Sunday, August 23, 2009

Wagner's Ring Cycle and Writing Mystery Novels

     I just finished my third viewing of Wagner's Ring Cycle at Seattle Opera. My wife is happy to bask in the glorious music, but I can't help getting involved in the story, and each time I've gone to these performances, I've taken more away.
     At every RHEINGOLD, I've privately urged Wotan to give the cursed ring back to the Rhine Maidens, but this time, it occurred to me that were he to do so, the story would have been very much like the one Tolkien wrote (though Tolkien always swore his books were not based upon Wagner's work, but that's another issue). Chase to the bowels of the earth after the ring, have an adventure recovering it from its evil master, overcome your own greed, return it to its proper owner, all's well that ends well. But Wagner's story and characters are far more complex and interesting. Wotan's failure to do right results in no less than the death of the gods, though his subsequent machinations lead in the end to the redemption of the world. Questions regarding love, honor, power, and destiny hold the viewer long after the operas are over.
     The lesson for a scribbler of crime novels: don't let your characters take the easier choice. Even if they happen to be gods.

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