Book Review

The Redeemer Reborn Review

On the flight to Paris, I finished reading Paul Schofeld's The Redeemer Reborn: Parsifal as the Fifth Opera of Wagner's Ring. Certain aspects of the book annoyed me greatly, particularly on page 196 when Schofeld quotes from a conversation between Wagner and Cosima, and then comments: "I will discuss Wotan's renunciation further in a while, but it is clear from Wagner's remarks to Cosima that he sees it as being enough to achieve salvation. In the context of the Buddhist view of cleansing karma, renunciation, is not, by itself, enough, though it is is a necessary first step." Schofeld goes on to say, that Wagner's analysis of his own work, at least through a Buddhist lens, incorrect, and that Wotan is not Titurel but Amfortas.

However, the book was otherwise enjoyable. Despite not being convinced of the author's analysis, it was still quite informative. Certainly there are parallels between Siegfried and Parsifal; Alberich and Klingsor; and Wotan and Amfortas. I found the connection between Brünnhilde and Kundry to be most tenuous. One of the pieces of evidence Schofeld uses was an inscription by Wagner on a photograph of himself to Amalie Materna: "Kundry here, Brünnhilde there, the work's bright jewel everywhere." Evidently Materna sang these roles in Berlin and Bayreuth, I don't see how this helps prove that Brünnhilde is reborn as Kundry.

Schofeld gives numerous etymologies, from taboo to Nibelungen, which was fun. Most interesting was the information on Die Sieger, an opera Wagner planned about an explicitly Buddhist theme. The opera was to be about the first bhikkuni, or ordained female monastic. Also fascinating were the various grail legends, which Schofeld covers in some detail.

Musicophilia Review

* Notes *
As an adolescent my two boyhood heroes were most certainly
Václav Havel and Oliver Sacks. It was around that time that I tried, in vain, to find a copy of Zahradní slavnost at my public library. It is just as well, I did not understand the play when I read it as an undergraduate. The library did, however, have Oliver Sacks' Awakenings, which I probably did not understand that well either, but made quite an impression on my young mind.

Sacks' latest book, entitled Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, is in the same engaging style as The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (which, incidentally, was made into an opera) and An Anthropologist on Mars. Like the previous books, Musicophilia goes through several case studies of neurological conditions that involve music, including musical hallucinations, synesthesia and music, and musician's dystonia. However, the scope of this new book is broader, not only discussing pathologies, their disadvantages and surprising advantages, but also covers music and the human brain generally.

While organized into four major parts, at times I felt Sacks jumped around a bit. For example, Chapter 16 deals with aphasia and music therapy, but Chapter 17 abruptly goes into a short case study on dyskinesia. Nonetheless, on the whole, the book is both entertaining and instructive. I am particularly fond of the chapter on musical savants.

* Tattling *
I was disappointed the index did not include "opera," so for your amusement and consideration, I made my own entry:

     Freud and Mozart operas, 292

     Challenger, Melanie 281-282

     musical imagery involving, 241-242

     Das Rheingold, 282-283
     Dido and Aeneas, 284, 301
     Jenufa, 34-35
     La Traviata, 11, 79
     Orpheus in the Underworld, 241
     Tannhäuser, 75
     Turandot, 326
     William Tell, 103

     savantism involving, 151-152, 239

     Jenkins, Florence Foster, 100
     Tucker, Richard, 320
     Lenhoff, Gloria, 325-327

Also, I noted that the index had an entry for "Japanese speakers, see tonal languages," but the pages referred to had information on Chinese and Vietnamese speakers and absolute pitch.