Ringlets? Ring Heads? Ring Nuts? Ring Followers? Cult of the Ring?

To use the analogy of folks who dropped out to follow the Grateful Dead around, a circus unto itself, the Dead with almost no major “hit,” still with an active following, cult-like, the similarities are evident. For a more modern variant, check out “Phish,” the band.
“Yeah, they’re a jam band, like the Dead.”

My sister first sold me on the idea, some years ago. Her introduction was simple and appealing, “Uncle Bob does this lecture beforehand, and then he and (Cousin) Julie argue about feminist issues.”

Go for the show; stay for the internecine debates.

As a family patriarch, the issues are near and dear. My uncle has been the current figurehead of the family for many years. I’ve always felt a kinship with him, and an intricate astrological analysis bears clues.

The idea of a family reunion of sorts, and one of the premier versions of a long, arduous performance cycle, fraught with “End of the World” overtones, and some seriously marathon operatic performances?

Sure, I’m in.


One of the seat mates asked if I’d seen this production before, and that’s where it starts to go wrong, as I hadn’t seen this very version. Same set, similar stage directions, but different singers.

“Oh, so you have seen this one.”

I guess so. 2001 Ring Notes.

Excellent seats. All the way to the left, but near orchestra. Way good. Thanks mom.

Cousin Julie — at a previous Ring Cycle — she told her boss she needed the week off, to attend the opera. When questioned, she says she just told them, “I’m from a dysfunctional family,” and that was the excuse for seeing Wagner’s Ring Cycle in its entirety — no further explanation needed.


Four afternoons, my uncle would produce his red loose-leaf binder, and read from his collected works. He used past and current scholarship with psychological variations tossed into the fray. A Freudian would see this as a gold mine, with brothers and sisters producing a hero who sleeps with his aunt. Part of it, too, is gods behaving badly.

My uncle was, at one time, a surgeon. My mother called him the professor, but addressing him as “Doctor” was both fitting and appropriate.

There’s an app, plays the “leitmotif” as the melodies echo back and forth across the four operas.

The Ring of the Nibelung is four operas, comprising a whole story, based on Norse Mythology, culminating in the Twilight of the Gods, GotterDammitsLong.

Das Rhinegold is the first, and barely two hours, not what many consider a real Wagnerian opera. This one, to me, as the most uneven with a few orchestral gaffs, sounded like un-intended and un-scripted notes. Then, too, the orchestra was noticeably louder than I’d recalled. Fortunately, there were several singers with the requisite pipes, to get it done.

Die Walkurie has the famous bit from modern pop culture, and seems fitting. Three acts, with the final two acts full of that music, and who cares if its loud? The daughters of the gods are flying around and being heroic.

Siegfried used to be a favorite, but this version introduced a totally different tone in the final act, from “Boy gets girl and they live happily ever after,” to “girl sacrifices everything….” Ouch.

Götterdämmerung was a problem in the past, as much happens, but under the tutelage of our uncle, it made much more sense. The first act ran over two hours, and there was never a dull moment. The longest and yet, went by the quickest.

This cycle, along with two other operas by the same composer, are the single source for the idea that opera is barrel-chested woman in breastplates and horned helmets, bellowing and braying towards the audience.

As alluded to, the shortest one is over two hours, no break. More like a prelude than an actual opera. The rest are epic in scope, and even more epic in delivery.

The family artistic gene runs deep. Appreciation and discussion kept us up late into the night, most evenings. Buddhists see it as a monastic study, Gnostics see it as gnosis, Jungians see archetypes, and I’m sure there are any other numbers of interpretations.

That points to the art as a stand-alone piece, or collection, because it touches on many different interpretations.

“I’m no feminist, but the patriarchy is on its way out, clearly.”

Certainly a valid point, and easy to substantiate as Valhalla burns.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Rhubarb Aug 13, 2013 @ 10:18

    Fire Signs revel while Valhalla burns.

    “culminating in the Twilight of the Gods, GotterDammitsLong.” Good one!

  • Kramer Wetzel Aug 13, 2013 @ 19:55

    It’s a t-shirt, I got one…

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