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Desecrating Wagner

Contemporary Wagner productions "domesticate" the dramas, betraying a fear of sublime experience and the power of myth. Taking myth seriously was Wagner's big idea

By Roger Scruton   April 2003

Wagner’s mature operas concern heroes who move in a mythic realm, and who are prompted by emotions which have been lifted free of ordinary human contingencies and endowed with a cosmic significance and force. In works like the “Ring, Tristan and Parsifal”, the human condition is idealised, as it might be in the narratives and liturgy of a religion. To take these operas seriously is to be drawn into a peculiar modern project: that of remaking the gods out of human material. This project, it seems to me, identifies both the artistic triumph of Wagner, and the hostility with which…

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