The Waters of Prometheus

Lawrence Kramer

in Opera and Modern Culture

Published by University of California Press

Published in print November 2004 | ISBN: 9780520241732
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520940840 | DOI:
The Waters of Prometheus

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The profound anti-Semitic nationalism internalized by Wagner's music has in time inexorably found expression in the Third Reich and the Holocaust. Even as these atrocities depart from memory, changes in the way music is considered make it difficult to dissociate Wagner's music from his politics. Wagner's association of the third act of Sigfried, including the love duet between Siegfried and Brünnhilde, to the Joseph-Arthur de Gobineau's racist theories of pure blood, appears as an excess. Indeed, it marks the historical crux of the case of Wagner, the moment after which the fires of musical art cease to refine the dross of sexual and national brutality. Nietzsche's description, in The Case of Wagner, of what constituted Wagner's betrayal both of himself and his listeners in the Ring amply reflects this juncture. The run-up to the love duet ringed by the magic fire inspired Nietzsche to concede Sigfried as a “free spirit.”

Keywords: anti-Semitic nationalism; Sigfried; pure blood; Joseph-Arthur de Gobineau; Nietzsche; national brutality

Chapter.  11897 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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