Friday 3 August 2012


When Angela Merkel went on her works outing to the Bayreuth Opera House for a performance in their Richard Wagner season, what did she go to see?  Was it the laugh a minute “Parsifal” or something serious such as one of the Ring Cycle?  Was it perhaps “Gotterdammerung” where it all ends in tears, or rather flames?

This wasn’t the only Ring Cycle around, these days there is plenty of choice if you like your fun grim, grimy and gruesome.  A choice one was at the Munich Bavarian State Opera.  In the Project Syndicate web site, Harold James, Professor in History Princeton University describes it thus:


The euro analogies are not just to be found on the playing field. In its annual festival this year, Munich’s Bavarian State Opera put on a new production of the apocalyptic Götterdämmerung, the final work in Richard Wagner’s four-evening cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen.

The doomed characters held onto a rocking horse in the form of a large golden euro symbol. The backdrop was a modern glass façade that alternated between a bank headquarters (with the word “Profit” in flashing lights) and a temple of consumer fashion. The crash at the end of the opera was a financial collapse in which corrupt bankers were eliminated.

In Andreas Kriegenburg’s Munich production, the euro is presented as the counterpart of Wagner’s own use of the Ring as a symbol for power, reflecting a widespread European quest for some conspiracy theory about what is going wrong. The Ring and the euro become the center of a bid by Rhineland businessmen for supreme mastery in Europe.

It is all a sort of musical parody of the view of the euro crisis expounded by Martin Wolf, George Soros, and others: Europe and the world are doomed by Germany’s relentless quest for export surpluses.

The way the tale is presented by Germany’s modern critics in the financial press, that bid for power is ultimately futile. On the stage, it all ends in a German way – in terror and destruction.

This kind of interpretation is not new. Even in the nineteenth century, the socialist writer and critic George Bernard Shaw produced a cogent interpretation that Wagner’s Ring was really a fable about the rise and fall of capitalism.

Wagner himself wrote letters to the mad Bavarian King Ludwig about the corruption of finance (though bankers’ remuneration at the time was not comparable with the handouts that Wagner received from the King).

He may have had the idea for the final cataclysmic conflagration while fighting in the 1848-1849 revolution in Dresden alongside the Russian anarchist leader Mikhail Bakunin.


If you want the full article, interesting and readable, see:

It concerns the end of Europe as we know it. 

Perhaps at Bayreath Angela was watching the new production of “The Flying Dutchman”, which I understand was roundly booed.  This is about a cursed mariner forced to sail the stormy seas, returning to land every seven years to find a lady who will sacrifice herself for unrequited love to save his soul.

I hope it didn’t give Angela ideas, she might have been better off at the Munich “Gotterdammerung”.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting - I think this is a good point:-

    "Young Europeans have become demoralized by the rigor and intensity of the global competition that they face. Drive and enterprise evaporate."