Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Das Rheingold

We are continuing our foray into the world of opera. San Francisco Opera is performing Das Rheingold later this year, and I realized all of a sudden that the storyline, rooted as it is in the Norse myths and legends that Ziad has already studied, would be a good fit for our family. Unfortunately it is a three hour opera that is performed without intermissions. I don't even think I could stay focused and enjoy the music for that long without a break. So we're watching it on DVD, a half hour or forty-five minutes at a time. After watching the first scene, I was really enjoying it, but I wasn't too sure about the kids. The next night, though, to my surprise, Ziad asked "Can we watch some more of that opera tonight?" Apparently, the story really has caught his attention. Of course, it also has obvious connections to Tolkien's Ring trilogy, which he loves.

So while Ziad struggled to stay awake and read the subtitles, Maya and I listened and chatted about the music. I've never listened to the whole thing before, but I've read many times about Wagner's use of leitmotif. (Leitmotif is a musical theme associated with a character or idea -- think of the Imperial March in Star Wars. Don't you always hear that music when you think of Darth Vader?) It's amazing how beautifully the different themes blend together and shimmer in and out of the music. One of my favorite theatrical devices is the scrim, which is like a backdrop when lit from the front, but becomes transparent when lit from the back. Scenes shown behind a backlit scrim are often used to depict dreams or memories of the characters in front; somehow the way the musical themes gently surface in the music has that same quality of an almost subconscious reminder.

Music from this opera has made it into movies, most recently "Nosferatu" and "The New World." So maybe you've been enjoying it, too.

Darth Vader's theme:


Blogger Lesley said...

I'm going to have to play the STAR WARS orchestra clip for Andrew. (Huge fan of Stars Wars/Lego) right now. Infact, when you dropped by last night... the kids were playing Star Wars Lego II Play station.

1:29 PM  
Blogger Vivian said...

That Star Wars clip is one of Henry's favorites. The first time we saw it we were all rolling around laughing. The best part is when Darth Vadar jumps up.

9:22 AM  

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