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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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Loge is not an interesting character IMO because he has no skin in any of the games of the "Ring" (and this is a rather implausible stance within the world of these operas). This seems more evidence that he isn't really a god but, like Erda, more an elemental spirit. (The similarly elemental Rhinemaidens do have skin in the game because their gold got stolen.) He doesn't seem to care for anything, he seems unaffected by the weakening due to lack of Freya's apples etc. Consequently, he fades to merely instrumental flickering in the magic fire music, two operas before the other gods fade. When water and fire consume Valhalla and the gods at the end, I wouldn't see this as "Loge having won" but as further indication of disenchantment, from now on water is water and fire is just fire, not Loge.
 

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Loge is not an interesting character IMO because he has no skin in any of the games of the "Ring" (and this is a rather implausible stance within the world of these operas). This seems more evidence that he isn't really a god but, like Erda, more an elemental spirit. (The similarly elemental Rhinemaidens do have skin in the game because their gold got stolen.) He doesn't seem to care for anything, he seems unaffected by the weakening due to lack of Freya's apples etc. Consequently, he fades to merely instrumental flickering in the magic fire music, two operas before the other gods fade. When water and fire consume Valhalla and the gods at the end, I wouldn't see this as "Loge having won" but as further indication of disenchantment, from now on water is water and fire is just fire, not Loge.
I agree with some of what you wrote and disagree with other parts. You bring up Erda, which is a really interesting case; she and the Norns (which are little more than an extension of Erda herself) are the only actual deity-like beings in the Ring; Wotan is basically a human with a spear and some golden apples. Also, Floßhilde mentions a "father": "Vater warnte vor solchem Feind" / "Father warned us of such a foe"; this father doesn't seem to be Wotan, since he has only peripherally heard of the Rheinmaidens or their gold, so this father figure might be a counterpart to Erda. He isn't really a god, but that's because we know he is only half immortal. (Alberich mentions Loge was once his friend; I don't think it's mentioned explicitly in the libretto if Loge is half Nibelung or what exactly his ancestry is). This makes him, if anything, farther from being Erda-like, in my view; he's less of a god than the gods, and even they are really not all that god-like.

But Loge doesn't vanish at the end. His music appears in Siegfried, for example at "fühltest du nie im finstren Wald?" Also his music is (for obvious reasons) important for the ending of Siegfried, starting from the Siegfried/Wanderer confrontation and the orchestral interlude which follows. He's mentioned by name in the Norn scene, and we find out that he had openly defied Wotan between Das Rheingold and Die Walküre by turning into fire and threatening Wotan's spear. At the end of Götterdämmerung, we hear his music again as Brünnhilde picks up a torch at "Fliegt heim, ihr Raben," and she explicitly bids Wotan's ravens to send Loge back to Valhalla. As she finishes her monologue and sets the pyre aflame, we hear Loge's music again. Presumably, when Loge does return to Valhalla, he (being the demigod of fire as well as of wit) is the force behind its conflagration, having made up his mind as to whether he will burn the place down as he pondered doing at the end of Das Rheingold. This is the "Loge having won" proposition you mentioned in your post. In the source mythology, Loge/Loki is quite a different character, but he does end up waging war on the gods in the end. But even leaving that aside, I think that Wagner leaves enough evidence to suggest that Loge is an important character for the entire cycle.
 

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As I said, I think Loge becomes just a symbol for fire already at the end of Walküre and eventually mundane fire in the world after the gods. He obviously does not belong to the Valhallian gods as is clear from his famous quote at the end of Rheingold when the other gods enter Valhalla "Ihrem Ende eilen sie zu, die so stark im Bestehen sich wähnen" (this should be printed out and tacked on the walls of any president's or CEO's office...) If Loge wins, than not as a character in the play but as a force of nature. Although one point of the end does seem to be that this is not a restoration of the primeval world dominated by elementary forces (instead of nibelungs, gods, giants) but the world of men and in my view this comes along with a disenchantment of these elemental forces.
I agree that there is a hint of a "Rhinefather" (interestingly in German there is the phrase "Vater Rhein" as old fashioned honorific for the country's most important river) who might be the first water elemental in analogy to Erda and Loge.
 

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Rheingold seems to me a caricature on capitalism, even without Patrice Chereau's production. Three rich heiresses (old money) **** off they fortune. A group of rascals struggles for it among themselves. There are high burgoisie mixed with aristocracy headed by an alpha-male with spear and their inimical neighbors, skilled in building. There is bourgeoisie of lower social strata, but even more aggressive and unscrupulous, their primary business was metall industry. He layed hold of the gold even without marital gambling. At last, a lawyer - busyness executive - broker, whatever you like, who helped first group and wasn't destroyed in the act. Fire is his advertising identity. Did Ayn Rand like Wagner?
Following operas are rather psychoanalytic than evidently sociological. But this theme appears again in Götterdämmerung.
 

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Rheingold seems to me a caricature on capitalism, even without Patrice Chereau's production. Three rich heiresses (old money) **** off they fortune. A group of rascals struggles for it among themselves. There are high burgoisie mixed with aristocracy headed by an alpha-male with spear and their inimical neighbors, skilled in building. There is bourgeoisie of lower social strata, but even more aggressive and unscrupulous, their primary business was metall industry. He layed hold of the gold even without marital gambling. At last, a lawyer - busyness executive - broker, whatever you like, who helped first group and wasn't destroyed in the act. Fire is his advertising identity. Did Ayn Rand like Wagner?
Following operas are rather psychoanalytic than evidently sociological. But this theme appears again in Götterdämmerung.
I hope I haven't offended anyone.
Far from it! Sounds like you would agree with George Bernard Shaw: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Perfect_Wagnerite
 

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Wotan is such a complex and enigmatic character . In Das Rheingold he seems to be totally amoral , like Loge . But in Die Walkure, he seems more human , vulnerable and tragic . You feel his grief at having to. strip Brunnhilde of her godhood and leaving her on a rock surrounded by fire . In Siegfried Wotan seems. to have. become more detached and. he. calmly accepts his inevitable loss of power and. resigns himself to his ultimate fate which will take place in Gotterdammerung .
 

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Wotan and Hans Sachs have always been my favorites and both are filled with complexities that I think certainly put them in the most interesting category. I do love Rheingold Alberich (don't know him so well in the other operas), particularly when its Gustav Neidlinger....Eric Owens didn't get me so much....and I think Alberich's lack of roundedness does not, for me, make him one dimenional. He feels to me like a magnificent embodiment of a member of a put down group, whose expressions come from the same place and are so virulent because of the way he has been treated.
 

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Rheingold seems to me a caricature on capitalism
 

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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.
 

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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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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.
I think one thing that's important to keep always in mind is that these operas or music-dramas were intended to be performed live on a stage in front of an audience, like Shakespeare's plays, and not dissected on our hi-fi systems. So the element of spectacle comes into play, as you can see by the detail Wagner goes into in his stage directions in the scores. And seriously, I think Wagner is second only to Shakespeare in his sheer brilliant dramatic instincts. Both could take some of the loopiest scenarios and make them work dramatically. Brecht may be up there with them too. 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.
 

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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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Re: the Ring, here's an interesting video illustrating the melding of various motifs during the ending of Götterdämmerung. It isn't a hodge-podge; one of the amazing things to me is the artistic control Wagner maintained over the whole project over the course of more than two decades.
Now that's something I think is truly original (and multi-dimensional) in its creation. I'm reminded of a certain member in the Classical music discussion forum who imv overrates the "narrative structural cyclic thematic processes" (or whatever) of the instrumental stuff of Brahms, Franck, Tchaikovsky
With the exception of Wagner, I can't see what's so original about theirs regarding the "design" you frequently talk about. Based on what you've explained regarding that topic, it seems a bit derivative of what came before them.
he always talks like "Rachmaninoff PC#2: thematic material of the 1st movement is tranferred to the 3rd movement! wow.. INGENIOUS!". It's kind of funny to me, cause frankly they don't really seem to be a new thing from, say,
 
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