I’ll start by admitting up front that I am a fan of a number of operas. Verdi and Puccini particularly, with a side of Mozart here and there. Not, unless taken in small doses, Wagner. At opera length, Richard Wagner gets rather blow-hard and tedious.
Still, current days have a definite “twilight of the gods” feel, which is not in any way a good thing.
For a start, if you think living in a novel plot would suck, living in an opera plot is way, way worse. There are typically two options – comedy, where everyone gets made fun of but true love usually wins out and the leads (always a tenor and a soprano – if you have any other kind of voice you’re doomed to either villainy or supporting character-ville) get to live happily ever after; and the much, much more common drama where at best one of the leads ends up dead, and more often than not all of them do. Although sometimes everyone but the villain dies and the villain gets left with the physical or symbolic ashes of his victoy (and it nearly always is a he).
The plot of Gotterdammerung, such as it is, very much falls into the “everyone dies” range. Well, everyone except the neutral/chaotic beings that represent forces of nature, anyway (If you’re interested and know your Ring Cycle, Anna Russel’s take on the thing is worth listening to. It’s got some cringey bits, but mostly it’s a 20 minute giggle fest, which beats 20 hours of Mr Wagner torturing his singers. And yes, I’ve sung a small amount of Wagner and he does torture singers. So does Beethoven, which is why I’m thankful Ludwig Van B has almost no memorable vocal works to his name and lots and lots of other works. But that’s a whole different beastie).
So yeah, feeling like the hubris and deliberate blindness of certain folk out there is well on its way to bringing whatever the mortal equivalent of Ragnarok is down on the heads of all the ordinary folk who don’t need, don’t want, and certainly don’t deserve this shit is not a good thing.
Of course, plotlines, operatic or otherwise, necessarily draw what’s not directly relevant to the main character in a broad brush. Who cares what happens to the side characters when the leads get to survive and have their happily ever after? (Incidentally this is part of the brilliance of Les Miserables (the musical which is actually an opera). All the deaths of minor characters are wrenching. Every last bloody one of them. Something the movie managed to keep despite the… ahem… less than stellar vocal performance of Javert). They tend to forget that after the chaos is done, there’s a crapload of fixing to do.
Yay for generation fix it, the permanently exhausted lot that came after the boomers. Not that I’m generation-bashing, mind you. The boomers were such a big demographic bulge they were always going to break things without intending to, and happening as they did at the start of the global information era, with an unprecedented amount of wealth and free choice for kids, well… Based on the advertising trends of the last 70 years or so, the world really does revolve around them, poor bastards.
Nobody survives that kind of distortion intact, and all the infrastructure choices that were made with the assumption that each succeeding generation would be larger than the one before and therefore able to support the oldest in their personal twilight are turning to ash right about when they need the security they were promised.
At least my generation mostly never believed there’d be anything but what we worked for and built ourselves. (And people wonder why I’m cynical? My whole life I’ve watched good things dry up and blow away right about when I should be getting them. Usually because someone screwed up.)
Of course, unlike opera, where the horrific ending is predetermined no matter how beautiful the music (Puccini’s Turandot: stone cold bitch tortures most of a city to death to find out the name of the guy she wants, but because the music is magnificent nobody cares. As Anna Russel put it, opera is where you can do anything as long as you sing it), we can change things.
I don’t know how, or what it will take, but we do have the ability to make choice that improve our lives. Even when there’s a category five shitstorm heading our way.
Personally, I learned long ago that it’s a bad idea to sit back and say “well, it could be worse.” That encourages whatever perverse imps of fate are out there trying to turn all of us into opera plots. It’s much better to say, “It could be better” and work to make it that way. Even if you are tired all the bloody time.
(Rerunning an older pic of Buttercup occupying the computer carry bag)