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Monday, July 11, 2005  

Twilight of the Gods
Yesterday, as part of the long-standing Sunday night Opera at the Hollywood Bowl, The LA Philharmonic was performing the final act of Wagner’s Gotterdammerung opera, and a group of us set out into the Hollywood hills to take in the show (as well as a fair amount of wine and cheese.) The show was certainly good, though I felt kinda out-of-pace among the older crowd and I wasn’t as familiar with the music as I would have liked. I had some issues w/ the whole experience and idea: how does a twenty-something child of MTV and pop-culture take in a show of such gravity w/o being A) pretentious, B) a poser, or C) some low-brow interloper. Thankfully the venue lends its self to casual listening, but I still felt slightly out of place.

My reasons for even going to this show wasn’t to be “cultured” or somehow edified by the performance of 1/20th of a great opera, but rather to celebrate the dawning of summer in LA with friends. Music is magical and the Hollywood Bowl is a fantastic nexus of musical, natural, and communal energy and $20 is a small price to pay for the experience no matter what the performance is. But I couldn’t escape the feeling that the whole endeavor was somehow flawed. I don’t the endeavor of walking to the bowl, eating and laughing, and then taking our seats for the performance was flawed but rather the enterprise of producing such an event seems like a pointless uprising against the tide of lowest-common-denominator media and fast-food nation story telling. How does the performance of the last 80 minutes of a 13-hour operatic epic even begin to convey the artistic intentions of the creator?

As the final act wore-on Brunhilde lit the funeral pyre of her dead husband and a tiny ring of fire was lit on the stage of the Bowl. I began to feel despondent about the veneer of integrity applied to a work we couldn’t hope to fully grasp, and I scoffed at the attempt to gain an modern audiences’ attention with cheep parlor tricks. But then the House of the God was set ablaze and great plumes of flame licked at the night sky from atop the arched shell of the ‘Bowl. Blue stage lights turned on the thousands assembled in the crowd, turning the audience seated on the rising slope of the amphitheater into the wave rushing down the Rhine to claim the cursed ring of power and drown the avaricious Hagen in its purity. Truly a moving moment that was able to transcend culture, media, and time and I can only imagine the impact such a scene would have after three-and-a-half operas worth of story.

And now it feels like summer.

posted by JMV | 7/11/2005 04:53:00 PM
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