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Some of Wagner's characters are among the most striking in opera, but few of them seem like people we could actually meet. Kreisler jr in post #3 describes Wagner's "idea-driven" dramaturgy well. On an emotional level, I often feel that his characters are caught up and swept along by forces larger and more powerful than they are, like the Dutchman's ship forced to ride the waves until he finds redemption in love, or the vessel that bears the unwilling Isolde to Cornwall. In the case of Tristan and Isolde this is actually the essence of their story in the most concentrated form, with the lovers expressing the desire to lose their personal identities in union with each other and with the "Welt-Atems wehendem All" that Isolde reaches at the end, at least in her own mind.

I suppose I don't really have a favorite character, but I think Kundry, whom Leonie Rysanek said contains "all women," may be the most fascinating creation in all of opera.
 

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Loge is not really a character. I have seen the comment that he is more an elemental spirit than a "god" and he certainly fades into that rôle after Rheingold.
One might also think that in Rheingold Loge is partly an "externalisation" of Wotan's subconscious, like Brunnhilde in Die Walküre. Wotan kidded himself with Loge's help that he could get out of the bargain with the Giants without problems. Similarly, Loge is then needed as sidekick to deceive Alberich, not because Wotan wouldn't be sufficiently smart and ruthless but because as Lord of contracts, he cannot do it directly himself.
A bit like the potion in Tristan & Isolde that "only" makes the real desire explicit, it obviously does'nt creat the passion.
I'd say that Loge is neither more nor less a personage than most of Wagner's characters, the cast of Meistersinger being a deliberate exception. Characters functioning as aspects of each other's psyche, rather than as separate, rounded individuals, is a basic part of Wagner's unique, mythopoeic dramatic method, beginning with Vanderdecken in Der Fliegende Hollander. By the time we get to Parsifal, we have a dream world in which there are no real people at all but a single overarching psyche of which all the characters are mutually influential functions. What's always amazed me is Wagner's ability to make these symbolic beings seem real in their own terms, emotionally potent, engaging, and memorable.
 

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Hans Sachs - because of his humanity he exhibits as well as the personal growth of his character throughout the opera and reflected in the microcosm of the Wahn monologue. The most sympathetic character in Wagner for me.

Loge also gets a vote for importance beyond superficial appearances - he is certainly not a well-developed character in the narrative but central to the entire Ring plot behind the scenes.
Loge is the intellectual in the Ring. He's completely cerebral, uninfluenced by any emotion except amusement. That makes him refreshing in a Wagnerian cosmos, although someone like that in real life might be diagnosed a sociopath.
 

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Personally I find the Ring a little hodge-podge, it couldn't help but be anything but, being written off and on over 27 years. Wagner and his ideas did not remain static over this timeframe. As such, an attempt to tease out a single meaningful message from the work is not an endeavor I personally would commit time to. The Ring was a proving grounds from which Wagner cultivated his mature ideas, represented in the works Tristan, Meistersinger, and Parsifal, in my opinion his trifecta of true masterpieces and ultimate contribution to humanity's bold endeavor. I also find these works deal more with the higher planes of spirituality, metaphysics, and philosophy, while the Ring is more on the level of sociology, politics and economics, the indulgences of lesser minds.
Though I think you understate the Ring's depth a little, I agree that it couldn't have had the perfect artistic unity of the other mature operas. It's rather a miracle that Wagner was able to preserve such unity as it has despite the great changes in his musical style. But it's a unity that accommodates evolution: although the libretti were written in reverse order - sort of amusing when you think about it - the music was written in the proper order, so that as the drama becomes deeper and more complex the music follows suit. When the Rhine daughters return in Gotterdammerung, Wagner gives them new music that no longer evokes a fresh, naive world but a world grown older and shadowed by tragedy. It's really wonderful.
 

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As for the Ring's overarching message, I think it's stated by the Rhine maidens at the end of Rheingold and then plays itself out: "Traulich und treu ist's nur in der Tiefe / falsch und feig ist was dort oben sich freut." Empty pomp and transience. The realization that you can't have everything. The passing of an older, somehow inadequate order of things. I think the Ring is one of the most amazing achievements in art.
Traulich und treu ist's nur in der Tiefe / falsch und feig ist was dort oben sich freut.

"The trusted and true are only in the depths. The false and cowardly are what rejoice above."

If there's a through-line in Wagner's work, it may be this statement by the Rhinemaidens that the institutions of society and the ideas that justify them are betrayals of man's true nature, which can be realized only by looking within. Every one of Wagner's plots is an enactment of this belief.
 
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