Christopher responds to Roger Hecht:
>>Part of their appeal is their time and setting, and I've never seen the
>>point of "updating." Wagner is based on Norse and German myth and it's
>>always seemed wise to me keep it there--that's part of its appeal.
>Roger, but isn't this "updating" precisely what Wagner himself was doing
>to Norse and German myth?
You have a point, which may explain the temptation update Wagner.
>His stories are in every sense romantic and nationalistic interpretations
>of those myths and scarcely follow the original texts at all. So does
>"keeping it there" mean sticking with this quintessentially 19th century
>view of the German Dark Ages?
I guess it does for me, though I'm not strict about it. I remember
enjoying a rather abstract and austere Ring at the Welsh National Opera
some years ago. I had no trouble with the setting, but would just have
enjoyed a more traditional setting. That said, there was a lot of
adapting going on even in "traditional" settings, I'll grant that. For
all that, I liked the staging the Met did for Levine's Ring than the
Welsh one--of course it was far more expensive.
>Most of his political point-making is outmoded or worse nowadays.
>I don't think you're suggesting that The Ring's characters ought to be
>kitted out in authentic thongs and fur loin-cloths (or nothing at all!)
Well, to follow that argument, that wouldn't be Wagner's view, either,
would it? And of course there are things in the operas that are a stretch
to update. Wagner may be a mythological updating, but it retains the
feeling of myth more than, say, the Chereau--at least what I saw of the
>Light irony aside, doesn't the fact that whilst you might imagine
>the piece to look like the Arthur Rackham illustrations which charmed
>you as a child
As a child? Back then I was a jock hoping to be a professional baseball
or football player! I didn't come to opera until in my 20s when I played
in the pit of an English language opera company.
>[whilst I might want it to look like the 19th c. capitalist-workers
>Chereau production job which shocked me as an impressionable adolescent]
>tell us more about the dangers of "visual imprinting" than about the
>objective "appeal" of this or any other piece?
Hard to imagine imprinting on the Chereau, but obviously, I'm older than
you. I never cared for that, even beyond the idea of it being an updating.
>Some of the value of myth lies in our childhood nostalgia, sure; but
>more surely comes from its infinite capacity for re-interpretation.
>That's why new generations continue to be drawn into it.
Of course, through similar thinking we could update 19th century novels
as we do Shakespeare. The process would be different, of course, and I
suppose if you consider some copycat novelists, maybe this is being done
unintentionally. The problem though is how do you truly want to update
a Dickens novel without changing the language, which IS the novel. You
can't and part of the reason is that each time has its own literature.
For me, then, the preference is to keep the literature in its time.
Which I suppose completely blows my quibbles about HIP music performances
completely apart. I never said I was logical.
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