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Opera and Modern CultureWagner and Strauss$
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Lawrence Kramer

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780520241732

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520241732.001.0001

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The Waters of Prometheus

The Waters of Prometheus

Nationalism and Sexuality in Wagner's Ring

(p.75) 3 The Waters of Prometheus
Opera and Modern Culture

Lawrence Kramer

University of California Press

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

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