Help Me Dig Siegfried
May 18, 2011 10:58 AM   Subscribe

Help me do a crash course in Wagner's Ring Cycle in general and Siegfried in particular!

I'm going to a dress rehearsal of the SF Opera's performance of Siegfried on the 29th, and I'd love to be able to attend with some knowledge of how the Ring Cycle generally and Siegfried specifically works and what to look out for. I'm especially interested in Wagner's use of musical motifs in the opera so that I can be an attentive listener. Can you recommend resources online that will help me get the most out of this experience? Podcasts or anything with musical excerpts would be especially helpful. I already checked out this post but hoped the hive might know of further resources, especially Siegfried-specific ones.
posted by foxy_hedgehog to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I have no idea if this will help you, but good lord, it's engaging. Anna Russell's "The Ring of the Nibelungs" tells the whole story of the Ring Cycle (in three parts) and eviscerates the entire opera, all while playing bits and pieces of the musical motifs.
posted by xingcat at 11:12 AM on May 18, 2011 [6 favorites]

Unfortunately, part of the power of Wagner's use of musical motifs in Siegfried is the way he's pulling them in from the previous two operas, so you're necessarily going to miss some of that coming in cold.

It's not online, but Deryck Cooke's Introduction to Der Ring des Nibelungen is a great 2-CD overview of the music of the entire cycle, with copious excerpts.

Siegfried is often regarded as a relative low point in the Ring as a whole, but I personally like it a lot, if you can get past Siegfried's clueless gung-ho-ness. The first act has some great honest-to-goodness songs, which are rare in the Ring, and the third act has some incredibly beautiful music in it. The second act is a bit of a chore, but at least it has a dragon.
posted by dfan at 11:16 AM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Radiolab did a whole show on The Ring! But heartily seconding Anna Russell, though you may have to stifle giggles during the show..
posted by Erasmouse at 11:19 AM on May 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

N-thing Anna Russell.

But also Wagner Without Fear by William Berger. There's a bio of the composer, and each opera gets a chapter with plot synopsis, some discussion of the music, notes about the high points to watch & listen for, some talk of staging approaches... Even suggested recordings. The author has a great casual (even snarky) style and explains all this very well.
posted by dnash at 11:32 AM on May 18, 2011

It's pretty horrible, but there was a Radiolab episode on this exact topic called "The Ring." It does discuss the motifs.
posted by rr at 11:35 AM on May 18, 2011

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