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Report from the Front: How Al Gore Is Ruining Opera
Submitted by The Atlas Society on Wed, 2007-04-11 20:33
How Al Gore is Ruining Opera
By Edward Hudgins
[A longer version of this piece will appear in The New Individualist.]
I love opera! Thus recently at the Kennedy Center I saw Die Walküre, the second installment of Richard Wagner's monumental four-part cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen, about gods and goddesses, giants and dwarfs, and mortal human heroes. The music, singing and acting were superb. But the program notes seemed like Al Gore channeling Karl Marx.
Consider "dramaturg" Cori Ellison's description (bold in the original) of the opera's themes. First, nature:
"The despoiling of nature through greed and ambition begins even before the stage action does, with Wotan sacrificing his own eye to drink from the Well of Wisdom and then mutilate the World Ash tree to create his spear. The destruction of our nation's environment also began early in our history, with the violation of our rich natural resources and the pollution and disfigurement of our landscape, which will surely lead to our demise if left unchecked."
How terrible that someone had the wisdom to rip metals from the guts of Sacred Earth for the orchestra's horns, trumpets, trombones and tuba; to murder World Ash trees for violins, violas, cellos, basses and stage settings; and to extract marble--the torn-out teeth of Mother Nature--to build the Kennedy Center itself!
"Alberich's renunciation of love in order obtain riches is startlingly familiar; it is but the Ring's first visible example of the sacrifice of love and ethics on the altars of capitalism and temporal power. One need only read the newspapers . . . to see this theme played out daily in America."
Gee, not even a "Thank you" to all those capitalists whose money built the Kennedy Center, either through charitable donations because they love music or, unfortunately, through their taxes for government grants to the arts. Oh, and the staging was a stale stereotype; king-of-the-gods Wotan was portrayed as-- everyone in unison now--an evil businessman, in pinstriped suit and all! How unoriginal!
"More subtly embedded in the Ring, but perhaps most personally important to our team, is the theme of woman's nature and role in society. The Ring portrays men as the world's destroyers, while women are its sustainers, sages--and sometimes passive victims."
But this opera was actually composed by Richard Wagner, a male. Plácido Domingo, America's greatest tenor, the Washington National Opera's director and a male did an outstanding job in the role of Siegmund, a male heroic character, whose son in the next two Ring operas was Siegfried, a hero and--you guessed it--a male!
Wagner does treat greed and power-lust in the Ring. But the dramaturg's political bromides aren't so much an analysis of what Wagner really meant as a case-study of "post-modernism." This is the notion that things can mean whatever observers want them to mean. In fact, it is an abrogation of standards in order to damn all things Western, while pushing a leftist world view to be taken not as interpretation but, rather, as gospel.
It's remarkable that such nonsense is flung into the faces of opera audience members who, for the most part, represent those universal, Western values and that they aren't appalled enough to call Plácido and explain that, as creators of the wealth that supports the opera, they could take their money elsewhere if they're considered such exploiters.
In one scene in Die Walküre Wotan explains that "I can create only slaves; a free man must create himself." To be human is to create wealth, as we Americans do when we employ the material and energy resources of the physical world for our survival and our spiritual well-being, for example, for opera houses, orchestras and performances of great beautiful. Let's hope that in the future those who benefit from the beneficence of creators will thank them rather than spit in their faces.
Hudgins is executive director of The Atlas Society, an Objectivist organization that celebrates human achievement.
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