The Nibelungenlied Essay Research Paper The original

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The Nibelungenlied Essay, Research Paper The original aim of this paper was to encompass the bulk of Mythology’s impact on the arts. Before very long I realized that to cover such a vast area, I would be treading dangerously close to a book’s length project. I then decided to limit the topic to Mythology and its impact on music, specifically classical. Again, this was an enormous field to limit to a short research paper. After considerable deliberation I decided to focus primarily on the music of Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883), principally his “Der Ring des Nibelungen”, or, The Ring of the Nibelung. The Nibelungenlied is a medieval German epic poem, written in Middle High German in the early thirteenth century. Its authorship is unknown. The poem is a mixture of Norse

and Teutonic Mythology concerning the early history of the kingdom of Burgundy. There are several versions of basically the same story, details are shaded but the end results are the same. Wagner used material from The Nibelungenlied (Song of the Nibelung), and the Vollsunga Saga (Saga of the Volsungs) for the majority of his master work. The Ring of the Nibelung, a cycle of four operas– Das Rheingold, Die Walkure, Siegfried, and Gotterdammerung–was conceived in 1848 and completed about twenty-five years later. Wagner began with the intention of writing the libretto of a single opera drawn from several myths about the race of the Volsungs and the Nibelung’s treasure; it was to be called Siegfried’s Death, and its content primarilly corresponds to that of the present day

Gotterdammerung (Twilight of the Gods). Between 1848 and 1853, before composing a single note of music, Wagner wrote first, Young Siegfried (corresponding to the present day Siegfried) and then Die Walkure, and Rheingold. By late 1853, composition of the cycle had begun with Das Rheingold. By 1857 he had completed Die Walkure and two complete acts of Siegfried, at which time he postponed work on the Ring for twelve years to compose Tristan und Isolde and Die Meistersinger. In 1869 he returned to Siegfried and Gotterdammerung. By 1874 he was completed and the first production of the entire cycle was held in Bayreuth, Germany in 1876. Without a doubt, Richard Wagner transformed the existing myth into something distinctly his own. With his execution, The Nibelungenlied became a

vehicle for the fervor of nationalism thriving during that period. Here was a story glorifying German honor and pride, again, at a time in history when nationalism was at its peak. Essentially, Wagner became the voice of a very proud German people. As history and myth alike have proven, pride can be, and usually is a destructive force when taken to extremes. The eighty or so years of German history following this period may be the best example of this the world has ever seen. Before discussing the myth and the operas, let us examine the reasons behind this unprecedented work. Why did Wagner feel the need to elaborate on the Saga? What did he hope to achieve? Where did it all begin. . . . ? Like many artists, Wagner was greatly influenced by Mythology. The majority of his other

works were based, at least in part, on famous legends. Der Fliegende Hollander ( The Flying Dutchman) is based on the Norse myth concerning the doomed ship and its crew, destined to sail endlessly never to find a port to call home. Tristan und Isolde (Tristan and Isolde) is the tale of the hero Tristan and the beautiful Queen Isolde, united by a magic potion in a passion that defies all legal and moral sanctions. It is considered one of the greatest love stories ever written. Parsival (Parsifal) is probably one of the least famous Wagnerian operas, but is derived from one of the more famous stories; the quest for the Holy Grail. The idea for the tentative Young Siegfried actually came from another opera on which Wagner had previously begun work. In October of 1846, the composer