[Note: This post has been updated (1) as of 4:48 PM Eastern on 20 May. See below.]
Everyone's favorite cultural reactionary, A.C. Douglas has seemingly been taken with the vapors over a new, (gasp!) pseudo-feminist production of Der Ring des Nibelungen. Were I nearer, I would have sent — gratis — Mr. Douglas a draught of brandy to revive him.
So, Mr. Smith considers me a "cultural reactionary," does he.
Gee, what a surprise.
In labeling me a "cultural reactionary," Mr. Smith — a good and loyal supporter of and apologist for Regietheater (a.k.a. Eurotrash) opera productions (he's, for example, crazy for the Boulez-Chéreau Bayreuth Ring) — is merely invoking the expected and invariable knee-jerk standard "argument" against all who have nothing but well-deserved contempt for such self-indulgent, self-involved, self-serving atrocities. And as is also standard for supporters of such atrocities, Mr. Smith provides what he imagines is good and sufficient justification for the departures taken by Eurotrash directors from Wagner's own vision of Der Ring des Nibelungen; in this case, in the above referenced "feminist" Ring by its director, Kasper Bech Holten:
You can read the production synopsis [of the "feminist" Ring as given in our above linked post], as I did, and I think that you'll find it interesting, as I did. Der Ring des Nibelungen is — like it or not — an extended meditation on power. The 20th Century has been a series of experiments in power. From the fall of the old-line European principalities in the aftermath of World War II, to the rise of totalitarian states like Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, to the democratization and collectivization of Europe, the story of the 20th Century has been one of power in all its forms. If Herr Holten wishes to explore that in the context of Wagner's Ring, then he is fulfilling the subtext of the music-dramas better than any silly, half-witted minimalist approach....
There's so much wrong in that apologia one hardly knows where to begin ripping it apart. As good a place as any to start is, I suppose, to disabuse Mr. Smith of his curious (but, alas, not uncommon) notion that the Ring is "an extended meditation on power." It's, of course, nothing of the sort. Using the terms of Mr. Smith's own argument, the Ring is not a "mediation on power," but a "meditation" on the world-encompassing and -destroying evil that ineluctably ensues when love is usurped and replaced as a life principle by the will to human-created power.
That's not at all the same thing, is it.
Of course it isn't.
As to the socio-political rubbish of the rest of Mr. Smith's above quoted text, none of those events is of any import or moment whatsoever. It's all nothing but a laundry list of the tiniest of insignificantly tiny transitory blips on the ground of cosmic history, which history is the underlying and overarching context of Der Ring des Nibelungen, and that which makes the work the resonantly timeless and universal thing that it is; fundamental characteristics destroyed utterly by Eurotrash directors "explor[ing] ... in the context of [the] Ring" their own petty, tendentious, "relevant," earth-bound "vision" instead of illuminating the cosmic and timeless vision that was Wagner's; a vision not in any way obscured or altered by the "minimalist approach" which, not at all surprisingly, Mr. Smith, as do others of his benighted ilk, finds to be "silly [and] half-witted."
Finally, as to Mr. Smith's,
As to feminism, I can say only this: ... Das Rheingold shows what happens when men make bargains, shutting out their female peers. Die Walküre shows that only women provide salvation from the corruption of the bourgeois men - through disobedience (i.e., self-empowerment). Sieglinde disobeys Hunding and "natural law" and Brünnhilde disobeys her father, or the traditional patriarchal power dichotomy. Siegfried makes it clear that a man can only be a man, i.e., know fear and overcome it, through the other — the female (as opposed to the effeminate, represented by Mime). Whether Götterdämmerung ends in an Immolation Scene or a birthing scene, it is a catharsis brought about by a woman. [...] On one level, Wagner's Ring shows both what happens when women are disempowered and how empowered women can solve the problem.
Yes, well, I can only suggest to Mr. Smith that, 1) He reread Wagner's scores with clear rather than postmodern-clouded eyes, and, 2) proffer his above, um, odd postmodern bill of goods to the so-called "Women's Studies" departments of today's academy where it's certain to be a sure sell, and desist attempting to peddle it in saner, more well-informed, less agenda-driven quarters where it's just as certain to be the source of and provoke derisive laughter, and a myriad of good-natured if slightly off-color misogynistic jokes.
Just a well-meaning suggestion or two.
Update (4:48 PM Eastern on 20 May): Patrick J. Smith responds. Mr. Smith has clearly missed the point and thrust of my argument against his mischaracterization of the Ring as "a meditation on power," which argument pointed out to him that the Ring is nothing of the sort, but, and in terms of Mr. Smith's own argument, rather, as I wrote, "a 'meditation' on the world-encompassing and -destroying evil that ineluctably ensues when love is usurped and replaced as a life principle by the will to human-created power." I didn't at all imagine that the distinction between what Mr. Smith argued and my counter to it was of esoteric or arcane subtlety, but apparently it is so far as Mr. Smith is concerned as the distinction seems to have gone well over his head, and so was missed by him entirely.
I would further point out to Mr. Smith that his new notion that "[t]he story arc of the Ring is ... based on love," is quite wrong — entirely wrong, as a matter of fact — and I would suggest gently to him that he regroup and reconsider this new notion of his in the light of a clear-eyed rereading of Wagner's scores. I can assure Mr. Smith that there exist no "secret scores" consulted by me as he conjectured there might be. There's but a single Wagner score for each Wagner opera, and the ones he consulted previously are the very same ones consulted by me. The difference between our readings of those scores rests on the circumstance that Mr. Smith viewed them through a postmodern glass darkly, while my view of them was unencumbered by such pernicious impediments.
Update to the Update: Mr. Smith responds here.