Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Wagner III: The Reckoning

Here is another post from A.C. Douglas, both critiquing the "postmodernists" who castigate Wagner for being an arrogant German nationalist and showing that Mozart was just as big a nationalist. Great. Wagner was a German nationalist, as though the evidence of Parsifal and - to a lesser extent, Der Ring des Nibelungen didn't bear that out. Mozart was famously critical of the Italian influences in Austria and Germany. His fondness for Singspiel should show that, as well as a desire to eat. Of course, the problem of Beckmesser - as outlined by Barry Millington in "Nuremburg Trial: Is there Anti-Semitism in 'Die Meistersinger?'" (Cambridge Opera Journal, 1991) - is the bigger issue in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. " Verachtet mir die Meister nicht, /und ehrt mir ihre Kunst!" might be problematic for some, but the treatment of Sixtus Beckmesser poses more deeply-rooted problems for Meistersinger than any ode to German poetry. I am necessarily ignoring the problem of Kundry, which is probably as complex as the Beckmesser knot, but gets issues of gender and sexuality into the fray. Too much for today.

Is Wagner's nationalism and anti-Semitism of, ultimately, any importance to the music? Not really: the music deserves to be taken on its own terms. However, when one wants to place the music in context, then it becomes important - if not a sine qua non - to deal with the unpleasant aspects of Wagner and his philosophy. There is a choice: enjoy the music at the expense of the meaning(s) or apply the meaning to the music. I know what I would prefer to do.

However, if one wants to destroy the critics, it is easier to focus on nationalism, which was rampant in the milieu that produced Wagner and Von Bismarck, than deeply rooted anti-Semitism. For a change, I am going to cite a couple articles to read:

Barry Millington. "Nuremburg Trial: Is there Anti-Semitism in 'Die Meistersinger?'" Cambridge Opera Journal. v. 3 n. 3 (Nov. 1991): 247-260.

Ibid. "Wagner Washes Whiter." Musical Times. v. 137 n. 1846 (Dec. 1996): 5-8.


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