Friday, May 15, 2009

What's Opera, Tolkien?

I managed to score a (free) ticket to tonight's opening performance of Wagner's Das Rheingold, the first of four operas that make up Der Ring des Nibelungen, which is being performed by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra at Clowes Memorial Hall. I'm extremely excited!

The storyline sounds suspiciously familiar to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Here are a few snippets:

"The Rhinemaidens tell Alberich about the Rhinegold, which their father has ordered them to guard: it can be made into a magic Ring which will let its bearer rule the world, but only by someone who first renounces love. They think they have nothing to fear from the lustful dwarf, but Alberich, embittered by their mockery, curses love, seizes the gold and returns to the depths, as the Rhinemaidens flee in despair."

"In Nibelheim, Alberich has enslaved the rest of the Nibelung dwarves. He has forced his brother Mime, the most skillful smith, to create a magic helmet, the Tarnhelm. Alberich demonstrates the Tarnhelm's power by making himself invisible, the better to torment his subjects."

"Wotan seizes it from his finger and puts it on his own. Alberich is crushed by his loss, and before he leaves he lays a curse on the ring: until it returns to him, whoever does not possess it will desire it, and whoever possesses it will suffer unhappiness and death."

Actually, this opera makes a good backstory to the Lord of the Rings. The wiki entry notes that Wagner and Tolkien draw from the same mythological source material. However, Tolkien reportedly denied Wagner's work as an inspiration, claiming, "Both rings were round, and there the resemblance ceases."

Also from the wiki: "Several researchers have another position, stating that both the authors, indeed, used the same source materials but that Tolkien was, in fact, indebted to some of the original developments, insights and artistic uses made upon those sources that first appeared in Wagner such as the concept of the ring giving to its owner the mastery of the world and its corrupting influence upon minds and wills of those that try to possess it."

So I'd say Tolkien comes off as kind of a dick.


Jay said...

Also, Alberich says "I'm lord of the ring!" twice.

SuiginChou said...

I'm convinced.