Theology of Wagner’s Ring Cycle

By Richard H. Bell

The first volume in a two-part analysis of Wagner’s most famous work and its theological message.

ISBN: 9780227177471
 
 

Description

Wagner’s Ring is one of the greatest of all artworks of Western civilization, but what is it all about? It addresses many fundamental concerns that have faced humanity down the centuries, such as power and violence, love and death, freedom and fate. Further, the work seems particularly relevant today, addressing as it does the fresh debates around the created order, politics, gender, and sexuality. The power and mystery of Wagner’s creation was such that even he felt he stood before his work ‘as though before some puzzle’. A clue to the Ring’s greatness lies in its multiple avenues of self-disclosure and the corresponding plethora of interpretations that over the years has granted ample scope for directors, and will no doubt do so well into the distant future. One possible interpretation, which Richard Bell argues should be taken seriously, is the Ring as Christian theology.

In Volume I, Bell considers, among other things, how the composer’s Christian interests may be detected in the ‘forging’ of his Ring, in his appropriation of sources (whether they be myths and sagas, writers, poets, or philosophers), and in works composed around the same time, especially his Jesus of Nazareth.

In Volume II, Bell argues that Wagner’s approach to these issues may open up new ways forward and offer a fresh perspective on some of the traditional questions of theology, such as sacrifice, redemption, and fundamental questions about God. A linchpin for Bell’s approach is viewing the Ring in the light of the Jesus of Nazareth sketches, which, he argues, confirms that the artwork does indeed address questions of Christian theology, for those inside and outside the church.

Additional information

Dimensions254 × 178 mm
Pages339 (Volume I), 363 (Volume II)
Format

Paperback

Volume

Volume I  |  Volume II

Trade InformationJPOD

About the Author

Richard H. Bell is Professor of Theology at the University of Nottingham, UK. He studied theoretical physics at University College London and theology at Oxford and Tübingen. He is author of Provoked to Jealousy (1994), No one seeks for God (1998), The Irrevocable Call of God (2005), Deliver Us from Evil (2007), and Wagner’s Parsifal (2013).

Contents

Volume I: The Genesis and Development of the Tetralogy and the Appropriation of Sources, Artists, Philosophers, and Theologians

List of Figures
Preface
Acknowledgements
Abbreviations

1. Introduction
2. Genesis and Development of the Ring
3. Wagner’s Use of Germanic and Norse Sources
4. The Ring and the Greeks
5. The Ring, Drama, Poetry, and Literature
6. The Ring and German Idealism
7. Wagner and the New Testament

Bibliography
Index of Authors
Index of Biblical Texts
Index of Wagner’s Works
Index of Subjects and Names

Volume II: Theological and Ethical Issues

List of Musical Examples
List of Figures
Preface
Acknowledgements
Abbreviations

1. Introduction to the Theology of the Ring
2. Jesus of Nazareth Sketches
3. God and the Gods
4. Nature
5. Fall, Power, Desecration of Nature, and Capitalism
6. Love
7. Sexual Ethics and Law
8. Death and Immortality
9. Freedom, Necessity, and Providence
10. Siegfried and Brünnhilde
11. Redemption
12. Aesthetics, Allegory, and Myth

Bibliography
Index of Authors
Index of Biblical Texts
Index of Wagner’s Works
Index of Subjects and Names

Extracts

Volume I: The Genesis and Development of the Tetralogy and the Appropriation of Sources, Artists, Philosophers, and Theologians

Volume II: Theological and Ethical Issues

Endorsements and Reviews

Volume I: The Genesis and Development of the Tetralogy and the Appropriation of Sources, Artists, Philosophers, and Theologians

I am not aware of any more meticulous trawl of the voluminous sources for, and influences on, the Ring, through the ancient Greek dramas, Old Norse and Germanic myths, Dante and Shakespeare to Goethe and Schiller. The work of the major German Idealists – Fichte, Kant, Schelling, Hegel, Feuerbach, and Schopenhauer – is subjected to forensic analysis for Wagner’s debt to each. Above all, Professor Bell is concerned to demonstrate possible influences on theological and ethical issues in the Ring.
Barry Millington, Editor, The Wagner Journal; Chief Music Critic, London Evening Standard

In this erudite and formidably researched study, Richard Bell situates Wagner’s Ring cycle within the context of some of the most powerful and influential systems of thought to have shaped the Western mind. Of interest to theologians, philosophers, and historians alike, Bell’s challenging ideas will not only inform current and future debates around Wagner, but stimulate and provoke in equal measure.
Roger Allen, Emeritus Fellow in Music, University of Oxford

Add this to your list of essential reading! Comprehensive and authoritative, Bell’s Theology of Wagner’s Ring Cycle I maps the theological territories of Wagner’s wide-ranging literary, poetic, philosophical, and musical influences. Never before has the Ring been subject to such a sustained theological argument and approach. … a conceptually transformative book bound to recalibrate our understanding of Wagner and his intellectual world.
Bennet Zon, Director, Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies, Durham University; General Editor, Nineteenth-Century Music Review

Applying a theological lens to familiar ground, Richard Bell argues in these volumes that Wagner’s Ring cycle can be seen as a Christian allegory. Through a rich account of the composer’s intellectual world, the author unpacks such classic theological concerns as nature and the fall; love, death, and immortality; freedom, necessity, and providence; and redemption – to the great benefit of both Wagnerians and theologians.
Stephen McClatchie, Professor of Theology & the Arts, Huron University College, London, Ontario

Volume II: Theological and Ethical Issues

In his two previous volumes on the music of Richard Wagner, Richard Bell demonstrated his grasp of his subject and the importance of his project not only for students of music but also for those in the humanities more generally. This volume continues the task of opening up for readers the importance of Wagner’s towering presence in Western music. This book especially shows why embracing music, art, and literature is such a necessary broadening of the intellectual horizons of contemporary theological study. This original and pioneering study is required reading for all those seeking to understand better the challenges facing contemporary life and the contribution that Wagner’s music can make to that task.
Christopher Rowland, Emeritus Dean Ireland’s Professor of Exegesis of Holy Scripture, University of Oxford

Richard H. Bell’s new book argues that we can interpret Wagner’s Ring cycle as a Christian allegory. Bell’s meticulous scholarship dismantles the prejudice that Wagner’s worldview was essentially non- or even anti-Christian, exploring the composer’s relation to contemporary German philosophy, to Lutheran teaching, and to notes for a planned five-act opera on the life of Jesus. Clearly written and thoroughly researched, this is a book that will illumine, provoke, and even edify its readers.
George Pattison, Professor of Theology & Modern European Thought, University of Glasgow