Wheels of Cheese #54: A Digression

Pengy likes to dance

Pengy likes to dance

Like most people I enjoy a good nexus. For instance, did you know that Andre the Giant grew up next door to Samuel Beckett, and the author of Waiting for Godot, Krapp’s Last Tape and that odd film with Buster Keaton called Film used to drive the 1988 WWF Champion (defeating Hulk Hogan in a controversial fight – the referee ‘Dave Hebner’ later revealed to be Dave’s Evil Twin Brother Earl), and later star of The Princess Bride to school? Apparently they used to talk about cricket…


If that’s not the best nexus ever, then I’m not sure what is. The only other that comes close in my book is knowing that the mad old Edgard Varese, composer of light classics such as Density 21.5, Ameriques and Etude pour espace was a good mate of Burgess Meredith, best known as The Penguin in the 1960s version of Batman. Ed actually wrote a dance for Burgess, called Dance for Burgess, which can be heard here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mf1FMicnFEs. Catchy innit?

All of which is a convoluted way of saying I was about to write my piece about Das Rheingold, when my Windows Live shuffle started playing Your Racist Friend by They Might Be Giants. Which is a different sort of nexus I guess. More a serendipity. Or a coincidence. Anyway, it seemed apt.

Here they are on Letterman!


Wheels of Cheese #53: The Ring Cycle by Richard Wagner

This dude really liked Turner

This dude really liked Turner

To my horror, it turns out that it’s been over two months since I posted on this site. When I left you I was about to embark on The Ring Cycle, in the Robert LePage version from the New York Met. It would be disingenuous, by which I mean false, to claim that all I have done for the last two months is listen to The Ring. It’s long, but not that long. No, I’ve done lots of stuff which was Not Listening to the Ring. I got some new shoes, for a start, and they’re bloody terrific. Comfortable as fuck. I read Bridge Over the Drina by Ivo Andric, which concerns itself for the most part with the bridge over the river Drina, and then the first half of a biography on Ruskin (he really liked Turner). Saw the Turner exhibition at the Maritime Museum (Ruskin really liked him). I’ve also been trying to stay quite fit – I guess we all had to get back into shape after Christmas!

But mostly I’ve been listening to The Ring, by Wagner, starting with Das Rheingold and going all the way through to Gotterdamurung, which is a hell of a journey for any young man to take, however comfortable his shoes. Over the next few days I’ll tell you what I reckon about it, and see if we can’t get this whole field of ‘Wagner scholarship’ off the ground. I’m pretty sure there’s a fair bit to be said, and if I don’t stick my oar in sharpish the web will be awash with stuff quicker than you can say ‘That John Ruskin, he really liked Turner’.

Going for a walk now, to think about what I’ve done.

Wheels of Cheese #52 – The Ring Cycle by Richard Wagner

Richard Wagner - whatever you do, don't start him talking.

Richard Wagner – whatever you do, don’t start him talking.

And so, to The Ring Cycle. the bloody, bloody Ring Cycle.

There are, of course, those that reckon Wagner can only be fully appreciated at Beyreuth – Wagner himself reckoned that, but then Wagner reckoned a lot of stuff, over much of which we might be inclined to draw a discreet veil. For myself, my watching environs will be a little more bespoke – in me bed, in me dressing gown, with a hot water bottle, a glass of red and some fine cheeses. I’m not sure Wagner would approve of any of that, except perhaps the dressing gown, which feels to me a particularly Wagnerian gesture on my part. Although, Contra Wagner, mine won’t be silk, what with it being so fucking cold.

The production I will be concentrating on will be the controversial Robert Lepage version, staged at the New York Metropolitan in 2012, cos that’s the one mentioned in Gramophone, and cos large chunks of it seem to be available on youtube. So that’ll be Bryn Terfel as Wotan, Deborah Voigt as Brunnhilde, Jonas Kaufmann as Siegmund and a whole bunch of others dropping in and out during the 16 hours I have ahead of me. It will also feature Lepage’s controversial ‘machine’, a computerized set of 24 interlocking and swiveling aluminum planks, weighing 45 tons, being supported by two 7.9-metres (26 feet) towers, which spin and transform into various backdrops, and which, once they stopped in creaking above the singers, provided the talking point of the Cycle.

So, if you have 16 hours of you life spare, why not pull up the blankets, don the gown, and settle in with me to be yelled at in German about the Gods? I know you want to…