In Which Lanzini Earns his Spurs, Tristan Sees the Light and its Top ‘alf Only

Post 27

Oh what a night! Late September back in ’63…

Sorry wrong record but what a night! We rocked, we rolled we twisted we shouted.

 

On what was no doubt Don’s first ever Friday night football match, the Olympic Stadium provided a dramatic setting to entertain our much-loved neighbours from up the road in N17. It’s always an event when Spurs are in town but this year the tension, the expectation and above all the apprehension was palpable. They arrived Cock-a hoop. Awesome is an over-used and oft inappropriate word but nine wins on the bounce indeed inspires awe. Don was afraid, very afraid. The pain of seeing Tottenham “coming for Chelsea” at our place would have been too much to bear.

But some optimism was justified. This time last year, their circumstances were similar (ours weren’t) and we’d stopped them in their tracks. Moreover, our form had improved recently, no goals but a solid defence. The return of Reid into a back three brings dependability and positional awareness that inspires confidence. One may say Adrian has also contributed but his jury is still hovering near the door.

Three clean sheets in the previous four games is excellent. Yes two nil-nils but sometimes Nil-Nil Satis Nisi Optimum, as they say around Everton. Our back three had Lukaku in their pocket so why not the far inferior Harry Kane? The phrase knocking around after the Everton game was that we “out Everton’d” them; meaning pre-Koeman Everton with the high pressing, hunting in packs and the style that has become a watchword of this season, personified by Spurs though ironically Everton have since been slightly more refined.

EvertonStroke

Against Stoke we were expressive but couldn’t finish off the chances we created.

So Spurs was maybe not the foregone conclusion it initially appeared…though probably would be.

But first a philosophical question: why does Don dislike Spurs with such vigour? He is envious of Chelsea so at least there’s some logic to that hatred and Arsenal do not raise the hackles with any real spirit. Brother Don (he of the dodgy Incest Post 7 ) supports them, could that be it? Not really. He only started supporting them 40 years ago to pinch that nerve. And it’s not as if they’ve had any real success to cause upset.

No, I think the issue runs deeper, in something neither Spurs or anyone can help. There was a Dr Who episode from 2006 in which miners have developed technology to dig very deep beneath the earth. Much deeper than any respecter of nature and unknown forces, should go. It’s the Wahn taking hold. Eventually, they discover why they should not have been drilling, for it is Beelzebub, the Devil himself that resides there; he has been disturbed and is not best pleased. Well that of course is fiction but sorry to report folks but I have it on pretty reliable authority that in actual fact the Devil resides deep beneath White Hart Lane and nothing good will come of the deep piling currently underway. Not Spurs’ fault; just the way it is and no team of the Devil will curry favour with Don.

the-devil

(sorry to rip whoever has copyright of this. I’m guessing BBC)

Don sincerely tries to warn his several Spursey friends (especially the three with whom he shared delightful pre-match Riojas at Enrique Tomas) but they won’t listen.

To the game! One may report that Don was really up for the fight but with 30 seconds gone he remembers looking at the clock, willing it to be over and we’d take the nil-nil.

But we swiftly grew into something resembling ok. Letting them have the ball in non-dangerous areas and closing down vociferously when needed. Noble of course had read the Julian Dicks pre-match relaxation routine and nearly permanently crippled Dyer. Mark, we all hark back to 1992 but this is 2017 and we’d quite like to keep 11 players on the field. Little Don remarked early on that their defenders were playing very high up, especially Walker and we could easily expose that with the right ball. Both Ayew and Calleri had chances to slot people in but didn’t quite have the guile but Noble and then Ayew did manage it, both times for Lanzini. We were not only holding them quite comfortably at the back (the Adrian flick over the bar aside), we showed signs of hurting them. The atmosphere began to cackle.

A word about Calleri. Its been hard to fathom why he is consistently preferred to Fletcher but no-one can argue with the shift he put in, as he did against Everton and Sunderland.  He single-handedly more than occupied Alderweireld and Vertonghen allowing opportunities for Ayew and especially Lanzini. It’s a shame we won’t keep him (which is probably correct to allow room for Fletcher and Martinez to bloom) but he will have learned a lot from his time with us and there’s a decent player somewhere in there. Somewhere.

In the second half we went up a gear and it surprised Tottenham, who looked increasingly ruffled, even before the goal. I thought Slaven’s tactics were spot on. We have four players; Byram, Creswell, Noble and Kouyate who are all decent but very capable of ill-discipline and getting wrong side. But they all stuck to the task manfully and both this and the back three formation allowed centre backs to attack the ball quite high up knowing someone had their back should it not work out. It invariably worked out. The rest of the ream replicated this attitude.

The passage of play just before the goal was an example. Ayew, without much hope of getting the ball put Vertonghen (was it?) under pressure into making a poor clearance. We collected possession and the rest is history. Don has seen precious few goals from his seat in the East Lower and no others (even Payet v Boro) resulted in him dancing in the aisle.  It was a wonderful moment as his Cha-Cha-Cha is indeed a sight to behold. And what can we say about Lanzini? The cliche is that was everywhere. Except he wasn’t; he focused on doing what he does best in positions where it could hurt them and often that was drifting into the space Walker had just vacated. He has emerged admirably from beneath the rock that was last season’s supporting role to being the main attraction. He deserves the plaudits and he will win goal of the season.

Considering what was at stake for them, the Hammers coped with the Spuds quite comfortably because we were simply pretty good. The fact is that our defence and midfield (even without Don’s favourite Obiang), is capable of competing with top 6 sides. It is up front that we are woefully short and surely that will be addressed in a few weeks. (Deja vu).

At the final whistle the place was rocking and it was a night no West Ham fan will forget. Maybe this spectacular stadium that contrives to be a monstrosity of a football ground, can feel like home. What choice do we have?

Suddenly albeit temporarily we are ninth. Top half eh? That takes me back but its the least we are entitled to expect. Tomorrow Don is going to see one of his favourite films, Brassed Off at the Albert Hall complimented live by the Grimethorpe Colliery Band. What an absolute bloody treat. Should my Dear Reader have the impeccable taste to have seen the film, he/she will recall the quote from the lovely, nay gorgeous, Tara Fitzgerald, in recalling pubescent playground experimentation. “Top ‘alf Only!” Listen up Daves and think on…Top ‘alf Only!

gallery-1476463454-brassed-off-2.jpg

(apologies to whoever has copyright – don’t worry, only Don’s Mum reads this.)

Last week Don went to a Wagner Society lecture on Tristan and Isolde given by wonderful Anthony Negus and the equally wonderful Carmen Jakobi. Both of Longborough Festival Opera and its production of Tristan and Isolde next month, to be conducted by Anthony and directed by Carmen. Don can’t wait. An amazing opera and starring Lee Bisset who first came to Don’s attention as Sieglinde way back here and its fair to say she stormed that Ring Cycle in Nottingham.

In stark contrast to the forgettable pre-Meistersinger study day (which was just a run through of the synopsis – no questions allowed), this focused on a particular episode (Act ll/3 &4) and was wonderfully interactive. Two pre-prepped members of the audience read through the scene trying to make sense of quite mystical and tricky concepts and saying what it meant to them. It is the dialogue between Tristan and Isolde after the signal torch has been switched off and seemingly unfathomable dialogue concerning Day and Night. It all sets up the famous Love Duet in scene 5. Carmen explained that this is how she starts rehearsals with the cast and how important it is for the singers to understand the meaning of not only what they are singing but also what others on stage are singing.  But what depth of understanding is necessary? The torch is the signal to Tristan that it is safe to come to Isolde. Not when it is on but when it is extinguished. This is fitting because it is the illuminated Day that keeps the lovers apart while the secret unlit Night allows them to play out their time together without real world responsibilities.

What was of interest to Don was that it became apparent that the singers were not expected to have any understanding of Schopenhauer. Fair enough, at face value, it would surely be preposterous to suggest one needed a philosophy grounding to sing an operatic role. And yet Wagner’s head was so full of Schopenhauer when writing Tristan that it guided his thinking and one can see it in almost every line, particularly the considered scene.  It begs the question of whether detailed knowledge of the author’s thoughts can improve performance. To momentarily switch operas, what are the credentials for singing the Wahn Monologue in Die Meistersinger? Simply learn the lines, belt it out and head for the pub? Don is not musical and so ill-equipped to know but it is weird (at least to Don) to think that a singer can give a stellar performance without really understanding what Wagner was getting at with all the Day/Night material.

If one reads through scenes 3 and 4 without any broader background, one will get the gist that Day is bad and Night is good. One doesn’t need to understand Schopenhauer to see that the night is for illicit lovers and that the day is real, it carries responsibilities such as being loyal to King Mark, whereas at night one can escape into a dream and live out alternative realities. That much is clear and pretty obvious.

But take the line; “The spiteful day, filled with envy, could part us with its deceptions, but no longer mislead us with its lies!” It’s as though the Day is a character and has force and compulsion in its own right. That surely is Schopenhauerian Wille. Does not knowing that detract from performance? Probably not.

A little naive pondering doesn’t hurt every now and then,

Remember Daves, top ‘arf only!.

If you have been, thanks for listening.

COYI!

©DonnertheHammer.com 2017

In Which Don learns to cope with disappointment and stinking the place out.

Post 23

March 1970. Don was 9 and a half years old. Life to that point had smiled upon this little boy. Immediate relatives all alive and in good health, no major crisis. Yes, tonsils and adenoids had gone missing at Whipps Cross hospital several years earlier but the plethora of toys garnered as a result more than made up for the loss. Unlike the East End a generation earlier, Clayhall did not suffer a Luftwaffe blitz, Don was not plucked from his family and evacuated to Bedfordshire and West Ham had won most trophies on offer, both on domestic and world stage. The sun generally shone. What could possibly burst this bubble of contentment?

One of Don’s heroes upped and left, that’s what. Martin Peters transferred to Tottenham for a then record of £200,000 with an ailing Jimmy Greaves coming the other way. Up to that point, it was inconceivable to Don that anyone would want to leave the Hammers, never mind to Spurs. £200,000?? What did money even have to do with football?

martinpeters

Martin Peters, born Plaistow, grew up at West Ham, idolised by the fans. Yet there he wasn’t. Gone. It was a watershed moment. It dawned on Don that it was possible that players’ relationship with the club was different from fans’. Whether concepts such as ambition, career advancement, security and family planning (steady), formulated properly in Don’s mind or simply huddled into a general queasy feeling, history does not record.

Either way, Don was disappointed and grew up a little. And so must we with Dimitri Payet. Of course these days your average nine year old is so well versed in FIFA football finance, they could draft his new contract so it is the under sevens and over 30’s that deserve our sympathy. He is going and we won’t see his like again down the London Stadium for a long time. Despite (or perhaps because of) the bitterness currently festering, we mustn’t lose sight of what a wonderful player he is. Like Tevez, it was a bit of luck that such genius wound up with us and we must cherish the golden season we had. Last season was always going to be epic but none of us could have anticipated the quality of the football, results and memories created by the team, largely instigated by Payet. He was our Toscanini, our von Karajan.

This season the genius has gone missing. Can we cope without this Payet? Easily. In creative terms he has been average and defensively a disaster; time and again losing the ball in dangerous areas and exposing a dragged out of position defence. Can one replace Payet of last season? Impossible for a club like us. Domestically, only Coutinho comes close. I wouldn’t put Özil or Erikson in the same class, good as they are.

And cope we did against Crystal Palace.

crystal-palace-fc

Don missed it, visiting a daughter who is being a hippy in the desert, so it was left to Little Don to represent the family. By all accounts a stirring second half performance incorporating (inevitably as Don wasn’t there), the goal of the century. I won’t go on – who needs to read my account of not being there?

Earlier in the week it was with great pleasure that Don returned to the Stop!Hammertime studios to record a podcast looking back on various recent defeats – so a laugh a minute. Actually not as depressing as it sounds and if you didn’t catch it, you can do so here:  Mike Dean: Schrodinger’s Prat .

To compound matters, we have our transfer activity. Little annoys Don more than seeing our constant and even official communications on what business we are trying to do. Its like we have a policy of keeping Daniel Levy in the loop so he can scoop us at the last minute. Fortunately (sic), they have I fear, moved out of our league on the transfer front but I swear other clubs are not as vocal as we insist on being. I read with disappointment and amazement Jacob Steinberg’s piece in The Guardian, that in the history of the Premier League we have not had a 20 goal a season striker – that’s 25 years! Read the full horror here . So why am I surprised we have failed to nail down that sharpshooter in the last window or this? Misery doom and gloom; and all this before we have seen Trump in action.

And yet, in what we at Don Towers assume is now PPE (post Payet era), does one detect a new cohesiveness and bunker spirit, hitherto absent? Its almost as though the stadium needed a jolt to set it on fire and maybe this has been it. There is a yearning among the support to be passionate but needs a catalyst. Passion is needed from the team to unleash passion from the support. We have had a taste. Slaven in his almost tearful press conference is a rock on whom one can rely in difficult times. Several skillful members of the squad, now out of Payet’s shadow, seem to be chomping at the bit to show what they can do, .

So there you have it, despite a week of disappointment, Don is really looking forward to the next few games.

It should not be hard to link Wagner to a post on disappointment. It characterised most of his adult life as project after project failed for every conceivable reason other than himself, until finally getting it right. But I’m not sure I am going to. This is about Payet.

There is much to look forward to re Wagner in future posts. Die Meistersinger is coming to town in March and as well as seeing that (several times), Don is looking forward to a one day study guide to that masterpiece in February. The wonderful Opera North production of the Ring Cycle is coming to our screens. Don saw that last summer in Nottingham and reviewed it extensively on here. Why one would watch semi-staged on tv I’m not sure but there we are, more on that in real time.

So there you have it. We’ve shed tears, we’ve rented our collective hearts asunder and we’ve cracked heads on walls. All fun activity no doubt but none of it shall return us the Payet of last season. So lets get what we can for him and move him on asap. Don doesn’t always agree with Redknapp but Harry had it right when he said if Payet plays for us again, he’ll stink the place out.

If you have been, thanks for listening.

COYI!

©DonnertheHammer.com 2017

 

 

 

 

In Which its a Wahn Wahn Wahn Wahn World

Post 22

The 1963 film Its a Mad Mad Mad Mad World is one of Don’s favourites.

Starring Spencer Tracy, Phil Silvers, the incomparable Ethel Merman and a host of others, its a mad cap romp around San Diego in which a group of otherwise law abiding citizens get into all sorts of scrapes in a grasping frenzy for a pot of gold. The madness rears with two heads. Firstly the notion that extra money will improve their lives and secondly; that every man for him or her self will be better than cooperating as a group.

Wagner and his mentor Arthur Schopenhauer would have approved Stanley Kramer’s central critique.

Linguists tell me there is no direct translation for the German word “wahn”.  Ernest Newman: Wagner Nights in a footnote refers to “erroneous or false opinion”, “illusion”, “delusion”, “hallucination”, “error”, “folly”, “madness”. All of the above. Generally that mankind is propelled by an inner and irresistible compulsion to strive for something unseen and unknowable and that such striving is invariably at the expense of a fellow human who is striving with equally determined folly.

This resonates with West Ham’s ambition to improve itself by moving stadium. So far, not looking so good.

The anguish that there is no escape from such madness is a central, not to say overriding theme in several Wagnerian operas. Most obviously in the Wahn monologue in Die Meistersinger….to paraphrase..”everywhere people torment and flay each other until they draw blood in foolish anger…no-one has reward or thanks for it..he thinks he’s hunting, not realising its his cry of pain, as he tears his own flesh….”

Pure Schopenhauer and you don’t get that with Puccini.  

In the Ring Cycle too. Paul Heise (via Roger Scrutton’s intro) in his leviathan analysis, Wagnerheim, identifies in the Ring Cycle, in response to wahn as mankind’s destiny, a yearning for transcendence. A need to escape the forever pointless striving and return to an age of innocence. So generally the gold and specifically the Ring may not be (or not only be) symbolic of capitalist greed (as GB Shaw and others saw it) but rather of religious consciousness and/or scientific knowledge. In either case, the means whereby man has leapfrogged all other species to rule the world.

Whether you get this, you will at some level feel it. Lets put it this way. We have the scientific knowledge and curiosity to develop technical “solutions” to all the world’s problems. So what if we rape the world of fossil fuels? We’ll just create a better technology. Once the world is dead, we’ll move on to another planet. Technologically, humans will find a way.

But to what end? We are constantly striving but where are we going and is it any better? Some of us, possibly Schopenhauer but maybe also Wagner and Stanley Kramer, may wish we had not left an age of innocence when we desired nothing more than to roam the fields in our battered VW camper-vans (running on compressed sheep droppings), parking up by the river bank and strumming Leonard Cohen on a lute.

To my simple and frackered mind, it is such sentiment that is at the heart of much of what Wagner had to say and which couldn’t be further from the common conception of what he is about. Such is the fascination.

But what has this got to do with West Ham? To which Don says: any discussion that isn’t Mike Dean or the performance against Man City has got to be an improvement.

But actually there are links. Don is not about to re-write his own history and say with hindsight, he was always against the move. He understood the rationale at the time and was excited by the prospect of us little Hammers becoming a footballing giant. Which could still happen and we must judge the project after 5 years not 5 months.

But after suffering for half a season we look back to our golden age at Upton Park with not a little regret. Lets not kid ourselves that life back then was not, like now, more heartache than anything else but its undeniable that we had something magical and that is now gone forever.

There was a window of opportunity, between bids, when the TV money had kicked in and the club was not dependant on the move for survival. We could have redeveloped Upton Park to 45,000 but no, by then we were riding the Wahn wave. Don included.

I am not trying to equate the rape of world’s resources and pointless wars to the exit from The Boleyn but there is something familiar (and slightly nauseating) about this feeling that if one stands still, if one is not constantly striving for something else and being seen to be striving for it, one is as dead as dodo. Schopenhauer probably thought (and almost definitely said) that the dodos had it right.

So here we are. Team bereft of confidence. Ground that sucks out the atmosphere. Players that don’t look committed. Crowd that thinks its at Disney World and realisation that there is more to a manger than being cool. I fear Concerned is the new Cool.

Don will try to find some silver linings:

  • we are unlikely to go down
  • we have a good crop of youngsters. A team (3-4-2-1) of Randolph, – Burke, Reid, Oxford – Byram, Obiang, Kouyate, Creswell – Lanzini, Samuelsen – Fletcher/Martinez; has potential with more plus experience on the bench.
  • we have Payet; should he wish to play for us. If not, time to move on.
  • Board may realise it cant pick the transfers.
  • 10,000 day trippers may have had enough, allowing 10,000 waiting list fans that know what they are in for, to step up.
  • At some point, team will realise its in their hands and they cant blame the ground.
  • the manager is still a bit cool, for not being so cool.
  • We are West Ham United.

So breath deeply, don’t panic and don’t let the Wahn grind you down.

If you have been, thanks for listening.

COYI!

©DonnertheHammer.com 2017

 

 

In Which Don remembers he has a blog and West Ham forget we are a football team. Plus Lohengrin.

Post 18

Don doesn’t post for a brief while and world goes off its head. I mean can’t you folks manage on your own for a few weeks? OK a little longer. The last post (my review of Gotterdammerung) was in June. The world then had its usual share of insane hotspots but seemed roughly to be coping.

No sooner had the fire curtain gone down on the immolation scene at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham, our little planet has really gone off at the deep end. Lets have a little review..

Here at home, we decided our economic and social future lay with countries on the other side of the world with no interest in trading with us as opposed to our prime trading partners for the last 40 years. In other nutty news, Labour re-elect Jeremy Corbyn.

Across the pond, not to be outdone on the insanity stakes, Good Ol’ US of A held an election….

We lose Leonard Cohen, Andrew Sachs, The Man from Uncle, Hilda Ogden, Gene Wilder, Caroline Ahern,  Mohammed Ali and Fidel Castro.

And of course Dame Karren announces the most successful ground switch in the history of the universe and West Ham packed their cases for a European tour..

Honestly I turn my back for a couple of minutes….

Don feels he owes it to the post apocalyptic sane to return to the fray with some calming words and to bring welcome respite to those desperate for that potent combo of West Ham United/Wagner operas hot issues.

So on the West Ham front, things are going pretty well. Having dished out the generous spirit to one north London neighbour, we felt duty bound to do likewise with the other lot. Miraculously, Little Don and Don’s excursion to Old Trafford produced a half decent performance in the 1-1 draw.

Fresh from our 1-5 defeat this weekend, what should we think?

  1. At 0-2 down and with Carroll ready to come on, thousands and I mean thousands, headed for the exit. Am I saying this would not have happened at Upton Park? No and it did, though inevitably not on the same scale.  It does though reflect our changing fan base. An emerging proportion have bought tickets to give the kids a nice day out and once they start moaning, they they are off. And then there are just the general wankers that always have, always will leave with 5 minutes to go when there’s one goal in it. I would rather they just didn’t bother and we had a half full ground of die hard fans. (Don of course, did the smart thing; staying to the bitter end to watch us concede another three.)
  2. If Samuel Allardici were still in charge, assuming also that he oversaw the players brought in over the summer, we would be calling for his head, injuries or no injuries. And he would probably have gone by now.

But Bilic has still I feel deservedly, bought himself more time, sympathy and enduring support. Ninety percent of this is due to last season but there is also a recognition that moving grounds is not an easy adjustment, that the injuries are not (I have to hope) his fault and that it will come good. Also there is sympathy that he has tried to play decent football, comes across well in the media and in contrast to his predecessor, is not a smug git. I am now feeling that comfortable(ish) survival plus half an FA Cup run will (and I can’t believe I am saying this) be just about acceptable for him to survive.  Once relegation looks a distinct possibility as opposed to being an agenda item, the board will act but until then I hope they back him.

I keep telling myself that the squad, when 75% available is pretty decent and one must assume they will go all out for a striker in January.

Far be it for Don to deter Slav from his Croat soft rock thing that he has going but a little Wagner wouldn’t go amiss. In troubled times, Don has a variety of Wagnarian ports in which to shelter but thinks the current plight calls for a little Lohengrin.

Lohengrin is a tale ostensibly about the holy grail (whatever that may be) in which the lovely Elsa is being deprived of her birthright by the nasties and seeks to defend herself by calling upon a bloke she has only met in a dream. But for those reading between the lines, we watch the growth and strength of Elsa as she develops through the piece and we ponder the nature of art and creativity. We also notice that Lohengrin, along with most Wagner operas, is in fact about West Ham.

So lets assume Slav is Elsa, the holy grail is mid table mediocrity and that her knight in shining armour (Lohengrin – but we don’t know his name) is of course Dimitri Payet. Well firstly, Slav needs his knight to turn up, which is a huge question mark in the opera and becoming increasingly so down the Olympic Stadium. He does so, in the nick of time and generally saves the day. I have to report that ultimately he sadly lets Elsa down but she learns a vital lesson in that process. Someone as special as Dimitri/Lohengrin is for the whole world and not just for Slav. But in learning that lesson, Elsa evolves as a person and likewise, 10th place could still be ours. (Don, you brazenly optimistic idiot).

Tough times call for the overture to Act 1. So with credit to conductor Rudolph Kempe and the Weiner Philharmonic, lock your self in a dark room and treat yourself to 8 minutes or so of me time. The stress and if you are not careful, the tears will ooze out.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGxGJVki5jU

 

If you have been, thanks for listening.

COYI

©DonnertheHammer.com 2016

In Which Don Survives the Gods (which is more than we can say for Siegfried). Part 4 – Gotterdammerung

Post 17

So it is over and ready to begin again. The nature one supposes, of a cycle. Philosophically speaking I mean; not in the sense that Opera North are beginning again in Salford. But before we get into that and speaking of gods, two words; Dimitri Payet.

Ok that done, Don survived indeed thrived in, a lovely week in Nottingham. The final instalment of Wagner’s mammoth Ring Cycle was Gotterdammerung last Saturday. The clue is in the title, the Gods get their comeuppance.

As I mentioned after Siegfried, the Ring Cycle operas in my view, improve through the week and for me, Gotterdammerung is the finest. There’s an extra bit thrown in with The Prologue (Wagner’s initial attempt to tell the story in one opera), which is a bit like discovering the extras on the DVD are the best bit because musically, it is superb and arguably, if one extends into Siegfried’s Rhinefahrt, the finest hour-plus in the tetralogy.

The Norns were perfect and provide crucial back story. Here we learn for example, that Wotan’s acquisition of knowledge and power was actually a crime against nature, which puts a lot of other activity in context. Tagesgrauen was performed beautifully and regular readers may recall the bit of fun Don previously had with that ( Post 10 ).

Siegfried is dispatched by Brunnhilde (the magnificent Kelly Cae Hogan) to perform new heroic deeds, with some caution. If only she could be his soul, she tells him. Does she already feel he is under-prepared? Chasing bears through the forest is all very well but its no way to go through life, son. She’s imparted all her wisdom to him, was he paying no attention?

Anyway, off down the Rhine he travels. Gibichungs meet and greet, Micky Finns are slipped and the rest as they say, is mythology. Or at least Wagner’s wonderful version of the selected parts of the Norse Edda. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the performances and as well as Kelly Cae, I would mention Mats Almgren who looked and sounded a Hagen to his boots, Giselle Allen as Getrune and Heather Shipp as Waltraute. But frankly the whole cast were marvellous.

Wotan does not appear in Gotterdammerung but his sloppy paws are all over it as his hopes dreams and errors are played out in his absence while he sits in Valhalla staring at logs and awaiting, inviting Das Ende.

The hero he planned for long gone; the one he hoped for, falling pathetically short. The one he hadn’t consciously anticipated, Brunnhilde was just growing into the part and the absent Wotan was learning with her.

It is easy to categorise Dar Rhinegold as Power over Love and Die Walkure (with a bit of shuffling) as Love over Power. But Gotterdammerung shows Love failing in the face of evil so what is the message of the Cycle?

If one asks a philosopher, psychologist, politician or musicologist one may get four different and equally convincing answers. Clearly the restoration of nature is at its heart. The use of the Redemption through Love motive right at the end, when it has only been used once before in the whole Cycle has great significance.

Wagner himself was confused, so who are we to figure it out? We have the so-called Schopenhauer ending and the Fauerbach ending. This is not the place to significantly explore these. Suffice to say, Schopenhauer would have advocated death redeeming the inevitable futility of life and man’s silly plans (a la Tristan) whereas Feuerbach celebrated life, love and revolutionary fervour which could conquer all. One suspects that at this point on his philosophical journey, Wagner was in the Schopenhauer camp but struggled with how to make it work artistically. Hence, with huge question marks, we are left with Redemption through Love.

So, Opera North. A huge undertaking and a colossal achievement. Richard Farnes deserves huge credit. Bravo.

Before Don signs off, a final word on semi-staged. It is an economic reality of course but one doesn’t have to like it. I want to see the Ring Cycle. Wagner’s Ring Cycle, not Richard’s or anyone else’s. The orchestra, particularly when it is brilliant, is inevitably a distraction. For example, there was a female percussionist at the back. She had a male counterpart opposite who was sat and whom I couldn’t see so well. I was constantly drawn to her, the long periods of inactivity but fierce concentration, followed by flurries of activity and the precision and care she took over each note was fascinating. But I should have been concentrating on the drama. With Wagner, there is no waste. Every line, transmitted by voice or orchestra communicates vital messages and cannot be missed. I must hear the orchestra; I don’t need to see it.

Then there is the power of the stage itself and its importance in drama. Don knows nothing about drama or stage direction but this is obvious. Even a barren stage without scenery is part of the drama; the space (or not) between the players, the movement of the players; the lighting. All are telling a story. Wagner was his own stage director because he wouldn’t trust it to anyone else (conducting he entrusted (the first Parcifal) to Hermann Levi). His son, Wilhelm, I think I am right in saying, regarded the lighting at Bayreuth as his personal baby. (I might be wrong as these blogs are barely researched).

I leave with this thought. Would a production of West Side Story or Guys and Dolls be better or worse with the orchestra taking up most of the stage? It would be entirely different. I think that’s what semi-staged makes Wagner; a very different product.

I feel I have seen Wagner’s Ring Cycle beautifully and wonderfully performed in concert. It was a wonderful experience and if you can get to see it, I urge you to do so, it will be an experience you will never forget. I don’t feel I have seen Wagner’s Ring Cycle.

COYI!

©DonnertheHammer.com 2016