Thursday, March 13, 2014, 7:30 pm
812 7th St, NW, Washington, DC
Metro to Gallery Place/Chinatown (Red, Green, & Yellow Lines)
Wagner’s monumental Ring Cycle is the culmination of decades of Romantic myth-making in Europe that reinterpreted and reworked traditional religious views. In the biblical account, God creates a perfect universe and only the Fall of Adam and Eve brings misery into the world, thus leaving humanity responsible for its own suffering. In the Romantic myths of William Blake, Percy Shelley and others, creation is the work of a fallen being and hence rebellion against the world order becomes justified. Drawing upon Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s reconception of Eden as the state of nature, the Romantics rewrote the story of the Fall as the institution of civil society and private property. In Wagner’s grand version of the Romantic creation myth, Alberich’s seizure of the Rhine gold and forging of the Ring sets in motion a process that corrupts the world order at its foundations, and yet paradoxically--as a kind of Fortunate Fall--ultimately makes possible the rise of a revolutionary hero and an (ambiguously) redemptive apocalypse.
Paul Cantor is Clifton Walter Barrett Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Virginia.
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