[Note: This post has been updated (1) as of 12:32 PM Eastern on 20 May. See below.]
How about a feminist Der Ring des Nibelungen? Thoroughly imbecile, you say? So do we, but the thoroughly imbecile never gave pause to the self-indulgent, self-involved cretins well-schooled in the nothing-too-imbecile Eurotrash tradition of vandalized opera production.
Following is a brief description of a new production of the Wagner tetralogy by German director Kasper Bech Holten for Copenhagen's Royal Danish Opera. The description is by Shirley Apthorp, excerpted from an article for Bloomberg News. We post it here without further comment as none is needed.
When Valhalla goes up in flames at the end of the Royal Danish Opera's new "Ring" cycle, Brunnhilde does not ride her horse onto the funeral pyre. She gives birth to Siegfried's babe. The Rhine floods its banks and a new era dawns with Brunnhilde and daughter in charge. Men have had their chance at running the world, and botched it. Now it's women's turn.
[This "Ring"] is narrated as an extended flashback with Brunnhilde poring over diaries and albums in Wotan's library, piecing together her family history in the moments after Siegfried's death.
The female perspective is evident from the start. The Rheingold itself [i.e., the Wagner-specified lump of gold in the first music-drama of the tetralogy, Das Rheingold, in this production set in the 1920's] is a naked amphibious man, kept as a pet in the Rhinemaiden's fish tank. He swims decoratively to and fro until Alberich fishes him out and chops out his heart with a pen knife. The water clouds with blood.
This Rheingold is organic matter, and the dwarf, a Frankenstein figure, forges it into a range of half-human body parts, a science-fiction helmet [i.e., for the Wagner-specified magic helmet, the Tarnhelm], and the ring itself [i.e., Alberich's ring of the tetralogy's title] becomes a bracelet formed like a double twist of DNA. Wotan hacks Alberich's arm off just above the elbow to get it for himself and keeps the hand as a souvenir.
In "Walkure" [set in the 1950s in this production] Hunding is a sinister militarist who breaks glasses and beats his wife [Sieglinde]. Sieglinde pulls the sword from the tree herself [i.e., instead of Siegmund, her brother and rescuer], and stays awake to hear Brunnhilde warn Siegmund of his forthcoming death. Atop the roof of Copenhagen's Glyptotek museum, the Valkyries sport evening gowns with blood- soaked hems beneath black angelic wings, and sort the mangled corpses of fallen soldiers into piles. Brunnhilde screams as Wotan tears her wings from her back.
"Siegfried" is set in 1968 and features the hero as a rebellious teenager with guitar, sitar and Jimi Hendrix poster in his attic room. Fafner lives in a subterranean laboratory, issuing statements via microphone through overhead loudspeakers, leaking chemical waste into the forest. Siegfried kills Mime almost by accident, and regrets it immediately. Brunnhilde, awoken from her rooftop slumber by Siegfried's kiss, recovers from her initial shyness to straddle her rescuer.
The Gibichungs are decadent Balkan warlords in [the last music-drama of the tetralogy] "Gotterdammerung" [set at the end of the 20th century in this production] with a limitless supply of contraband whiskey, cocaine and fast cars. Hagen, a psychopathic cross between Goring and Goldfinger, kills hostages for fun and lets his henchmen rape their wives as a special treat. Siegfried is quickly corrupted.
And just to top things off (as if things needed any topping off), here's a newspaper squib that was posted on the Usenet Wagner newsgroup (source newspaper not identified)* wherein the director, Kasper Bech Holten, comments on his Konzept. As before, we post it here without further comment.
Copenhagen Opera Mounts New "Ring" as Modern Danish Family Saga
The artistic director of the Royal Danish Opera, Kasper Bech Holten's "Ring" cycle is reported to have "played a role in changing opera's image for the next generation."
Bech Holten has the "Ring" set in the 20th century and "seen from a feminist perspective."
"We chose to make it a portrait of the most fascinating, dynamic and terrible century in mankind's history," [says Bech Holten]. "'Das Rheingold' takes place in the 20s, when the big ideologies are taking shape. 'Die Walküre' is set in the 50s, in a Cold War climate. 'Siegfried' is in 1968, when the young hero comes and breaks his father's rules. And 'Götterdämmerung' is at the end of the century in the Balkans, when the ideologies come crashing down."
"At the end, Brunnhilde sets fire to Valhalla," [Bech Holten says]. "But we let her survive. It is time to put an end to the operatic tradition of slaughtering all these dangerous and interesting women...."
(We know, we know. We said we'd make no further comment. But it's all more than just a bit much, and we simply couldn't help ourself.)
* Turns out, the "source newspaper" for this was none other than another article by Shirley Apthorp, also for Bloomberg News.