The two concepts seem hardly compatible. The former is a month that recognizes people’s needs for spiritual harmony and tolerance in their lives. The latter is a Minneapolis society dedicated to the memory of a 19th century German opera composer who once considered moving to Minnesota.
But look closer. Among Wagner’s works two pieces stand out with which most people are familiar: the wedding march from Lohengrin, familiarly known as “Here Comes the Bride” and the “Flight of the Valkyries” overture which formed the musical backdrop for the helicopter attack in Apocalypse Now. These works along with Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde and his Ring Cycle constitute major influences in American cultural expressions of joy, love, sacrifice and redemption.
Regarding spiritual wellness, the National Wellness Institute states two tenets:
- It is better to ponder the meaning of life for ourselves and to be tolerant of the beliefs of others than to close our minds and become intolerant.
- It is better to live each day in a way that is consistent with our values and beliefs than to do otherwise and feel untrue to ourselves.
Regarded from those standpoints, Society newsletter editor Carol Thomas’s interest in Wagner is typical. Upon becoming acquainted with his music through the Marx Brothers’ Night at the Opera, she found herself listening to Wagner’s operas more and more as she began to “understand the passion behind the music.” For Carol as for other Wagner devotees, hearing his music is “like you’ve found god.”
To celebrate that passion, Carol and steering committee member Kevin Edgar facilitate monthly DVD viewings of select performances and quarterly discussions of Wagnerian scholarship. The Society hosts a recitals and/or field trips in the spring and fall and holds an annual dinner at the German American Institute in Saint Paul. And through the Society’s auspices, a limited compliment of tickets become available every year for enthusiasts willing to pilgrimage to Bayreuth, Germany where Wagner built his festspielhaus (opera house) to perform his works.
Such acts dedicated to a man known also as a cultural supremacist might be considered repugnant if not sacrilegious. But being true to expressions of the sublime and the beautiful should be respected as acts of devotion regardless whether their creators hanged on the cross or inspired the Nazis.
What do you think?