Erda in New York
Another NYC drawing. Wagnermania, Part I. I saw Das Rheingold at the metopera. This is one of the scenes I remember. Of course, the rest of the cast was standing around, looking small, on the massive stage. But Erda stood out like one of Tut’s guardian goddesses, seemingly naked, but really wearing a very tight dress. So I erased them all but her, even the orchestra, and the audience. I put Tarnhelm on her. Added the pen, too.
Everything, everyone on stage, was so far away and the music/vocals were oddly quiet. I think the live HD video, with close-ups and more volume would have been more impressive. Guess I’m used to 21st century cinematic effects and a personal volume control. Sad huh?
In this scene Erda sings to Wotan, her ex, “You are doomed, but your remaining time will really suck if you keep that ring.” He gives it up, reluctantly. About ten opera hours later, Wotan, still ringless but resigned to that, wakes her (insert Wagner joke here) and asks about the future. Erda evades the question, “You are not really a god.” Wotan snaps back, “Same to you…!”
Back to the drawing. What’s with the pen? Is it Wotan’s spear? Perhaps, but it could be Siegfried’s sword —I’ve only seen Das Rheingold but I’ve read the others. I think the spear represents action by law as opposed to the sword which is action as a need or desire. The sword destroyed the spear shortly after the second Erda/Wotan exchange. Humans, individuals and emotions trump gods, society and rationality. But Wotan is not killed, (Wagner, I think, only kills off humans, dwarves and giants in The Ring) The fallen god gathers the pieces of the spear and wanders off. Could there be a fifth opera wherein the spear is rebuilt as was the sword in the third?
The pen is art, both as a social and an individual activity and as such is always in conflict with itself. Frustrated by this, it has yet to mark a canvas. the connecting of pen and easel across a monstrous opera hall is an optical illusion seen on from this one point of view. But where is the canvas? It’s conflated with, condensed into Tarnhelm which is, in theory, the helmet of invisibility, but here, as in the production I saw, it’s little more than an absurd bag worn over one’s head. Alberich (more on him later) wears it in the opera, but in this drawing Erda does. Here only her clothes disappear, a prophetess become a model, the object of art becomes an art object.
“Surrealism in painting amounted to little more than the contents of a meagerly stocked dream world: a few witty fantasies, mostly wet dreams and agoraphobic nightmares.”
“Imagination creates reality.” —Richard Wagner.
“A juxtaposition of two more or less distant realities. The more the relationship between the two juxtaposed realities is distant and true, the stronger the image will be — the greater its emotional power and poetic reality.” —Pierre Reverdy.
But: “Art may be bad, good or indifferent, but, whatever adjective is used, we must call it art, and bad art is still art in the same way as a bad emotion is still an emotion.”
“I’m too intellectual, even though I’m not really an intellectual.” —John Lennon.
And back to Ms. Sontag: “The taste for quotations (and for the juxtaposition of incongruous quotations) is a Surrealist taste.”