Friday, February 7, 2014

The Five Days of Wagner

Swords and singing really sweep Sieglinde off her feet

Several years ago, I decided to watch all of Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle (or Der Ring des Nibelungen) over Christmas break. These four important (and frankly sometimes boring) operas are so influential to music history that every musician really should see them at some point.* Not only did Wagner change how operas were staged, but he also changed the way music was written. Did you know there is more written about Wagner than any other composer? I saw the the operas on five nights throughout the break, because Götterdämmerung (#4) is just so long.

Fast forward a few years: 2013 was the 200th anniversary of Wagner's birth, and many opera companies put on Ring Cycles. Inspired by the outpouring, I'm sure, John Wagstaff at the University of Illinois made a challenge on the Music Library Association's listserv—sum up the entirety of the Ring Cycle, about 15 hours of opera, in one 140-character tweet. There were quite a few entries, and because each new entry included all the previous tweet submissions below the new one, reading it became a little like reading the "Twelve Days of Christmas". Which lead me to think: "One golden Ring!" Not long after, the following had been written. I hope you enjoy it.

The Five Days of Wagner

On the first day of Wagner, his opera gave to me,
A mound of stolen Rhine gold.

On the second day of Wagner, his opera gave to me,
Two incestuous twins,
And a flight of Valkyries.

On the third day of Wagner, his opera gave to me,
Three broken blades,
Two quarreling dwarves,
and a boy who's never known fear.

On the fourth day of Wagner, his opera gave to me,
Four grisly deaths,
Three river nymphs,
Two magic drinks,
and a pyre that consumes the gods.

On the fifth day of Wagner, the opera gave to me,

One golden Ring!

Four music-dramas,
Three new horns,
Two centuries,
And a boat-load of Leitmotifs.

Vocab: opera, music-drama, Leitmotif

*If you just have time to see one, I think Das Rheingold is the way to go. Also, it's the shortest.


  1. So . . . what was the winning tweet?

    1. Here are some good ones:

      "It don't mean a thing if you ain't got that ring!


      "Siegfried falls in love with the first woman he meets who hasn't been his

      And a haiku tweet:
      "Ring out of water
      Incest, Greed, Murder
      Ring back in water"