Author Topic: Why Rheingold and Siegfried are less popular than Walküre and Götterdämmerung?  (Read 953 times)

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Offline Alberich

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I have always wondered why. Das Rheingold and Siegfried have always been my favorites from the Ring Cycle (usually Rheingold, although there was a long stretch when I liked Siegfried even more) but never Die Walküre or Götterdämmerung. Don't get me wrong, I love them but when it comes to personal preferences there is no doubt in my mind that Rheingold and Siegfried are superior.

Is the reason for the popularity of Walküre and Götterdämmerung the element of humanity? Rheingold and Siegfried lack particularly likable characters (in fact I find Siegfried's treatment of Mime borderline unbearable) so for all the complex and understandable portrayal of characterizations and motives, all that violence without the soothing element may seem too rough. But that's actually what I don't get: people usually praise Siegmund and nowadays I actually like him - in act 1. In act 2 he becomes unbearably clingy, to the point of declaring that no one else than he (her brother (!) has a right to touch Sieglinde, to the point that he is prepared to kill Sieglinde in her sleep. Yes, very humane indeed. And the popularity of Götterdämmerung can be explained with the fact that it is the only opera of the cycle in which humans in general are really dominant as a race. No more mythological characters (not much, that is).

Or perhaps people like the music in those two operas more? That kind of baffles me, too. Siegfried is pretty murky in the beginning, true, but that makes the slowly emerging light all  the more spectacular. And maybe murky is a wrong word, except for the prelude of act 1 which is pretty gloomy, even if in a good way. Much of act 1 as well as act 2 however has warm sound, in low string instruments, yes, but it feels pleasant to my ears. And the waldweben of act 2 is absolutely sparkling with light, much like Act 3 and much of Das Rheingold.

And the action element - IMO Rheingold and Siegfried are among the most action-oriented Wagner operas (which isn't necessarily saying much, though) whereas Walküre and Götterdämmerung are more static. So what is it that the audience sees in Walküre and Götterdämmerung what Rheingold and Siegfried (supposedly) lack?

Any ideas?

« Last Edit: April 29, 2018, 01:55:41 AM by Alberich »
"Javert, though frightful, had nothing ignoble about him. Probity, sincerity, candor, conviction, the sense of duty, are things which may become hideous when wrongly directed; but which, even when hideous, remain grand."

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Offline Sergeant Rock

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So what is it that the audience sees in Walküre and Götterdämmerung what Rheingold and Siegfried (supposedly) lack?

Easily explained: Walküre has the "Ride of the Valkyries" and Götterdämmerung has Siegfried's "Rhine Journey" and "Funeral Music"...simple, see?  ;)

Seriously, though, why do you say those two operas are more popular? On what is that assertion based?

Sarge
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Baron Scarpia

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But Rheingold has the bit with the hammers and anvils!

Offline TheGSMoeller

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Easily explained: Walküre has the "Ride of the Valkyries" and Götterdämmerung has Siegfried's "Rhine Journey" and "Funeral Music"...simple, see?  ;)

Seriously, though, why do you say those two operas are more popular? On what is that assertion based?

Sarge

There might not be an objectively correct answer to one of the Cycle Operas being more popular than others, but I would agree that Walkure and Götterdämmerung have more well known or more-often performed moments, or scenes, so that might be where the perception is made.



But Rheingold has the bit with the hammers and anvils!


But Siegfried has murmurs.

Offline André

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It’s a very good and valid interrogation. It just so happens that Walküre and Götterdämmerung are my favourite parts of the cycle, so I guess my 2 cents will be worth their weight in (rhine)gold  ;)

You probably nailed it when you talked about the humanity of the characters in Walküre. The same thing happens in the last Ring Journey. Brünnhilde has put spear and shield in the attic and has happily settled as a hausfrau. Waltraute announces that Wotan is on a diet and will no longer eat Freia’s guaranteed-longevity apples. Siegfried has a contract put on his head and is slain in the only part of his body that is not supernaturally protected. The gods’ Vegas casino goe into flames. Hoover Dam is blown up and water floods everything. All the gods’ powers fail them one by one. Audiences love when the powerful are humbled. In that sense, W and G  have more appeal to our very human feelings than the other two operas. As I said, my 2 cents  :D
« Last Edit: April 28, 2018, 11:52:56 AM by André »

ComposerOfAvantGarde

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I have always felt that Rheingold and Siegfried are more self contained in terms of story. Although they are more action oriented, they lack the kind of tension between characters that are so prominent in the other two.

Siegfried and Götterdämmerung were composed when Wagner had developed a better sense of continuous music as well, without hints of a recitative style that we hear sometimes in Rheingold and Walküre. For a long time this is what made me prefer the second two over the first two.

I've come around to enjoy Walküre more only after I had seen a production live. I think Act 1 of Walküre is one of the most perfect single acts that Wagner ever created in terms of the pacing of the tension and the entire emotional arc throughout it. Also, this is Brünnhilde at her best. There's more going on in this opera in terms of a character driven story then there are in Rheingold and Siegfried, and I suspect this is something people really like.

As to at makes Götterdämmerung my personal favourite, well, Siegfried has always been an awful character (criticism of the classic hero archetype) so he is rightly betrayed but with what turns out are rather severe consequences for everyone, pushing the story on to the gods' final downfall. Such a great story and I think a bit more interesting than Walküre because we are discovering the consequences of everything that happened in the earlier parts. And also the music is happens to be my favourite out of the whole Ring.

Offline Mirror Image

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Das Rheingold is one of my favorite works from Wagner. Not only do I think it’s brilliant from a musical standpoint, but I love the fact that it has a short duration! :)
“It must be beautiful, or it wouldn't be worth the effort.” - Bohuslav Martinů

Offline GioCar

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I think Act 1 of Walküre is one of the most perfect single acts that Wagner ever created in terms of the pacing of the tension and the entire emotional arc throughout it.

Seconded! Act 1 of Die Walküre could stand alone by itself as a short one-act opera.

Offline Alberich

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Easily explained: Walküre has the "Ride of the Valkyries" and Götterdämmerung has Siegfried's "Rhine Journey" and "Funeral Music"...simple, see?  ;)

Seriously, though, why do you say those two operas are more popular? On what is that assertion based?

Sarge

But Siegfried has Forest Murmurs (nature tone painting at it's finest), a great guessing game which would make one think of Tolkien if only this weren't composed much earlier than The Hobbit, much variety thanks to 12 years break between acts 2 and 3, return of many characters from Rheingold that we didn't see in Walküre, Rheingold has amazing anvil sequence (as Scarpia said), bright Rhinegold!Rhinegold! ensemble, great orchestral colors, a stupendous prelude, great characters, awesomely atmospherical Nibelheim scene, and of course, Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla.

Are myths of R and S more boring compared to psychological drama of W and G?
"Javert, though frightful, had nothing ignoble about him. Probity, sincerity, candor, conviction, the sense of duty, are things which may become hideous when wrongly directed; but which, even when hideous, remain grand."

- Victor Hugo

Offline Wendell_E

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Maybe's it's as simple and shallow as there not being a big "diva" role in Rheingold, and having to wait hours before the diva wakes up in Siegfried? I joke, but I'm serious.

For what it's worth, according to the Met's online database, they've actually done Siegfried more often than Götterdämmerung, but even combined they haven't been done as often as  Walküre (which has two "diva" roles, come to think of it, plus a big "cameo" for Fricka).

Met Ring statistics:

537 Die Walküre
271 Siegfried
236 Götterdämmerung
168 Das Rheingold

113 complete cycles

Next season, they'll do three cycles, plus one extra Rheingold and two extra Walküres.
« Last Edit: April 30, 2018, 02:10:39 AM by Wendell_E »
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Offline mc ukrneal

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Siegfried has long stretches of singing and this can be boring for some (no action). I wouldn't be surprised if Siegfried was considered one of the most boring of all Wagner operas (not that it is necessarily fair, but this is the reputation).

Be kind to your fellow posters!!

Offline king ubu

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But Siegfried has murmurs.

but, but ... Wagner IS murmurs, nothing but  ::)
Es wollt ein meydlein grasen gan:
Fick mich, lieber Peter!
Und do die roten röslein stan:
Fick mich, lieber Peter!
Fick mich mehr, du hast dein ehr.
Kannstu nit, ich wills dich lern.
Fick mich, lieber Peter!

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Offline André

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Siegfried has long stretches of singing and this can be boring for some (no action). I wouldn't be surprised if Siegfried was considered one of the most boring of all Wagner operas (not that it is necessarily fair, but this is the reputation).

I recently watched a dvd of Siegfried (the Met Lepage production) and it struck me as the most vivid of the 4 operas, with lots of interaction and tension between the protagonists - certainly more so than Walküre and Götterdämmerung, where a lot of the action is quite static. That being said, I till prefer the music in W and G.

Offline marvinbrown

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  I am going to be a bit controversial when I say that the ring cycle is one whole integral work of art.  There is no such thing as Walkure being more interesting than Siegfried.  That to me is like saying "Oh I prefer the first and third movement of symphony x over the 2nd movement of symphony x. 

  But I will play along and say, no way is Siegfried boring or any less thrilling musically than either W or G.  This is what Siegfried has that is truly spectacular:

  1) The sword forcing scene
  2) the Fafner vs Siegfried combat scene
  3) the Brunhilde Siegfried awakening and then love scene
  4) the 3 question exchange between Mime and the wanderer

Offline Alberich

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That to me is like saying "Oh I prefer the first and third movement of symphony x over the 2nd movement of symphony x. 

Why can't one prefer one movement of a work to other?  8)
"Javert, though frightful, had nothing ignoble about him. Probity, sincerity, candor, conviction, the sense of duty, are things which may become hideous when wrongly directed; but which, even when hideous, remain grand."

- Victor Hugo

Offline marvinbrown

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Why can't one prefer one movement of a work to other?  8)

  One can prefer one movement over the other I suppose.  But I tend to view the 4 operas of the ring as more integrated than movements of a symphony (I admit that was not a good example).  Let me try this approach, sometimes, due to time contraints  I will divide the ring cycle into acts whereby on one day I will listen to the first 2 acts of Walkure and then the following day the last act of Walkure followed by the first act of Siegfried. I don't feel that musically I am listening to a different works.  It all ties in, with the repeating leitmotifs to present a unified whole.  Well that's just my opinion anyway.
 
  I guess the danger with viewing them as separate operas is that you could lose sight of the unifying themes that bind them all together.

  marvin
 

Offline Rinaldo

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I wouldn't be surprised if Siegfried was considered one of the most boring of all Wagner operas (not that it is necessarily fair, but this is the reputation).

In my experience, the reputation is merited. After Walküre captivated me pretty much from start to finish, Siegfried was such a letdown. To my heathen ears (I enjoy the cycle but don't study it vigorously), the music is simply boring.

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I am going to be a bit controversial when I say that the ring cycle is one whole integral work of art.  There is no such thing as Walkure being more interesting than Siegfried.  That to me is like saying "Oh I prefer the first and third movement of symphony x over the 2nd movement of symphony x.

I am at a loss to understand why you think that the fact that the Ring is an integral work of art means that one part of it can't be more interesting than another.

Offline marvinbrown

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I am at a loss to understand why you think that the fact that the Ring is an integral work of art means that one part of it can't be more interesting than another.

  Well musically, the leitmotifs repeat or are presented again in varying situations throughout the 4 operas.  For example the love duet at the end of Siegfried is heard again in Gotterdammerung.  The leitmotif at the beginning of Rheingold is presented again in a darker form in the Siegfried funeral march in Gotterdammerung, The leitmotif representing the giants, the wanderer, etc. are repeated, sometimes in varying forms throughout the 4 operas.   I can see how one might prefer the action sequence in one ring opera over another, but I tend to view the whole thing as one piece.  Just me I suppose. 

  marvin

Offline Cato

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Many decades ago I had study scores of all four operas and listened for many hours to them.

I found myself listening to Goetterdaemmerung the most, followed by Das Rheingold, Die Walkuere, and Siegfried.

The latter was not uninteresting musically, and I did enjoy especially the interaction between Mime and Siegfried.

But now, decades later, I can see why some people (like my younger self) might miss the charms of Siegfried: like Beowulf, it is in one sense almost a meditation on heroism, a pondering of the hero's duty and nature, rather than a showcase of the hero in action.   Of course, it also acts as a long, ominous crescendo toward Goetterdaemmerung, the apotheosis of the story, and so if it seems to have few scenes which are less than thrilling, and more scenes with subtler psychological menace and dread, that is by design of the tetralogy.
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