Sunday, May 10, 2009

Our first Wagnerian-American president!

I came up from Quantico on Friday to do some work at the Library of Congress, and Saturday evening went to the Washington National Opera production of Siegfried. The ‘American Ring’, as it is called, is of course an indictment of our ‘post-Bomb’ society. Each act of Siegfried is introduced by photos of closed factories, junkyards, and toxic waste sites. Siegfried’s forest home is a travel trailer, and the dragon’s lair is a bunker with great steel sliding doors. Alberich carries an assault rifle. But the most wonderful howler is Francesca Zambello’s Director’s Notes:

And finally we see a young, optimistic, vigorous outsider of mixed roots and humble upbringing arrive, ready to overthrow the old order. When we situate these characters and situations in post-World-War, post-Bomb America, no one needs a Director’s Note to feel the visceral gut-punch of Wagner’s opera.’

Barack Obama as Siegfried! Who knew? But it doesn’t bode well for the next installment, in which Siegfried will get a spear in the back (or more likely a burst from that assault rifle) and Valhalla goes up in flames. For Valhalla, Francesca no doubt intends us to understand the American Century—good riddance to bad rubbish!

Alas, WNO ran out of money, so Götterdämmerung will be a concert performance, with no Eurotrashy scenery and costumes. What a pity! Perhaps our first Wagnerian-American president could squeeze a million or two from his four-trillion-dollar blowout to fully fund the production. Francesca is certain to give him a suitable Director’s Note. Blue skies! – Dan Ford

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