1874: Wagner: Siegfried’s Rhine Journey

SUNDAY, August 2, 2020

Siegfried’s Rhine Journey: 1874

This is yet another miracle recording from the late 50s and early 60s. For the most part I’m only posting about music that is loved or at least appreciated by people who have no interest in opera – which includes me. Strangely, this is not from Siegfried, the 3rd opera in the Ring Cycle. It is from the last one.

From Twilight of the Gods…

Siegfried is actually a main character in the last two operas from The Ring. I won’t bother with the story here except to say that “Dudley Do Right” from The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends was a genius compared to Siegfried.

It’s all about Siegfried…

It really is, to a large extent, since Siegfried eventually brings down all of Valhalla. But in another sense it’s also all about him, because he has an ego the size of Jupiter to go along with his pea-sized brain. His story crosses over from Siegfried – which literally is all about him – and into Twilight of the Gods.

Did Wagner write it his way?

Apparently not, but I’m still checking. This popular selection is actually two parts spliced together from the Prologue of Twilight of the Gods.

I just found that out a couple days by listening to the whole thing. For those of you who don’t want to be tortured by more than four hours of very bad German written by Wagner for singers who mostly can’t hold a steady pitch to save their lives, please thank me. You have to be very patient to find the great music in the middle of so much nonsense.

What we know is from two sections he wrote in the opera…

In the opera there are two parts: one is Day Break and the other is Siegfried’s Rhine Journey. They are separated by about 11 minutes of very loud, pointless singing in German that you can’t understand if you are German. It’s all one long “vowel movement”.

The two parts blended together…

Someone finally had a good idea: let’s take these two really great instrumental sections and combine them. This is the famous music I’ve known all my life. The question remains: did Wagner come up with this idea of putting them together? Or someone else? I’m still trying to answer that question. But I love this music.

From Twilight of the Gods…

Siegfried is actually a main character in the last two operas from The Ring. I won’t bother with the story here except to say that “Dudley Do Right” from The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends was a genius compared to Siegfried.

It’s all about Siegfried…

It really is, to a large extent, since Siegfried eventually brings down all of Valhalla. But in another sense it’s also all about him because he has an ego the size of Jupiter to go along with his pea-sized brain. His story crosses over from Siegfried – which in this case literally is all about him – and into Twilight of the Gods.

Did Wagner write it his way, as a splice?

Apparently not, but I’m still checking. This popular selection is actually two parts of spliced together from the Prologue of Twilight of the Gods.

I just found that out a couple days by listening to the whole thing. For those of you who don’t want to be tortured by more than four hours of very bad German written by Wagner for singers who mostly can’t hold a steady pitch to save their lives, please thank me. You have to be very patient to find the great music in the middle of so much nonsense.

What we know he wrote in the opera…

In the opera there are two parts: one is Day Break and the other is Siegfried’s Rhine Journey. They are separated by about 10 minutes of very loud, pointless singing in German that you can’t understand if you are German. It’s all one long “vowel movement”.

The two parts blended together…

Someone finally had a good idea: let’s take these two really great instrumental sections and combine them. This is the great music I’ve known all my life. The question remains: did Wagner come up with this idea, or someone else? I’m still trying to answer that question. But I love this music.

Read on if you are interested in how it sounds in the original opera…

This is for people who just have to know how things happened. I’m a teacher, and I’m supposed to know about music. So I did the research. Here’s the complete story:

Twilight of the Gods, Prologue, Orchestral interlude – Daybreak (Tagesanbruch): stop at 18:59

At 18:59 there is around 10-11 minutes of heavy duty German opera. For now skip that, although the singer is Kirsten Flagstad, and she had an unbelievable voice. This is actually a small part of the whole opera that interests me, but wait later to try it.

Twilight of the Gods, Prologue, Orchestral interlude – Siegfried’s Rhine Journey (Siegfrieds Rheinfahrt): stop at 35:25

This is the second part of the orchestral music most serious musicians know. Around  11 minutes of singing get cut. It’s spliced together.

Now, the rest, for brave souls who are not allergic to very loud German!

Here is the whole section, starting with Daybreak and ending with Siegfried’s Rhine Journey. It includes over 11 minutes of singing and ends at 35:25…

The whole section is around 20 minutes long. I don’t like anything that comes earlier, and I don’t like too much that comes later, but I do like all of this. It is in all ways larger than life, and none of us will ever hear anyone sing like Kirsten Flagstad.

The fat lady sings..

Actually, Flagstad was not heavy. She looked stunning on stage, so with her good looks and gigantic voice she was enormously popular all over the world. She was known as “the” Brünnhilde:

A character in Norse mythology, also known by the name Brynhild. Brünnhilde, a Valkyrie, or woman servant of Odin, loved the hero Siegfried.

Flagstad was born in 1895…

So by the time of this recording she was nearly 60. I don’t have the exact date of this recording, but many people think she was the greatest opera singer of all time. Hype? I would say no this time. Her voice was miraculous.

I can’t understand any of her words, but I also don’t care. Anyone who ever heard he live said that in these recordings we only get a very dim idea of what she sounded like. I love her voice, and for the most part I loathe opera, so that’s a pretty amazing thing for me.

I like this in spite of the length:

Try to imagine that if you went to this opera you would at this point be through around 36 minutes of music in an opera that takes over four hours. If you understand this, you’ll also understand why sitting through these operas is a profile in patience.

The words don’t really matter…

I will mention again that Germans can’t understand the words. It’s all about the big sound, the vocal experience, so every vowel is modified for maximum power and effect, and that makes the vowels utterly impossible to understand. In other words, if you don’t have the words in front of you, or if you have not memorized them, you can’t understand anything they are singing about.

But that’s really a very minor problem…

The story is so simplistic that a  child could easily understand it, and Wagner’s German writing is utterly awful. (Yes he WROTE all the words.) It’s old German, so it’s as difficult for Germans to understand as Shakespeare is for us. The difference is that Shakespearean English is utterly brilliant, and Wagner’s German is moronic. It’s so awful that I can’t understand the English translations, and I read German fluently.

 

 

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