[SnarkNotes] FRANZ SCHUBERT: Der Zwerg

[First published on Snark [music] Notes on 30/01/2016]


FRANZ SCHUBERT: Der Zwerg

The lyrics to Schubert’s lied, Der Zwerg (1822), are taken from a Romantic ballad written by Matthäus von Collin. Although the music is undoubtedly powerful, the story of the failed romance between a lady and a dwarf is somewhat more suspect…

Opening rhythm, which also appears in his ‘Unfinished’ symphony, was often used by Schubert to symbolise erotic undertones.

Huh, it’s like the nineteenth-century equivalent of a trigger warning. How considerate.

‘In the grey light the mountains already fade away; the ship drifts on the sea’s smooth swell.’

Ahem… “swell”? I take your ‘erotic undertones’ and expose them to the world!

‘On board, the queen sails with her dwarf.’

What, like, her pet dwarf? That’s disturbing.

‘She gazes up at the high curving vault, at the far blue distance, woven with strands of light, crossed by the pale band of the milky way.’

That’s poetic. I mean, obviously it’s poetic – it’s a poem. But still, I appreciate the colourful word-painting.

‘She cries out: “Never yet have you lied to me, stars. Soon I shall depart. You tell me so. In truth, I’ll gladly die.”‘

ASTROLOGY™, leading gullible young lovers to their deaths since the tragedies of Ancient Greece.

‘The dwarf steps towards the queen, to tie the red silk cord about her neck; and weeps, as though he meant to blind himself with grief.’

A red silk cord, huh? And I thought the nineteenth century was meant to be all sexually repressed and stuff…

‘He speaks: “You yourself are to blame for this wrong, because you have forsaken me for the king. Now only your death can kindle joy in me…’

Hey, mister unnamed dwarf, quit victim-blaming and go see a psychiatrist. These feelings are not normal.

‘… I grant that I shall hate myself for ever, because I have brought about your death with this my own hand; still must you pale before your early grave.”‘

Well, if you’ll hate yourself forever, don’t frickin’ murder the woman you lust after. Jeez, it’s not that difficult to just, y’know, NOT kill a person.

‘She lays her hand on her young heart, and the heavy tears run down from her eyes, which she would raise to heaven in prayer.’

See what you’re doing, unnamed dwarf dude? Is there nothing in your head telling you this might be a bad idea?
You don’t HAVE to kill her, you know. Ignore the stars! Change your destiny! Live a little!

‘”May you reap no anguish from my death,” she says.’

…What are you doing, lady?! You should be fighting back!
You don’t HAVE to die, you know. Ignore the stars! Change your destiny! Live a little!

‘Then the dwarf kisses her pale cheeks, and forthwith her senses fail.’

You are both terrible, terrible people. The dwarf because he murders his lover; the lady because she is literally too dumb to live.

‘Bemused by death the dwarf gazes upon the lady, and with his own hands commits her to the deep.’

I’m not sure bemusement is the appropriate emotion right now, unnamed dwarf dude. Don’t tell me you didn’t realise what would happen if you strangled a girl to death? ‘Cause that’s super unprepared even for a Byronic villain like yourself.

‘His heart burns with longing for her.’

Well, then he shouldn’t have murdered her, should he?

‘He will never more set foot on any shore.’

So wait, he kills the girl he fancies so that he’ll finally be happy but then kills himself anyway? What’s the point in that?! Dude, you could have just killed yourself in the first place – without murdering your ex-lover – and you’d be no worse off (and the kid you’re attracted to would be considerably better off). What the heck is wrong with you?!

End of lied.

Seriously, WHY does Romantic poetry so seldom contain any characters with basic common sense?! It is unbelievably infuriating!

Moral of the story: obsession with another human being will turn you into a crazy murderer?

BETTER MORAL OF THE STORY: If ever find yourself in the role of a lover in a Romantic tragedy, avoid looking at the sky. Astrology can kill.

[SnarkNotes] PETER MAXWELL DAVIES: Resurrection

[First published on Snark [music] Notes on 5/01/2016]


PETER MAXWELL DAVIES: Resurrection

In Peter Maxwell’s Davies’s short avant-garde opera, Resurrection (1987), a mute child is indoctrinated by our evil modern society, with weird reprocussions.

[Prologue]

A mute child, played by a larger-than-life-sized mannequin, is being indoctrinated by various authority figures, including family, teachers, a vicar and a doctor.

My, what a terrible world we do live in(!)

Intermittent ‘alchemical dances’, in which a rock band accompanies a cat who transforms into a dragon, represent the omnipresent commercialism (rock bands, television, advertisements etc.) that we are constantly bombarded with in the modern world.

“but I WANT a cat that can turn itself into a dragon while awesome rock music plays in the background…”

The action passes between the indoctrinating authority figures and the rock-band accompanied dragon-cat.

Still struggling to see how a dragon-cat with its own rock band is a bad thing…

Eventually, the mannequin-child’s head explodes.

Oh. Well, okay then. Apparently, the awesomness of such a concept is just too much for one mannequin-child to process.
(Although, I expect Peter Maxwell Davies wants you to believe the mannequin-child went insane due to being stretched too thinly between all the different ideologies that it is expected to follow… or something.)

[Main scene]

The mannequin-child has been taken to an operating theatre to be cured of its ‘anti-social tendencies’.

I see what they did there – an opera set in an OPERAting theatre! Very good… please tell me this pun was the reason that this entire work even exists.

More stock characters attempt to fix the mannequin-child, including a capatilist, a trade-unionist, a rabbi, more Christian ministers, a politician and a gospel-preacher.

Tell me, Peter Maxwell Davies, is there anyone in a powerful role who you do trust? I mean, kudos for sticking it to the man and all but… evil indoctrinating trade-unionists?!

The new stock characters remove the mannequin-child’s brain, heart and genitals…

AAAAAAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHH!!!! THAT-IS-EXTREMELY-NOT-OKAY!!!

…and replace each with a sanitised, ‘safer’ substitute.

I don’t think I even WANT to know what those would be… Okay, Peter Maxwell Davies, you’ve made your point. Now I’m scared and I want to go home.

The unhappy, now-indoctrinated mannequin-child, having been forcefully stripped of all of its individuality, rebels and guns down the operators and the audience using a machine gun.

Not a REAL machine gun, obviously… It isn’t a real machine gun, is it, Peter Maxwell Davies? ‘Cause, I mean, I’m seriously a little concerned about your mental stability at this point.

The mannequin-child disappears…

Oh, good… I think?

…and in its place the Antichrist rises theatrically from a tomb amidst a flashing disco light show!

WHAT?!!!!

End of opera.

[beat] …what.

Moral of the story: modern day commercialism is a BAD THING.

BETTER MORAL OF THE STORY: avant-garde is weird.

…Now, where can I buy a dragon-cat?

Dragon-cat (3)
I drew a dragon-cat, which I guess is the next best thing to owning one.

[SnarkNotes] RICHARD WAGNER: Ring Cycle, Part 1 – Das Rheingold

[First published on my old music blog, Kirsty Morgan Music Blog on 19/5/2013; then on Snark [music] Notes on 2/11/2015]


RICHARD WAGNER: Ring Cycle, Das Rheingold

In the first part of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle, Das Rheingold (1852), the unthinking actions of a Dwarf, a God and some Giants spark events that will eventually lead to the apocalypse.

Overture: Fast, flowing cellos represent river Rhine.
Rhine maidens guard magic gold that grants ultimate power.

Why does that gold exist? Why has it not been destroyed? There’s not even been any singing yet, and it’s clear things are gonna go badly, badly wrong!!!

Alberich the dwarf wants the gold.

(TERMS AND CONDITIONS APPLY: Denounce love, get gold.)

Alberich denounces love in order to get gold:
“Thus I curse love”.

Nope, totally don’t see how this could possibly go wrong.

Fashions gold into a ring.

SAURON STYLE!!!

Wotan (Odin) has commissioned giants to build a huge castle (Valhalla).
He offers his wife’s sister as payment to the giants.

Wait, WHAT?!!!!!

Wotan’s wife intervenes.

Wotan, put Freia down. You cannot sell the Goddess of Love to some random Giants…

Giants still want to be paid, so Wotan then tricks Alberich into turning himself into a toad.

No, Alberich! Don’t turn yourself into a toad! Wotan’s gonna steal your…

Wotan steals Alberich’s ring.

[FACEPALM]

Understandably, Alberich is a bit miffed, so he placed a curse on the ring!

Evil Curse!!!

Curse: anyone who owns the ring will be blinded by its power!

[DOUBLE-FACEPALM]

Wotan gives ring to giants.

Wotan? What are you doing? WOTAN! STAHP!!!

Giants fight over ring, one dies.

Well done, Wotan. Well done.
[SPOILER WARNING: You’ve just triggered the apocalypse]

Moral of the story: greed and power-hungriness are bad.

BETTER MORAL OF THE STORY: Never hang around with Norse Gods.
Or Giants.
Or Dwarves…