Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wagner's Ring: Turning The Sky Round - Book Review

Polished this book off tonight after working on it for about a week. At only 120 pages it could be read in a matter of hours, but is instead the type of book that requires considerable contemplation to draw out its deepest meaning. 

Based on a series of radio intermission talks given by classics professor Father M. Owen Lee during the 1988 and 1989 seasons of the Metropolitan Opera's Ring of the Nibelung productions, the prose is crisp and conversational, yet immensely deep and filled with brilliant insights into Wagner's life and work.

Beginning each of the four sections with a plot synopsis of the individual operas of the cycle, Owen then proceeds to analyze and evaluate both the external narrative of Wagner's work, as well as its inner philosophical and mythological significance, demonstrating over the course of the performance how Wagner came to envision, create, and ultimately be changed himself by this enormous masterwork of operatic metaphysics.

Drawing inspiration from a broad range of revolutionary thinkers from Schopenhauer to Nietzsche - and anticipating the confluence of psychology and myth soon to come with Jung and Freud - Owen shows how Wagner's own comprehension of his work evolved over the course of nearly three decades as he came little by little to understand its true meaning only as it unfolded before him. That revelation is mirrored in the compact pages of this stunning book, where nothing short of the fate of mankind and the death of God is discussed. For both a look into the making of a major work and a philosophical evaluation of its import, few books will stimulate greater conversations than this.