Wagner's opera as an anti-war manifesto • Art de Vivre

Wagner's opera as an anti-war manifesto

4 minutes to read

Nietzsche adored music, he was a friend of Wagner's and declared:

Without music, life would be a mistake.

(Twilight of the Idols, Maxims and Points, § 33).

In today's world that is trying to desperately to survive and prolong its existence, the duet between the philosopher and the composer rings very true, and more relevant than ever. We can see the transfiguration of the world that art reflects and that seeks new meanings and new paths for humanity.

Wagner's opera as an anti-war manifesto

Where did it begin?

In the realm of Wagner’s music, who is also Hitler's favorite composer, it has become an anti-war manifesto in the hands of Kirill Serebrennikov, who has staged the opera Lohengrin at the Paris Opéra in September 2023. The story of the knight in the swan, which comes from medieval German literature and speaks of times long past, has been transformed into current events without losing the sense of Wagnerian apocalypse.

It's as if Kirill Serebrennikov has managed to turn opera into film. The stage as one or more screens where modern images produce the effect of historical truth. Is it a dream we are seeing? Or is it hard reality? These are questions to ask and reflect on, that seem more pertinent than ever.

Wagner's opera in Paris

It’s through the movement

The interplay of light and dark, the structural transformation of the stage, the movement of the body that exposes that of the soul. All these devices bewitch us to create an atmosphere in which providence and human choice reign supreme.

The question Elsa, Lohengrin's beloved, asks herself is a Shakespearean one. Instead of

to be or not to be

there is instead a doubt placed in her by her dishonest entourage. When someone creates reality especially for you, sooner or later it leads you to delirium or even worse, to your death.

Lohengrin at the Paris Opéra in September 2023

The role of time and death

Wagner's music and songs are always at the forefront. The director has succeeded in faceting this diamond in the crown of the romantic opera Lohengrin. The length of 4 hours 20 minutes, including the two inter-acts, which did not weigh heavily on the audience.
When the scene in the second act is divided into three parts, the first of which is the military canteen, the second the military hospital and the third the mortuary, Nietzsche's words still echo in the mind:

God is dead! God remains dead! And it is we who have killed him.

Lohengrin at the Paris Opéra

Could we have done otherwise?

This question hangs in the air. Even if history has no "ifs", human beings are still capable of analyzing what is happening, especially through art. And this Parisien performance does just that.

It was Nietzsche who said:

Art is given to us to prevent us from dying of the truth. 

Let's make the most of it.

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Photo Credits: Lohengrin (season 23/24) © Charles Duprat / OnP

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