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Title: Maalaiskuvia II - Kokoelma novelleja
Author: Kataja, Väinö
Language: Finnish
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                    THE MENTOR 1916.02.01, No. 100,
                       The Ring of the Nibelung



                            LEARN ONE THING
                               EVERY DAY

                  FEBRUARY 1 1916      SERIAL NO. 100

                                  THE
                                MENTOR

          [Illustration: Wagner’s Festival House at Bayreuth]

                            THE RING OF THE
                               NIBELUNG

                           By HENRY T. FINCK

                      DEPARTMENT OF      VOLUME 3
                      FINE ARTS         NUMBER 24

                         FIFTEEN CENTS A COPY



[Illustration]

Do you stand for Richard Wagner or do you not? That question was enough
to sever friendships fifty years ago. It created a riot at the Paris
Opera in 1861. Wagner’s Art admitted of no compromise. It was either
Gospel or Apocrypha, and it had to be accepted as one or the other. It
commanded enthusiastic admiration or provoked strident resentment. Many
came to rail and remained to worship. Some came in curiosity and left
in dismay. For half a century Richard Wagner was the center of bitter
conflict. But the people listened to him and seemed to appreciate
and understand. In the blackest hours, the messages of Franz Liszt,
Wagner’s best friend, sustained him: “be of good cheer, the people are
with you.” So through half a century the Music Drama withstood the
assaults of criticism and ridicule--and the burden of proof now rests
with the opposition.

[Illustration]

The secret of Wagner’s success with the people and of his influence
on dramatic art lies in his naturalness of expression. His dramas are
epic poems of primitive elemental life, and they breathe the fresh,
vigorous spirit of the morning of time. His music commands our interest
even before we fully understand. It makes an irresistible appeal to
our feelings. His art is the art that conceals art. His music seems to
us _so natural_. As the dramatic situation rises in intensity, so his
music seems to lift us on an ever-swelling flood until we are moved
to our depths--though we may not know why. We are simply conscious
of having assisted at something which has swept us momentarily out
of ourselves into a world of throbbing emotion. And the proportions
of the drama before us are so well determined that it is hard to say
which of all the various scenes has touched us most. It is as though we
had walked in a great forest where the rich variety and completeness
of nature’s handiwork had been so absorbing that the memory could
not recall vividly the outlines of single objects. We get a certain
intellectual satisfaction from following the details of Wagner’s Art,
but the supreme enjoyment is in the effect of mass.



[Illustration: RICHARD WAGNER--PORTRAIT BY FRANZ VON LENBACH]



The Ring of the Nibelung

THE MUSIC DRAMA

Monograph Number One in The Mentor Reading Course


Music drama, as Mr. Finck says, is quite different from Opera. In
Wagner’s early years opera, for the most part, was a weak, vapid thing
dramatically, the plot foolish and flat, the music a string of songs,
duets, quartets, and choruses connected by dull recitative. The music
was showy, and of a kind to display the skill of the singer rather than
the composer. And prima donnas at times in their vanity would embellish
this most florid music with additional vocal flourishes.

Richard Wagner composed operas before he perfected his Music Drama,
but in several of these operas--The Flying Dutchman, Tannhäuser,
and Lohengrin--he gave plain intimations of the principles which
he developed later in what he called “The Art Work of the Future.”
Instinctively he reached out toward his ultimate object in art
before he had fully formulated his ideas; and the composers whom
he admired were those who had made music a means of true, dramatic
expression--Gluck, Mozart and Weber, in opera, and Schubert in song.
All of them made music the expression of the _composer’s_ intentions
as against the vanity of the singer. Mozart defeated the despotic
methods of prima donnas in some cases by making his arias so difficult
technically that the singers could not add any embellishments of their
own. But, while insisting on the claims of the composer, none of these
great musicians thought of allowing the drama to _determine_ the form
and style of the music. That is an essential principle in the Music
Drama. The music does not simply _accompany_ the drama--it is itself
the very expression of the drama. The Rhine music, 135 bars, opening
Rheingold, is not simply an appropriate accompaniment to the flow of
the river. It _is_ the river translated into musical form--so much so
that if played in a concert room apart from the scene of the murky
Rhine depths, in which the Rhine Maidens are circling, it would have no
meaning. And while a great deal of Wagner’s music lends itself readily
to concert production, and is popular as such, the interest in it is a
combined music and dramatic one.

The Music Drama is not a single art. It is a manifold art, combining
the arts of poetry, painting, sculpture, and music. Wagner contended
that the arts strayed away and fell backward after the days of the
glory of Greek Drama, because each art tried to develop and perfect
itself separately in its own way. Wagner asserted that the way to
the true, full, perfected art work was to reunite these arts in the
Music Drama. This theory he set forth in many writings, and finally
expressed in his compositions. His Music Drama, therefore, gives full
expression for the poet in the text of the play, for the painter in the
scenic effects, for the sculptor in the statuesque groups on the stage,
and for the composer in the musical expression which completes the
combination.

And none of these contributors, not even the composer, dominates or
controls the others--not even _accompanies_ them. The elements of the
Music Drama are more closely interwoven than that. The contributing
arts are amalgamated in one single complete art.

And this is what Wagner called “The Art Work of the Future.”

  PREPARED BY THE EDITORIAL STAFF OF THE MENTOR ASSOCIATION
  ILLUSTRATION FOR THE MENTOR, VOL. 3, No. 24, SERIAL No. 100
  COPYRIGHT, 1916, BY THE MENTOR ASSOCIATION, INC.



[Illustration: RICHARD WAGNER’S DREAM--FROM THE PAINTING BY
SCHWENINGER]



The Ring of the Nibelung

THE FESTIVAL HOUSE AT BAYREUTH

Monograph Number Two in The Mentor Reading Course


It was in 1870 that Wagner’s dream of a theater of his own gave promise
of full realization. In 1864 King Ludwig of Bavaria, at the age of
nineteen, gave Wagner his patronage, and backed him financially. By
this means, in the years 1865-1870 Tristan, Meistersinger, Rheingold,
and Walküre were performed in Munich. The King wanted the festival
house there, but the court and the populace regarded this plan with
jealous resentment. Moreover, Wagner preferred a more remote place
better suited to fostering a new art undertaking. So the little town
of Bayreuth was chosen. Wagner obtained from the municipality a free
grant of land for a festival-theater and his own house. The architect
Gottfried Semper was commissioned to prepare definite plans. Everything
was settled but the money, and the estimated cost was 1,125,000 francs.
Wagnerian societies were formed all over Europe, and in the United
States, and the interest of financial men in Germany was secured. The
foundation stone of the Festival-Theater was laid with great ceremony
by Wagner himself on May 22, 1872, the 59th anniversary of his birth.
The work of construction proceeded rapidly, although the subscriptions
were short of the total sum required. Ludwig made up the amount lacking.

Thus, after forty years of struggle, Wagner saw his colossal project
realized in 1876, when the Festival-Theater was opened for the
production of the Ring of the Nibelung. Three representations of the
Ring took place during the summer of that year. Then for six years it
was impossible to open the theater for want of money. In 1882 Parsifal
was produced there, and since then festival performances have taken
place there about every two years. Wagner, however, died in 1883, so he
saw only two of his own great music festivals.

The theater was a model in its way--which means in Wagner’s way. It
was planned entirely with the thought of the performance and not at
all for the display of the audience. It contains 1344 seats, arranged
in a fan-shaped amphitheater. There are thirty rows of seats, and at
the very back of the hall there are nine boxes, reserved for royalty
and for Wagner’s invited guests. Above the boxes there is a large
gallery containing 200 seats. The orchestra is sunk, and invisible.
Musicians descend on steps a long way under the stage into a kind of
cave, which has received the name in Bayreuth of “the mystic abyss.”
The space reserved for the stage is even larger than the hall. The
curtain divides the building almost into two equal parts. There is no
foyer for the public. The audience steps out readily from any of the
rows in the auditorium directly into the outer air, and can find refuge
and refreshment in one of the many cafe restaurants in the vicinity. On
the same floor with the royal boxes an annex was built in 1882, which
affords entertainment rooms for privileged guests.

The spirit that permeates the Festival-Theater is one of unselfish
devotion. The characteristic of everyone who takes part there is a
complete surrender of personal interests. Each one comes to Bayreuth
with a sole purpose of contributing the utmost to the festival play.
Therefore, no one, singer or members of the orchestra or chorus,
instructors or conductors, scene shifters or aides, receive any salary
or reward. Their travel expenses are paid and they are lodged in
Bayreuth at the expense of the administration--that is all. And in
return they are treated not as paid artists, but as honored guests.

  PREPARED BY THE EDITORIAL STAFF OF THE MENTOR ASSOCIATION
  ILLUSTRATION FOR THE MENTOR, VOL. 3, No. 24, SERIAL No. 100
  COPYRIGHT, 1916, BY THE MENTOR ASSOCIATION, INC.



[Illustration: THE VALKYR’S RIDE--FROM THE PAINTING BY K. DIELITZ]



The Ring of the Nibelung

DAS RHEINGOLD

Monograph Number Three in The Mentor Reading Course


In the beginning Gold, the symbol of human desire, lay in the bed
of the Rhine. It was worshipped and attended by the daughters of
the Rhine. Then it was stolen from them. In the end it was restored
to them, but between the beginning and the end it carried its curse
through many tragic chapters.

This treasure was called the Rheingold, and, when wrought into a ring
it gave its owner universal power. One condition only went with the
Rheingold,--he who owned it must renounce love forever.

Three beautiful Maidens of the Rhine guarded the gold, and Alberich,
the ugly King of the Nibelungs--the dwarfs who lived underground--tried
to make love to them. They rejected him scornfully, and so the dwarf,
seeing the gold in the river and knowing its power, forswore love
forever, and seizing the treasure, bore it off to his underground home.

Just at this time Wotan and the other gods were building a marvellous
castle. They did not have the strength to build this palace by
themselves, so they had called the giants to their aid. For their pay
Wotan promised them the goddess of youth, Freia. As her loss would
bring old age and decay upon the gods, he never meant to keep his
promise--a habit of Wotan’s, by the way. He trusted to the cunning of
Loge (Ló-gee), the Fire god, to get him out of the predicament.

When appealed to, however, Loge declared that after searching all
heaven and earth, he could find no way out of the difficulty. But he
also reported that he had heard of the stealing of the Rheingold, and
suggested that perhaps the giants would take the ring of the Nibelung
in place of Freia if the gods could get it away from Alberich. The
giants, between whom and the Nibelungs a feud had existed for a long
time, knew that if Alberich kept the ring he would have dominion over
them. So they agreed that if the gods would get them the Rhine treasure
they would give up their claim to Freia.

Therefore Wotan and Loge descended to Nibelheim. There they found
Alberich gathering together a great hoard of treasure by the aid of
the magic ring. Furthermore, Mime, one of his lieutenants, had made
him a helmet by which he could change his shape or become invisible.
Loge suggested that, to prove the power of the helmet, Alberich change
himself into a toad. The dwarf did this, and the gods promptly seized
and bound him. They then forced him to give up the helmet and the ring.
Alberich had to agree, but he uttered a curse on the ring that brought
death and destruction to everyone who owned it.

When the giants came for their reward, they placed their tall spears
upright in the ground before Freia, and demanded a pile of gold high
enough to conceal her. However, when all the gold was heaped together,
and even the magic helmet added to the pile, there was still a chink
through which the eye of the goddess could be seen. To fill this the
giants demanded the ring. Wotan did not want to part with this, but the
goddess Erda appeared and warned him against the curse, so he added it
to the heap.

The curse immediately began its work. Fafner, one of the giants,
claimed the greater part of the hoard of gold for himself. When Fasolt,
the other giant, resented this, he slew him. This was but the first of
the many tragedies that followed the ring.

A beautiful rainbow bridge now appeared, spanning the valley, and over
this the gods passed, and entered their new palace of Walhall.

  PREPARED BY THE EDITORIAL STAFF OF THE MENTOR ASSOCIATION
  ILLUSTRATION FOR THE MENTOR, VOL. 3, No. 24, SERIAL No. 100
  COPYRIGHT, 1916, BY THE MENTOR ASSOCIATION, INC.



[Illustration: WOTAN’S FAREWELL (DIE WALKÜRE)--FROM THE PAINTING BY K.
DIELITZ]



The Ring of the Nibelung

DIE WALKÜRE

Monograph Number Four in The Mentor Reading Course


Wotan and the rest of the gods were in a serious dilemma. They must not
get back the cursed ring, for its possession would bring ruin. And yet
if they left it with the giant Fafner, Alberich might recover it and
make the gods his slaves. There was only one way out of the dilemma.
The ring must go to someone whom the gods need not fear. As long as no
enemy had the ring, the gods were safe enough in their new citadel.
This was guarded by the Valkyr Maidens, nine of them, all daughters of
Wotan and Erda. Their mission was to follow mortals in combat and to
carry the fallen heroes on their horses to Walhall to form its guard.
Having provided for present safety, Wotan looked to the future. He
went to the earth and, uniting himself with a mortal woman, under the
name of Wälse, meaning “wolf,” he founded the formidable race of the
Wälsungs--Siegmund and Sieglinde--on whom he set his hopes.

Sieglinde, grown to maturity, was carried off and married against her
will to the rough hunter, Hunding. One night to the hut where Hunding
and Sieglinde were living came Siegmund, a fugitive, wearied with
conflict, and battered by the storm. He had been fighting with Hunding,
and had entered the very home of his enemy. Sieglinde came in and found
him lying exhausted by the hearth. She gave him a refreshing draught.
Then came Hunding, to whom Siegmund told his story, thereby revealing
himself as his host’s foe. Hunding would not fight him in his own home,
but challenged him to combat the next day.

That night Siegmund and Sieglinde discovered their identity, and
decided to fly together. At the wedding feast of Hunding and Sieglinde
a mysterious stranger, who was none other than the god Wotan himself,
had thrust up to its hilt in the trunk of the tree which supported
their dwelling, a sword which he said could only be withdrawn by the
bravest of men. Siegmund proved his right to the sword by drawing it
forth with ease. Then the two Wälsungs fled out into the night.

Wotan knew of the inevitable conflict between Hunding and Siegmund, and
he summoned Brünnhilde, the Valkyr, and ordered her to give Siegmund
aid. But Fricka, the wife of Wotan, the ever jealous guardian of the
proprieties, demanded that Siegmund be killed. Against his will, Wotan
yielded and commanded Brünnhilde to see that Siegmund lost the combat.
Wotan also told Brünnhilde of the ring, and of the fatal spell. The
giant Fafner, in the form of a dragon, guarded this ring. It could only
be won by a hero unaided by the gods. Wotan thought that he had such a
hero in Siegmund, but Siegmund was not a free agent, since Wotan had
been the moving spirit in all his actions.

Brünnhilde then appeared to Siegmund and told him of his fate, but her
heart melted at the despair of the lovers, and when the fight began she
protected the hero. Wotan thereupon appeared and interposed his spear,
causing Siegmund to be killed. The sword, “Nothung,” was shivered into
many pieces. Brünnhilde fled with Sieglinde.

For her disobedience Wotan revoked the divinity of Brünnhilde. He
condemned her to wed the mortal who should rouse her from the slumber
into which he was about to cast her. The Valkyr besought him that none
but the bravest hero on earth should awaken her. Wotan granted her
wish, and promised that she should be guarded by magic fire. Wotan then
kissed Brünnhilde, and cast her into slumber. He struck his staff on
the rocks, and summoned Loge, the Fire God. In answer, flames sprang up
and surrounded the sleeping Valkyr maiden.

  PREPARED BY THE EDITORIAL STAFF OF THE MENTOR ASSOCIATION
  ILLUSTRATION FOR THE MENTOR, VOL. 3, No. 24, SERIAL No. 100
  COPYRIGHT, 1916, BY THE MENTOR ASSOCIATION, INC.



[Illustration: SIEGFRIED SLAYS THE DRAGON (SIEGFRIED)--FROM THE
PAINTING BY K. DIELITZ]



The Ring of the Nibelung

SIEGFRIED

Monograph Number Five in The Mentor Reading Course


In the depths of a mighty forest stood a hut, and there dwelt a brave,
strong, handsome youth in company with a mean little dwarf. Every day
the dwarf was busy forging a sword.

The dwarf was Mime, brother of Alberich, the king of the Nibelungs;
and the youth was Siegfried, the son of Siegmund and Sieglinde. After
Brünnhilde had been cast into slumber by Wotan, Mime took upon himself
the care of Sieglinde. When she died, he brought her son up to manhood.
This was not kind heartedness on the part of Mime, but crafty wisdom.
He knew that Siegfried was destined to be a mighty hero, and he hoped
that the youth might slay Fafner, the dragon, and recover the ring for
the Nibelungs.

Sieglinde had entrusted to Mime the pieces of the sword Nothung, and
although the dwarf knew that no other weapon would serve for the
slaying of Fafner, he also realized that he was unequal to the task of
forging the pieces together again. Therefore he kept trying to make
other swords for Siegfried to use, but the youth broke them all.

One day Siegfried, angry at Mime’s continued failure to make him a
suitable sword, rushed out of the cabin in anger. Then a stranger, who
was none other than Wotan himself, in the guise of a Wanderer, appeared
to Mime, and in a contest of riddles, forced from Mime the confession
of his failure, and then revealed to him that Nothung could only be
forged anew by one to whom fear was unknown. When Siegfried returned,
Mime admitted his inability to forge the sword, and told the youth to
try it himself. As Siegfried knew no fear, he was successful. Then Mime
told Siegfried that he would lead him to the dragon Fafner.

Siegfried, led by Mime, came to the dragon’s cave, and, in a wood-scene
of great beauty, sat listening to the song of birds, and replied to
them joyously with his horn. Fafner, the dragon, was finally roused by
Siegfried’s horn, and came out of his cave breathing threats and fiery
blasts. After a mighty battle, Siegfried slew him.

Siegfried’s hand was scorched by the fiery blood of the dragon, and he
placed it to his lips to cool it. On tasting the blood, he was able to
understand the song of a bird that told him to take possession of both
the ring and the helmet, and to be on guard against Mime. Consequently,
when the dwarf attempted to give him a poisoned drink, Siegfried killed
him.

Then the bird told Siegfried of Brünnhilde, who could only be wakened
from her slumber by one who knew no fear, and who could penetrate the
ring of magic fire. Siegfried said that he had never known what fear
was, and he followed the bird to where the Valkyr maiden slumbered.

In the meantime, in his perplexity, Wotan summoned Erda and sought
counsel with her. Could she tell him how to stop the rolling wheel
of destruction? But Erda’s wisdom could avail him nothing now, and
Wotan resigned himself to the downfall of the gods. Then he confronted
Siegfried on his way to Brünnhilde and barred his way with a spear
to test his courage and strength. Without hesitation, Siegfried cut
the spear in two with his sword, and made his way through the flames
to the summit of the mountain, where he found Brünnhilde sleeping on
a rock under a fir tree. Siegfried gazed at the slumbering maiden in
amazement. Then, removing Brünnhilde’s helmet, he woke her with a
kiss. At first she shrank in terror from her fate. Then, recognizing
Siegfried as the son of Siegmund and as the bravest hero in the world,
whose coming she had herself foretold, she confessed her love for him,
and yielded in ecstasy to his embrace.

  PREPARED BY THE EDITORIAL STAFF OF THE MENTOR ASSOCIATION
  ILLUSTRATION FOR THE MENTOR, VOL. 3, No. 24, SERIAL No. 100
  COPYRIGHT, 1916, BY THE MENTOR ASSOCIATION, INC.



[Illustration: BRÜNNHILDE SLUMBERING, GUARDED BY MAGIC FIRE--FROM THE
PAINTING BY HERMANN HENDRICH]



The Ring of the Nibelung

DIE GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG

Monograph Number Six in The Mentor Reading Course


While Siegfried and Brünnhilde were happy together, Siegfried must
needs go forth to seek further adventures. He gave Brünnhilde the ring
as a pledge of fidelity, and she presented him with her shield and her
horse, Grane.

Siegfried journeyed along the Rhine to the palace of the Gibichungs,
Gunther and his sister, Gutrune. Hagen, their half brother, the son of
Alberich, lived there with them. Alberich had imposed upon Hagen the
task of regaining the ring. Therefore, on seeing Siegfried, he began to
plot. Gutrune, at his suggestion, gave the hero a magic drink, which
made him love her, and forget Brünnhilde. So, when Gunther expressed
his desire for a wife, Siegfried promised him the Valkyr Brünnhilde,
claiming as a reward, the hand of Gutrune.

In the meantime, Brünnhilde, awaiting the return of Siegfried, was
visited by another Valkyr, Waltraute, who begged her to give up the
fatal ring to the Rhine maidens, and so save the Gods from destruction.
But this Brünnhilde refused to do, counting Siegfried’s love a greater
treasure than her lost divinity.

Siegfried then appeared to her in the form of Gunther, which he had
assumed by means of the magic helmet. He forced the ring from her,
and commanded her to accept Gunther as her husband. Brünnhilde was
taken by her new husband to the palace of the Gibichungs. When she
arrived there, and saw Siegfried with Gutrune, she at once accused him
of having betrayed both herself and Gunther. The crafty Hagen then
promised Brünnhilde and Gunther to avenge them on Siegfried.

A hunting party was arranged, and during it Siegfried, who had become
separated from the others, was met by the three Rhine Maidens, who
entreated him to give back the Ring. He refused, even when they told
him that his refusal would mean that he should die that day.

Then the others of the party came up, and during the meal Hagen gave
Siegfried a magic potion, under the influence of which memory returned
to him, and he told the story of Mime, the dragon, and the forest bird.
As he was in the midst of his tale, two ravens flew out of the thicket
behind him, and he turned to look at them. Hagen immediately speared
him in the back, the only vulnerable spot in his body. Brünnhilde had
made the hero invulnerable with this exception, for she knew that
in battle he would never turn his back to the enemy. Siegfried fell
dying, his last words a passionate greeting to Brünnhilde, whom now he
recalled with rapture as his beloved wife. His body was placed on his
shield, and slowly the funeral procession marched back to the castle.

At the hall Hagen claimed the Ring, and when Gunther opposed him, Hagen
killed him. But when he attempted to snatch the Ring from Siegfried’s
finger, the hand of the dead hero rose in awful warning.

Brünnhilde then appeared, knowing the truth at last, and proclaimed
Siegfried the victim of tragic fate.

A funeral pyre was raised, on which the body of Siegfried was laid.
Brünnhilde tenderly drew the Ring from his finger, and cast it to the
Rhine. She threw a torch under the funeral pyre and, as the flames
rose, she grasped her faithful steed, Grane, by the mane, and charged
with him into the flames. The waters of the Rhine then rose and flooded
the castle of Gunther. Hagen was dragged beneath the waters. All was
submerged, and above the general catastrophe, Walhall was consumed. The
twilight of the gods had come. “The old order changeth, yielding place
to new.”

  PREPARED BY THE EDITORIAL STAFF OF THE MENTOR ASSOCIATION
  ILLUSTRATION FOR THE MENTOR, VOL. 3, No. 24, SERIAL No. 100
  COPYRIGHT, 1916, BY THE MENTOR ASSOCIATION, INC.



THE RING OF THE NIBELUNG

By HENRY T. FINCK

_Music Editor of the New York Evening Post, Author of “Life of Richard
Wagner” and many other works_

    _MENTOR GRAVURES_

    RICHARD WAGNER _By Franz von Lenbach_

    RICHARD WAGNER’S DREAM _By Schweninger_

    SIEGFRIED SLAYS THE DRAGON _By K. Dielitz_

    _MENTOR GRAVURES_

    WOTAN’S FAREWELL _By K. Dielitz_

    BRÜNNHILDE SLUMBERING GUARDED BY MAGIC FIRE _By Hermann Hendrich_

    THE VALKYR’S RIDE _By K. Dielitz_

[Illustration: BRÜNNHILDE

From a Painting by S. de Ivanowski, studied from Mdme. Olive Fremstad]

THE MENTOR · DEPARTMENT OF MUSIC · FEBRUARY 1, 1916

Entered at the Postoffice at New York, N. Y., as second-class matter.
Copyright, 1916, by The Mentor Association, Inc.


In the leading operatic centers the four music dramas constituting
Richard Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung are often performed separately;
but once a year--sometimes twice--they are all given within a week or
two, in proper order,--“Rheingold,” “Walküre” (vol-keer-a), “Siegfried”
(seeg-freed), and “Götterdämmerung” (get-ter-dem-mer-ung) as a special
“Nibelung cycle,”--and such a cycle is looked on by the highest class
of music lovers as a great festival, and is followed with concentrated
attention in all its wonderful details.

Wagner himself gave his “Ring” (as it is often called for short) the
subtitle “Bühnenfestspiel” (bee-nen-fest-speel), or stage-festival
play. It was in the summer of 1876 that he first gave it to the world,
in a specially constructed theater in Bayreuth, Bavaria; and he did
this in accordance with a plan conceived by him as a necessity more
than a quarter of a century before.

To understand why he regarded such a festival as a necessity we must
know something about the operatic situation at the time when he
composed this colossal and revolutionary work. The originators of
Italian opera, who lived at Florence three centuries ago, held that
the play (or libretto) in an opera was as important as the music.
In their eagerness to make it possible for the hearer to understand
every word of the text they banished all flowing melody in favor of a
dry recitative, halfway between speech and song, one of them actually
boasting of their “noble contempt for melody.”

[Illustration: INTERIOR, BAYREUTH OPERA HOUSE]

This, naturally, led to a reaction, which went so far to the side of
melody that finally nobody listened except when the prima donna or the
tenor sang a brilliant aria, the play being entirely ignored.

[Illustration: FELIX MOTTL

One of the leading conductors at the early festival performances at
Bayreuth]

Efforts to curb the singers and restore the play to honor were made by
several composers, the most important of them being Gluck (1714-1787).
So thoroughly was he imbued with the importance of the play in an opera
that he once wrote, “Before I begin to work I try to forget above all
things that I am a musician.” Yet in his operas, too, the arias remain
the principal points of interest, as they do in the operas of his
successors, Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Mozart, Weber.

[Illustration: DR. HANS RICHTER

The famous conductor, in charge of the orchestral forces at Bayreuth in
1876 and after]

Moreover--and this is the most important point--in Gluck’s operas, as
Wagner himself pointed out in 1850, “aria, recitative, and ballet,
each complete in itself, stand as unconnected side by side as they did
before him, and still do, almost always, to the present day.”

It was this defect of the opera--this _incoherence of its parts_--that
Wagner set himself the task of remedying. The result was the Music
Drama--the “Artwork of the Future,” as exemplified in the Ring of
the Nibelung as well as in “Tristan and Isolde,” “Die Meistersinger”
(mice-ter-singer), and “Parsifal.”


DIFFERENT FROM ORDINARY OPERAS

These seven music dramas differ radically in their structure from what
had been known for centuries as operas. Operas are made up of “set
numbers”; that is, solo arias, duos, ensembles (ahnsahmbles) for three
or four voices, besides choruses, instrumental pieces, and dances.
Wagner also himself wrote some operas: “The Fairies,” “Rienzi,” “The
Flying Dutchman,” “Tannhäuser” (ton-hoi-ser), and “Lohengrin,” in all
of which there are set numbers which are played and sung once and _do
not recur_.

Beginning with the “Flying Dutchman,” however, we have, besides the set
numbers which do not recur, others which do recur, and these are the
far-famed “motives” (German, _leitmotive_), usually called “leading
motives,” or guiding themes.

[Illustration: LUDWIG II OF BAVARIA

The young king who befriended Wagner and made his plans possible]

[Illustration: COSIMA WAGNER

Daughter of Franz Liszt, formerly wife of Hans von Bülow, who now as
Wagner’s widow manages the affairs at Bayreuth]

[Illustration: RICHARD AND COSIMA WAGNER

From a photograph taken about 1872]

A leading motive may be defined as a characteristic melody, or
succession of chords like the majestic strains of the Walhall music,
the heavy clumsy musical tread of the giants, or the virile, heroic
motive of Siegfried, which is sounded by the orchestra whenever in the
course of the drama the personage or the dramatic idea with which it is
associated comes forward or is referred to in the text.

Today Wagner’s early operas seem simple to all; but the German
audiences that first heard them, more than sixty years ago, found them
hard nuts to crack. His “Rienzi,” being in the flashy Meyerbeer style
much admired at that time, won great favor, although it is the poorest
of his works. His next work, “The Flying Dutchman,” was so novel in
style that the audiences did not know what to make of it. “Tannhäuser”
was still more Wagnerian; while his “Lohengrin” seemed so far beyond
the possibility of public approval that he could not get it accepted
for performance, even in Dresden, where he was conductor!

This was only one illustration of the hard set conditions of the
operatic situation. Wagner had so many reasons for dissatisfaction that
he joined the revolutionary uprising in 1849. This uprising was soon
crushed, and Wagner, with the aid of Liszt, escaped to Switzerland, the
great asylum of political fugitives. Twelve years elapsed before he was
allowed to return to Germany.

[Illustration: THE RHINE DAUGHTERS. FROM RHEINGOLD. Photographed from
the stage performance]

For six years he did not compose another opera, devoting his time
instead to writing essays in which he tried to explain the aim of his
“Artwork of the Future.” Nobody paid any attention to these essays.
The consequence was that, as he wrote to Liszt, “I lead here entirely
a dream life: if I awake, it is to suffer.” He suffered because,
among other things, he heard from many sources that the performances
of his operas given in German cities were so bad that it was hard to
understand how anyone could possibly enjoy them.


A MUSICIAN’S DREAM

If these comparatively simple operas were so badly sung and played,
what would happen to the more advanced and ultra-Wagnerian work which
now began to ripen in his brain,--the four music dramas constituting
the “Ring”? Their performance, he realized, would be impossible in the
opera houses of Berlin, Dresden, Leipsic, and other cities, as managed
and manned at that time. He had to fall back on his “dream-life.” And
he dreamt a wonderful dream,--a dream of Bayreuth, of a specially
built theater with singers and players selected by himself for their
correct performance of his next work. This dream was not realized till
twenty-six years later!

This next work was at first intended to be a music drama complete in
itself, to be called “Siegfried’s Death.” On thinking the matter over,
however, Wagner concluded that the poem was too full of matter for
one play. Consequently he wrote a “Young Siegfried” to precede--and
prepare for--“Siegfried’s Death” (the name of which was changed to
“Götterdämmerung,” or “Dusk of the Gods”); then for the same reason he
wrote “Die Walküre,” to precede “Siegfried”; and finally “Rheingold,”
as a prelude to the other three.

[Illustration: SIEGMUND AND SIEGLINDE. FROM DIE WALKÜRE. Photographed
from the stage performance]

[Illustration: BRÜNNHILDE’S SUMMONS TO SIEGMUND

From Die Walküre]

While the poems were thus written in inverse order, the plot of the
whole cycle had been in his mind, and written down, before he wrote any
of the verses; and the music, of course, was composed in proper order,
beginning in 1853 with “Rheingold.”

Wagner not only wrote the poems of all his stage works, but he was
a great dramatic poet. The full value of his poems, however, can be
appreciated only in connection with the music, just as the music makes
its deepest appeal in connection with the poem and the action. And yet
his music alone is compelling enough; for Wagner concerts, at which
the music is played without the words, are among the most popular of
concerts.

[Illustration: ALBERT NIEMANN

Noted tenor who created the role of Siegmund in the original
performances of Die Walküre at Bayreuth in 1876]

What we should specially bear in mind is that the music in ordinary
operas is simply _associated_ with the dramatic poem, or libretto,
whereas in the Ring the two are _identified_; or, as Wagner once
expressed it, in the music drama the poem and the music are “like two
pairs of lips in a kiss, each giving to and taking from the other.”

To practical persons Wagner’s life in Switzerland must seem deplorable.
He spent six years writing theoretical essays the sales of which
hardly paid for his paper and ink. Then he began to write and compose
his cycle of four Nibelung dramas, which he felt sure would never
bring him in a penny, even if he succeeded (which he doubted) in ever
getting them performed. But Wagner was not a practical man,--he was a
genius,--he could no more help creating the Ring of the Nibelung than a
volcano can help erupting when the time comes.

He finished “Rheingold”; he finished “Die Walküre”; he began
“Siegfried,” and got as far as the middle of it when he was compelled
to stop because of lack of funds. The royalties from his operas (which
since his death have netted his heirs over a million dollars) were
at that time trifling. Liszt and other friends helped him; but all
his efforts to help himself failed. For rehearsing and conducting the
London Philharmonic concerts during the season of four _months_ he got
one thousand dollars, or half what in recent times Jean de Reszke used
to earn in four _hours_ by singing one of the Wagner roles! He finally
concluded that in order to finish the Ring he must write a separate
opera that might be performed at once and bring him in some money. The
result was “Tristan and Isolde”; but this was as far ahead of the times
as the Ring, and no opera house attempted it till six years after its
completion in 1859.


KING LUDWIG TO THE RESCUE

In despair, he next composed “Die Meistersinger.” This, being a comic
opera and full of pleasing melody, would, he felt sure, turn the tide.
It did so; but before this occurred important things happened.

Encouraged by the success of a series of concerts he had given in
Russia, he spent his money recklessly in Vienna, and borrowed more, at
usurious rates, because he had been invited for another tour in Russia.
Through no fault of his own, this came to naught, and he had to fly
from Vienna to escape a debtor’s prison. First he went to Switzerland,
then to Stuttgart. In a moment of despair he had bought a pistol to end
his life; but better counsel prevailed, and he decided to hide in the
Swabian Alps, there to complete the score of his comic opera. The wagon
had already been ordered, and he was packing his trunk, when a card
was brought up with the name of Baron Pfistenmeister, court secretary
of the king of Bavaria.

[Illustration: SIEGFRIED AND FAFNER THE DRAGON. From the painting by
Hermann Hendrich]

Ludwig II had but recently ascended the throne of Bavaria. He was very
young, and very enthusiastic over Wagner’s operas. He knew that the
great composer needed help, and one of his first actions was to send
his secretary to find him. He was promptly brought to Munich, where he
was enabled to live in luxury at the king’s expense. Not only were his
operas staged at once, but also two of his music-dramas,--“Tristan and
Isolde” and “Die Meistersinger.”

He now returned to his “Siegfried,” which, with tears in his eyes, he
had abandoned in the middle of the second act. His plan was to complete
this and “Götterdämmerung,” and then have the whole “Ring” staged in a
new theater to be specially constructed in Munich. The king cordially
approved this plan; but the courtiers and the populace, jealous of the
great composer because of the influence he had on the king, made such a
row over it that Wagner left the city to complete his work elsewhere.


BAYREUTH AND THE FIRST FESTIVAL

[Illustration: AMALIA MATERNA

Famous dramatic soprano who created the role of Brünnhilde in the
original performance at Bayreuth]

[Illustration: MAX ALVARY

Popular tenor who created the role of Siegfried in America in 1887 and
sang it at the 100th American performance in New York, in 1895]

The inhabitants of Munich have had reason to regret their action in
opposing the plans of their king and Wagner. Since Wagner’s death in
1883 a score or more of festivals have been held at Bayreuth, bringing
millions of profit to that Bavarian town, all of which the Munichers
might have had. Bayreuth was chosen partly because it was within the
realm of Wagner’s royal friend, partly because of its picturesque
surroundings, and partly because of its seclusion. Special inducements
had been offered him to build the Nibelung Theater at the famous
summer resort, Baden-Baden; but he did not wish to produce his great
and revolutionary work before audiences of mere pleasure-seekers. He
had spent a quarter of a century in creating an entirely new German
artwork, free from all foreign elements and operatic fripperies, and he
wanted to submit it to serious music lovers, who would be sufficiently
interested to take a trip to remote Bayreuth.

Edison, the wizard inventor, who never spared himself in work, said not
long ago that genius was one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per
cent perspiration.

Wagner’s “Ring” is certainly a miracle of inspiration; yet when one
reads of how much hard work he bestowed on its production after the
infinite pains he had taken in creating it, one feels tempted to
say that Edison did not exaggerate. Monumental proof of Wagner’s
indefatigable industry is afforded by two volumes, one containing his
business letters, the other his letters to the artists during the
preparations for the Bayreuth festivals of 1876 and 1882, over both
of which he presided personally. He spent a whole summer visiting all
the German opera houses and picking out the artists most suitable for
each of the forty-nine solo parts in the “Ring.” With most of these
he corresponded personally, and also went over their parts with them
before the rehearsals on the stage. The orchestra was made up with the
same attention to individual merit; while the scenic features were
genuine works of art.

The Nibelung Festival of 1876 was a most important event in the history
of music. Among those who attended it were two emperors (William
I of Germany and Don Pedro of Brazil), King Ludwig II, the grand
dukes of Weimar, Baden, and Mecklenburg, together with many other
representatives of the European aristocracy; while among those who
represented the musical nobility were Liszt, Grieg, and Saint Saëns.
On all these, as on the ordinary mortals assembled, the “Ring” made an
indelible impression.

[Illustration: THE PASSING OF SIEGFRIED. From the painting by Hermann
Hendrich]


CONQUEST OF EUROPE AND AMERICA

That there were shortcomings it is needless to say; for everything was
so new and difficult to the artists. Nor were the funds sufficient
to enable Wagner to realize all his intentions. The cost of seats
($75 for the four performances--which were thrice repeated) kept many
enthusiasts from attending, and the result was a deficit of $37,500.

[Illustration: GUSTAV SIEHR

Who created the role of Hagen in Götterdämmerung, at Bayreuth, 1876]

[Illustration: LILLI LEHMANN

Celebrated dramatic soprano, who took part in original Bayreuth
performances and was the leading interpreter of Wagner roles in America
for years]

[Illustration: SIEGFRIED IN GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG

Photographed from Max Alvary]

This deficit, while it was a cruel blow to Wagner, was for the world a
blessing in disguise; for it made it impossible for him to carry out
his plan of reserving the future performances of the Nibelung’s Ring
for Bayreuth alone. There were no available funds; so King Ludwig, who
had contributed $50,000 toward the expenses of the Nibelung scenery,
got the privilege of producing the whole “Ring” in Munich. Other cities
soon followed, and so great was the success that Wagner permitted
Angelo Neumann, manager of the Leipsic Opera, to organize a traveling
Wagner Theater for producing the “Ring” throughout the cities of
Germany, as well as in Italy and other countries. These performances
were, fortunately, given under the conductorship of Anton Seidl, who
had been Wagner’s secretary for several years, and concerning whom
Wagner wrote, “No other conductor knows as he does the proper tempi
[changes of pace] of my music or how the action on the stage must
be suited to the music. Seidl learned these things from me. He will
conduct the Nibelungen better for you than anyone else.”


AMERICAN PERFORMANCES

Fortunately, also, it was this same Anton Seidl who conducted
the first performances of the “Ring” in America, beginning with
“Siegfried” in 1887. “Die Walküre” had previously been produced under
Leopold Damrosch. The success in these cases was immediate; for the
Metropolitan Opera House had imported the leading Wagnerian singers
from Germany.

[Illustration: ANTON SEIDL

For years the leading conductor of Wagner opera in America]

[Illustration: THEODORE THOMAS

Noted conductor who worked for years to make Wagner music known to the
American public]

The ground had been well prepared. Theodore Thomas had labored many
years to educate the public up to Wagner; his activity culminating in
the great Wagner festival of 1884, for which he imported three of the
leading Bayreuth singers, Materna, Winkelmann, and Scaria. That same
season Wagner’s operas and music-dramas began to lead the others at the
Metropolitan, and among the singers who helped to popularize his works
were Lilli Lehmann, Marianne Brandt, Milka Ternina, Albert Niemann,
Heinrich Vogl (fo-gl), Max Alvary, Theodor Reichmann, Emil Fisher, most
of whom had studied with Wagner, besides, somewhat later, Jean and
Edouard de Reszke, Olive Fremstad, Johanna Gadski, and the Americans
Lillian Nordica, Emma Eames, Louise Homer, and Geraldine Farrar.

The first of the Nibelung operas heard in New York was “Die Walküre.”
It was sung at the Academy of Music eight months after the festival at
Bayreuth, but the performance was in every way inadequate. In a way it
was fortunate for the Wagner cause that Abbey and Grau lost $250,000
giving operas in Italian and French during the first season (1883-84)
of the Metropolitan Opera House, just built at a cost of $1,732,978.
That failure induced the directors to try German opera, and for seven
years it ruled supreme; but the German singers, great as they were
in their own sphere, could not, with a few exceptions (notably Lilli
Lehmann) do justice to Italian and French works. The eager desire to
hear those again, under more favorable conditions, led to a temporary
cessation of German opera; but it so happened that one of the famous
singers engaged for French and Italian opera was the great tenor, Jean
de Reszke, who gradually became an ardent Wagnerite, eager to appear in
the Nibelung operas. He induced the management to reengage Seidl and
some of the best German singers, and once more Wagner flourished, side
by side with Verdi and Meyerbeer, Gounod and Bizet. Wagner now leads
in the number of performances, followed by Puccini and Verdi. Singers
of every nationality now seek to appear in the Wagner operas, and an
ambition of the great conductors, including the Italian, Toscanini, is
to interpret the Nibelung’s Ring, of which Liszt wrote: “It overtops
and commands our whole art-epoch as Mont Blanc does our mountains.”


SUPPLEMENTARY READING

  THE RING OF THE NIBELUNG                    _By G. Kobbé_

  GUIDE TO THE RING OF THE NIBELUNG    _By H. von Wolrogen_

  RICHARD WAGNER                       _By Adolphe Jullien_
  2 Vols. Fully illustrated

  STUDIES IN THE WAGNERIAN DRAMA        _By H. E. Krehbiel_

  RICHARD WAGNER                       _By W. J. Henderson_

  WAGNER AND HIS WORKS                     _By H. T. Finck_

  A STUDY OF WAGNER                      _By Ernest Newman_

  LIFE OF WAGNER                _By Houston S. Chamberlain_
  Fully illustrated

  THE MUSIC DRAMAS OF R. WAGNER AND
  HIS FESTIVAL THEATER IN BAYREUTH     _By Albert Lavignac_



THE OPEN LETTER


Dear Mrs. B--n:

I know exactly how you feel about Wagner’s music. You write me that
your club is to devote several afternoons to Wagner and that the
preparatory study that you have to give to it is “too much like
hard work.” You ask, “Why must it be so? Cannot Wagner’s music be
appreciated without having to master a system of things as puzzling and
difficult as bezique?”

       *       *       *       *       *

A very good question. It has been asked many times. It was answered
in a way some years ago when a very eminent New York music critic
found a young friend at a Wagner Music Drama poring over a commentary
and busily memorizing the leading motives instead of listening to the
music. “Go as far with that as your enthusiasm will carry you,” said
the critic. “Then forget it all--and let the music tell you its own
story.” “But,” was the answer, “I want to listen intelligently and not
miss any of the meaning of the music or the text.”

       *       *       *       *       *

That, Mrs. B--n, is your attitude. You want to understand the
principles of Wagner’s Art. Good. But don’t make hard work of it. I
have been all through the experience and I know what it means. I was a
young worshipper at Wagner’s shrine in the years when Anton Seidl was
making the Music Drama known in America, and Max Alvary, Lilli Lehmann,
and Emil Fischer filled the leading roles. Night after night, libretto
and commentary in hand, I sat through hours of Music Drama until I knew
every measure intimately. I could tick off unerringly each individual
motive as it occurred. Sometimes four or five of them would be going at
once, but none of them ever escaped me. By and by I got tired of this
academic exercise and then I made a wonderful discovery. I found that
my labors had been unnecessary. The music was plain enough to anyone
who was sensitive to music and who followed the drama attentively.
I discovered this through a friend whom I took to the Ring of the
Nibelung for the first time. He had not studied as I had, but when he
heard the quick tapping sound of the hammers in Rhinegold he did not
have to be told that it was the Nibelung motive. The heavy tread of
the music of the giants was perfectly plain to him, and so was the
mad galop of the Valkyrs, while the solemn measures that accompanied
the gods across the rainbow bridge made clear to him the majesty of
Walhall. At one time he turned to me and said, “I don’t know what the
text books call that musical theme, but it means ‘Pleading’ to me.” The
“Magic Fire” and “Slumber” music were eloquently expressive to him,
and whenever he heard the ominous beat of the kettle-drum he exclaimed
without hesitation, “That means ‘Fate!’”

       *       *       *       *       *

Of course this is easy in the case of the motives that are musically
descriptive of their subjects. But it is true also of those that are
merely arbitrary musical symbols, such, as the motives of the “Wälsung
Family,” or “The Compact.” Your attention is called to these motives
at the time when they are first played and instinctively you associate
them with their subjects when they are repeated.

       *       *       *       *       *

“But,” you may say, “that is not the way to master the score. A
commentary is surely needed.” A commentary is indeed a material help.
But, after all, you will have to go to the music finally, so why not
_start_ with the music? It is simply a question of the best method of
learning. The handbook and commentary method is like the old grammar
and speller--didactic and dry. Wagner music is a great deal better
than Wagner explanations. So, go to the music at once and follow it
closely. A great deal that makes up Wagner’s Art will quickly become
apparent to you. Intelligent, appreciative commentaries written by
scholarly critical writers are valuable reading, _after_ you have heard
the music. A course of handbook study before you are familiar with the
music is indeed, as you say, very much “like hard work.”

Sincerely yours,

[Illustration: W. D. Moffat

EDITOR]



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MAKE THE SPARE MOMENT COUNT





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