Brunhilde makes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zhdanov View Post
    no, it sounds like waving goodbye, and Sieglinde has no idea of what sacrifice Brunhilde makes.
    Sieglinde didn't write the music, Wagner did and he was rather well aware of Brünnhilde's sacrifice. I'll stick with my own explanation that I stated above until proved otherwise. Sieglinde has to sacrifice her life in order to give birth to Siegfried. This, by the way, could simultaneously be seen as a step of transformation from Sieglinde to Siegfried. Sieglinde's sacrifice, as I already said, wasn't nearly as conscious as was Brünnhilde's who knowingly sacrifices herself to redeem the world. The idea of archetypal eternal feminine that I mentioned and that Wagner was well aware of is the redeeming power and moral guidance - this is one of the major roles that Brünnhilde, among other things, has.
    Last edited by annaw; May-19-2020 at 14:14.

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    Quote Originally Posted by annaw View Post
    Sieglinde didn't write the music, Wagner did and he was rather well aware of Brünnhilde's sacrifice.
    Der Ring is no genre of phantasy or about symbolism, it is realism at its highest... if the composer wanted the characters to know the upcoming verdict Wotan passes on Brunhilde, he would have gotten everyone there to learn of it beforehands.
    Last edited by Zhdanov; May-19-2020 at 15:11.

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    The gods end, mankind lives on. It's in Wagner's stage directions, there's nothing ambiguous about it.

    The Ring is about humanity's moral evolution; it traces the growth of human consciousness from the instinctive, infantile egoism of Alberich to the compassionate, conscious morality of Brunnhilde. The gods are the authoritarian transition between crude selfishness and moral autonomy; once they are gone, man is left with an existential reality which he must confront unaided by mythical fantasies. Brunnhilde, who defied the gods, sets the example, which is why the last music we hear is the melody in which Sieglinde had sung her praises.

    Wagner rejected the name "redemption by love" for this motif, instead calling it "the glorification of Brunnhilde." It celebrates the compassionate nature which made her alone capable of closing out the Age of Myth and bringing humanity face to face with itself. At the end, the orchestra gives an answer to the question "How shall we live?" The still unanswered question is whether or not we - the people onstage watching Walhall consumed by fire - can hear that answer and act upon it.
    Last edited by Woodduck; May-19-2020 at 17:36.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    The gods end, mankind lives on. It's in Wagner's stage directions, there's nothing ambiguous about it.

    The Ring is about humanity's moral evolution; it traces the growth of human consciousness from the instinctive, infantile egoism of Alberich to the compassionate, conscious morality of Brunnhilde. The gods are the authoritarian transition between crude selfishness and moral autonomy; once they are gone, man is left with an existential reality which he must confront unaided by mythical fantasies. Brunnhilde, who defied the gods, sets the example, which is why the last music we hear is the melody in which Sieglinde had sung her praises.

    Wagner rejected the name "redemption by love" for this motif, instead calling it "the glorification of Brunnhilde." It celebrates the compassionate nature which made her alone capable of closing out the Age of Myth and bringing humanity face to face with itself. At the end, the orchestra gives an answer to the question "How shall we live?" The still unanswered question is whether or not we - the people onstage watching Walhall consumed by fire - can hear that answer and act upon it.
    If I recall correctly then Cooke called it "redemption" motif (not "redemption by love" though - I think this makes a difference). To what extent are thus "redemption" and "the glorification of Brünnhilde" comparable names? This probably comes down to Wagner's final understanding of Brünnhilde's character. I hope my question is understandable.
    Last edited by annaw; May-19-2020 at 17:49.

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