Deceptive Leitmotifs

Alberich in NYC, on stage in New York, in a opera set in a fantasy capitalist plutocracy. Let me paraphrase some of Alberich’s thoughts from Das Rheingold.

The opera begins just before dawn. Alberich begins by hitting on the three fish/babes They find him disgusting and so taunt him. With the dawning, he see their gold. They tell him that the gold can equal power but to make it so one must forswear love. They think that the gold is safe because they think no one will give up love to take it. They were wrong.

Alberich grabs the gold, and by forswearing love, he has the magic to change it from something pretty to something powerful. He become a plutocrat and a mean one at that. He now declares that all the other dwarves must work hard and long for him. “work for him though he is unseen, expect him when you do not perceive him” Later he brags that all others will hunger for the gold and he’ll alone take pleasure “…with your pretty women who scorn his wooing, though love does not smile upon him.” He a gave up on love not lust.

Enter Wotan, a god as opposed to a dwarf or a mermaid or a giant or a human, although its hard to tell the difference. To make a long story short, he needs  some quick cash and so heads for Nibelheim, Alberich’s home, where Wotan finds Alberich’s own brother moaning that when once they “were carefree” and “made ornaments for their women,” they  now “creep in caverns and ever toil.”. Alberich’s pride blinds him to Wotan’s trickery, he shows off his new love/gold powers  by changing his shape growing large then growing small.  He is caught small and is forced to give up the power.

The metaphor: Corporations (like in the opera… nonhumans acting like humans, but with superhuman powers, although lacking a human sense of morality) make themselves look large and small like Alberich does. Looking large they can control governments (you think we live in a democracy?); looking small they are cute or friendly. Think of the ads and annual reports that have pix of CEOs, sleeves rolled up, chatting up ordinary folk.

Where is a Wotan when you need him? You’ll not see him on this metaphor’s stage. All you see is us Nibelungs toiling and the corporate Alberich in both his shapes, a inhuman gray-suited giant and an equally non-human, but ever-so-cute mascot, cranking out deceptive leitmotifs.

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