Three down, one to go. We caught Siegfried, the third part of Wagner's Ring tetralogy, last night at the SF Opera (part I: Rheingold; part II: Walküre). We admit we're getting to the point where we we're slightly Wagner'd out. Despite the deft conducting of Donald Runnicles, we felt a little tired of the repetition and collisions of Wagner's leitmotifs. We're hitting the marathoner's wall, and here's to hoping that we'll catch our second wind. Maybe the Stockholm Syndrome will kick in on Sunday, and after 17 hours of Ring, we'll have withdrawal symptoms and refuse to accept it's over.
On the leitmotifs: those are musical ideas that are associated with people and situations; Wagner construct his operas by using those as legos, piling them up to get his walls of sound. He was relentless in its use of such motifs, no one before used the concept to this scale. The magic sword Nothung has its motif, Valhalla, Wotan's spear, the Valkyries (and in particular Br&unnhilde), falling in love, the Volsung, Erda, all these elements are associated with a melodic structure which is then modified, abstracted, shifted, deformed according to the circumstances. In Siegfried, a lot of things get tied together: Rheingold was a prelude which focused on the Ring and the Gods. Walküre somewhat ignored the Ring itself and the Nibelung gnome who forged it and plotted Wotan's devious plan to father a human hero who could act on his behalf. As Wotan's estranged grandson, Siegfried turns out to be this hero and his namesake opera puts him on a collision course with the Giant Fafner, the Nibelung Alberich and his brother Mime, Wotan, the Valkyrie Brünnhilde, pretty much everyone we've encountered thus far, all with their musical phrases attached to them. It sounded to us like an alphabet soup of musical quotations.