Saturday, September 12, 2015

Wagner's Romantic Dilemma

Wagner’s Romantic Dilemma
As I approach a score short of being a Centenarian, I am appalled by my minimal contributions to our society and culture. I have associated with social lions and colossal scholars, but in comparison with them, I have produced little of consequence.  My “adventures” in the service of Martin Luther King, Junior, seem to have been erased by the resurgent ignorance and prejudice that like the hydra, grows new heads for each one that is lopped off.  As a young pup working as a research assistant for Marshall McLuhan, my contributions were trivial, and sadly, now, no one remembers or understands what this genius predicted and explained about our new present—a media-driven culture that to many of us seems to be spiraling out of control, tied as we are to the cold medium of print.

When I met Morse Peckham in the mid1950s, he was still defending his 1951 PMLA article “Towards a Theory of Romanticism.”  Threading together the concepts of Kant, Schopenhauer, Fichte, and Schelling in and through the observations of A.O. Lovejoy and Rene Wellek, Peckham produced a work that clarified and crystalized my own meager understanding of what attracted me to the nineteenth century. As a novice in the academic world at the time, I suspect my opinions influenced the great man very little as his crew attempted to answer the criticism of delivering a “schizoid” theory that split the movement in half.  Since I had already adopted the concept of  “sacrifice” and was intoxicated by the ideas of Schopenhauer, I had no problem with “positive” and “negative” Romanticism—the difference being that the positive Romantics accepted killing off the Ego to serve the greater good while the selfish negative Romantics worshipped their ego and glorified in it (the Byronic Hero).  Peckham, over his lifetime, wrote three more attempts to clarify his ideas and answer the attacks.

I have written elsewhere about the ideas in the air during the nineteenth century (which linger into the present) and the role of sacrifice as a means of understanding Dickens, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and, of course, Wagner, among others. One of the chief critics of the literature of sacrifice was the Italian critic Mario Praz. He described the culture after Carlyle as Beidermeier—lacking greatness.  He was both right and wrong. Wrong because he allowed his heroic prejudice to cloud his view of the merits of sacrifice.  He was right because—as I should have helped Peckham to take off the blindfold of his theory—sacrifice often subverts the heroic.  What we overlooked or did not take into account was the Pauline Christianity that mixed with Hindu and Buddhist concepts to eliminate the Classical heroic values. The Greeks, the Romans, even the Pagan Anglo-Saxons told of “larger-than-life” heroes, whose strength, cunning, and intelligence won them victories that brought them glory, wealth, and power. Beowulf’s death is not a sacrifice. It is a last battle for glory. Wiglaf does not sacrifice himself for Beowulf; he fights, as it turns out, to inherit Beowulf’s power.  The gold that two win for killing the dragon does not go to the good of the people; rather, it is sealed up in Beowulf’s tomb. The story would have ended very differently if written after Carlyle.

This brings us to the dilemma faced by Richard Wagner. The composer breathed in the air of the nineteenth century. He came to the same concepts Schopenhauer delivered. In work after work, we see heroes and heroines sacrifice themselves for the salvation of others—Senta for the Dutchman, Elizabeth for Tannhauser, Sachs for Eva. Yet, from early in Wagner's career, the idea of Siegfried’s Tod preyed upon him. Obviously, he was enraptured by the notion of a hero, but as he developed his ideas for the opera, he kept running into roadblocks.  In the end, Wagner had to write four operas (I know—three plus a prologue) to have Siegfried’s Tod make sense—the whole story had to be told. In the end, the Ring becomes a story of sacrifice, but it is not Wagner’s chosen hero who makes the sacrifice. Sadly, Siegfried is sacrificed.

In fact, only in the opera Siegfried does the hero fit the classic definition, doing the heroic acts of freeing himself, defeating the dragon to win the Ring and Tarnhelm, overcoming the god, and waking the sleeping beauty. In short, Wagner does write an opera about a hero, but it is not the opera he originally thought he was writing.  When he does write that opera, the hero becomes the victim.  He does not sacrifice himself, but he is the sacrifice as Wotan allows his grandson to die so that the Ring is free and his daughter to sacrifice herself to return the Ring to the Rhine.  Wotan through the Cycle is the Perfect Peckham Postive Romantic as in the beginning he seeks in his ego to take the Ring only to discover that he has broken the codes that he himself established, and so he kills off his ego allowing the string of fate to play out as he sacrifices himself and all he hoped for to allow the world a rebirth. Clearly Wagner could not escape his age, and his attempt to write of a hero was his dilemma.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Wagner's Vixens and Old Men

Wagner reached a point in his struggling years when he felt pulled in too many directions. His letters to several friends describe the torment of multiple, diverse musical themes pulling his creativity in diverse directions.  He decided to halt the composition of Siegfried almost in the middle of the Second Act to allow the growing theme of Tristan to develop. However, he wrote to Liszt's more than friend Marie Wittgenstein that Siegfried would not leave him, so he went back to the composition and completed the Second Act, freeing the hero and himself from the captivity of the dwarves and the dragon.  Yet, he says, "Tristan would give him no peace..." while he was working on Siegfried reaching the point of following the forest bird. At this point the opera Siegfried becomes a set of bookends inside of which Wagner wrote and composed Tristan und Isolde, Die Meistersingers, and the Paris version of Tannhauser.

Interestingly enough, the two new operas are variations on the sacrifice theme that Wagner ubiquitously used throughout his creative works, only in these two works we discover the sacrifice is not made by a loving woman; rather, the sacrifices are those of older men who sacrifice their personal feelings for the sake of others. Schopenhauer and the Eastern philosophies echoed through Wagner's works at this time--the idea of unbridled will causing misery finds expression in both operas.  Hans Sachs expresses Wagner's view of this quite clearly in the "Wahn, Wahn" monologue, which occurs the morning after the brawl between David and Beckmesser the night before.
Sachs realizes that only by killing off the ego, killing off the "phenomenal" will can one find peace.

In Tristan und Isolde, as Ernest Newman points out, the "love potion" is the excuse for Tristan and Isolde to let out their true, sublimated feelings for each other.  This is the "will" of youth that Sachs laments in the next opera. In Tristan King Marke feels the betrayal of his loyal knight, but when the truth is revealed by Brangaene, the King, as Newman paraphrases it, "straightway hurried over the sea to yield Isolde up to Tristan..." and accepts a measure of the blame for what has happened: "A richer harvest reaped by death:/more woe I blindly have wrought!"  Marke's sacrifice at this point in the opera is, of course, overshadowed by the result of the raging wills of the hero and heroine, as Isolde and Tristan are transfigured in their love-death.

Wagner had to lighten the tone to teach his lesson.  He did that in the following opera. Hans Sachs even cites King Marke as the example that he must avoid:
Wagner underlines the statement by including a motif from Tristan. Here is the sacrifice, here is the destruction of the ego for the good of others, here is the secret of Wagner. Here is the death of Schopenhauer's "will."

It would be crass to suggest that Wagner might have been telling Otto Wessendonk or Hans von Bulow how they should react to Wagner's affairs with their wives.

The point is, rather, that having gotten this statement of sacrifice out of his head, Wagner could return to Siegfried and the Ring operas, in which the ultimate sacrifice is made by an older man--Wotan--who gives up his sons, daughters, and the world. The final statement is made when Parsifal through his sacrifice redeems us all including the vixen.

Friday, July 31, 2015

The American Taliban

IThe startling revelation this week that Mullah Omar is dead--and has been for two years--brought feelings of relief to many of us.  Those of us familiar with The Kite Runner know of the racism, hatred, and bigotry that grew from the holier-than-thou self-righteousness of the Taliban. Pashtun elitists submersed in fundamentalist Islam, the Taliban have earned the disrespect of most of the world for their hatred of women, their hatred of intellectuals, their hatred of their own minorities, their hatred of world culture. Mullah Omar engineered the government that denied women the right to education, denied minorities the right to their own beliefs, and denied the Afghan people the right to see, enjoy, and study the great works of art and history that belonged not only to the Afghans but also to the world--Mullah Omar ordered the destruction of the Buddha of Bamiyan statues, which had stood for 1700 years.  Such self-righteous behavior always seems to produce actions motivated by fear and trepidation of those who do not share the superstitions of the theocratic elite.

America too has its Taliban.  The roots go back to the arch-Calvinist groups who sought to purify the Church of England. Some were expelled from Shakespeare's England for their radicalism--this is the group that Americans fondly call the Pilgrim Fathers forgetting the intolerance and superstitious blindness of this group.  If this group had stayed in England, they would have eventually taken power and enjoyed the "wonderful realm" of the Puritans--the wonderfully benevolent group who desecrated all of the statues on the island and closed the theaters and despite the pleas of Milton, censored what was written and published.  But the Pilgrims and the Puritans who immigrated to Massachusetts Bay Colony were more extreme than Cromwell's crowd, who were content to persecute the heathen, Catholic Irish.  The self-righteous American Puritans, in their fear and paranoia, began to feed upon themselves, ferreting out Witches and others who had made covenants with the Devil.  Secular Art or anything that might make for a pleasurable life was forbidden.  The infighting between rival sects trying to be the holiest led to the expulsion of two groups and the birth of two new colonies as Massachusetts split off Connecticut and Rhode Island. The "Puritan Ethic" born in Antinomianism still exists in a strain of Americanism.  Thankfully, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Delaware were the home of men and women of the Enlightenment, who counterbalanced the fundamentalist radicals of New England.  Franklin may have been born in Boston, but he was at home in Pennsylvania and the cosmopolitan city of Philadelphia. His enlightenment voice aided the Virginians Washington, Jefferson, and Madison in the founding of the country.

Time has passed, and the American Taliban has re-emerged.  The American fundamentalist Christian movement cries out now that it is being discriminated against, forced by the government and degenerate groups to betray their faith.  Just as the Taliban, these fundamentalist Christians seek to use their religious superstitions to deny others their rights.  No one has closed any churches. No one has prohibited worship. No one has demanded that any one must sponsor or participate in any activity he or she does not believe in.  They have been asked not to use their beliefs as an excuse to discriminate against others.

Dr. King startled me one evening when we were discussing some charges against him.  He told our small group that he knew people accused him of being a Communist. Then he added that if people would only look closely and use their common sense, they would see "that I am really a Capitalist Activist. I am trying to make everyone richer, to live a richer life, to get them to see that the 'invisible hand" of the market is being stifled by their prejudice. Everyone wants his business to grow and prosper, but how can the person do that by shutting out a part of the market, by not considering hiring all of the candidates who might make the business more profitable, by denying the seller the top price for a home by not being willing to sell to part of the market."  Dr. King knew that prejudice, fear, hatred, and superstition hurt the persecutors as well as the persecuted.   Dr. King was motivated by his Pauline Christian outlook. One only needs to read The Letter from the Birmingham Jail to see the depth of his knowledge of the faith as well as the depth of his intellectual prowess.  He was fighting discrimination by trying to make things better for everyone.  He wanted those without rights to have them, but not at the expense of anyone else's rights.  He sought to make everyone's life better by expanding markets and competition--the very essence of Capitalism.

Today's fundamentalist Christians are as nefarious as the Taliban.  They seek to invoke their beliefs to deprive others from the freedoms and rights that have been hard earned.  They played a big role in the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution in the 1970s. They have denied women their rights by blocking legal abortions; they endanger all of us by standing against stem cell research. Now, they are denying themselves income by refusing to serve members of the LGBT community.  No one is asking them to endorse anything or to behave any differently in their own lives, but all of us are asking them to not use their narrow beliefs to discriminate against others.  After Hurricane Katrina leveled New Orleans, a spokesman for the Religious Right Jerry Falwell announced that this was God's punishment for a city of evil. How can we ever hope the self-righteous, holier than thou to see the world without looking through their superstitious glasses and seeing a world painted by their own narrow-mindedness, fear, and trepidation. We must all beware. The Taliban are here.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Flags and Heritage

Decades ago a group of dissatisfied, disillusioned, and diehard ideologues declared a new country. To symbolize their unity they created a banner, a flag, which they incorporated into articles of dress, civic architecture, and patriotic art. The ideology of this group enshrined the concept of a master race whose genetic superiority gave it the privilege of enslaving and mistreating others.  The economy survived on the basis of free labor, slave labor. The concept of expansion, spreading the ideals of racial privilege into other lands led to a great war in which thousands died--the bloodiest war ever fought until that time. Fortunately this inhumane group was defeated.

At this point, this narrative can go in opposite directions: In the first one, the opponents of this group were so vengeful that all remnants of the new land were abolished.  The Swastika was outlawed; those who had saluted it were so embarrassed by what it had come to stand for that most of them denied they knew what had happened.  The leaders were tried as war criminals and put to death or imprisoned.  Almost no one talks about preserving the Nazi past because it represents some misconceived ideal of "heritage." The only heritage it represents is cruelty, prejudice, and immorality.

In the second, the leader of the victorious side spoke of "malice toward none and benevolence toward all."  The leaders of the opposition were allowed to go free, to go home, and in some places, continue in power. For his charity and kindness Lincoln was murdered.  Perhaps if he had lived, the outcome might have been different. The country might have "stitched up its wounds" and reunited under a just, and reasonable republic. Instead of being humiliated by their actions and beliefs, the losers gloried in them, seeking to restore their racist past through shameful organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan in which cowards hid their faces behind masks as they waved their banner of hatred while burning property and hanging those over whom they felt superior.  What German would hang a swastika in the back window of his pickup truck to honor his "heritage"? Yet, everyday I hear Americans extolling the Stars and Bars as an historical symbol and part of their sacred "heritage."  Yes, it is a heritage--a shameful heritage of hatred, cruelty, and oppression-- One that needs to be erased just as Germany has sought to erase its Nazi past.

I have faced the hatred and the anger.  I have marched to remove the stains of the past and replace them with the freedom that should be in place today.  Yet, every time I see a confederate flag, I feel that all my efforts have been in vain. Mr. Lincoln, we have failed. Dr. King, we have failed. With the dumbing down of America, the hatred increases.  No one reads, no one listens, no one sees the greatness of the words of the past.  Emerson and Thoreau are now silent without readers. Alfred Green and Frederick Douglas have no audiences. The Letter from Birmingham Jail is now undelivered. My heritage has been denied.

The End of an Era

The eminence of Melchior cast an overwhelming shadow over the Wagnerian world--perhaps even larger after his performances were only memories. His departure from the opera stage after his sixtieth birthday in 1950 left a void that seemed unfillable. Of course, there were volunteers for the spotlight, but none of them were Melchior. Wagnerphiles watched and listened as Hans Hopf burned his voice away, Set Svanholm sewed together performances with a thin, thready voice, and Ramon Vinay stretched his obvious baritone to reach notes he could never really sing.  In retrospect, only Ludwig Suthaus carried us forward, but sadly, due to his treatment by the Nazis, his career was delayed, so we heard only the final years.  He was Furtwangler's choice for Tristan and Siegmund for good reason.

The page turned late in the 1950s and early 1960s. In Europe, Wolfgang Windgassen--oh he's no Melchior--became everyone's heldentenor; although everyone said his voice was too light, too weak, too anemic for such lengthy, robust roles.  Listening to his recordings today, I am astounded at the beauty and sensitivity that he was able to give to his roles. But still, everyone said, he is not Melchior.   Quite honestly, no one was or could ever be. Yet in North America three tenors appeared at almost the same time, and all three changed the way we felt about heldentenor roles.  Their voices reopened our ears to Wagner.  We had performers who could sing the roles and act the parts. We may not have recognized it at the time, but it was a renaissance--and best of all, it was captured on the LP record. Not counting Furtwangler's Tristan ind Isolde in the early 1950s, the great opera recording events of the 1950s and 60s were the two competing Ring cycles of Culshaw/Solti and Karajan.

Culshaw has told in The Ring Resounding the story of trying to find a Siegfried, failing miserably, and having to crawl obsequiously to Windgassen to beseech him to take the part.  When he had to cast Siegmund (the cycle was recorded out of order), Culshaw offered the role to a singer from Kansas--James King.  At the time the results seemed to be a mixed success.  The critics--especially Dale Harris and Conrad L. Osborne--nitpicked King mercilessly and continued to do so through his other Wagner recordings, especially his Lohengrin conducted by Kubelik.  The listening public, however, heard another side of King, and he was able to ride his popularity to a great career.  Today, we are able to hear that he was a great talent!

King was the last of the three North Americans to make a "splash" in the Wagner world. The first was the Canadian Jon Vickers. Vickers emerged just when the pent up desire to find a new Melchior reached a crescendo. Vickers filled the bill--he scored multiple successes in Europe and in America. The third member of this trio was from South Dakota. He stumbled into opera on a lark, trying out for an opera while he was in graduate school studying psychology.  Jess Thomas became the Siegfried of the 1960s.

The Karajan Ring is under-appreciated today, which is a great shame. The Reingold is a masterpiece documenting Fischer-Dieskau's sensitive interpretation of Wotan. More importantly to the point here, The Walkure contains Vicker's brilliant performance as Siegmund. The Siegfried is Jess Thomas.  The light shone for a while; then we slipped back into the twilight.

Jon Vickers died last week.  He was the last of this group.  Windgassen, King, Thomas, Vickers--thanks to their recordings, their voices will live--We will know that there was a time when Wagner could be heard almost as it was in the golden years of Schorr, Melchior, Flagstadt, and Traubel. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Curse--Remembering Too Much

Perhaps the greatest curse is living too long--living too long to see the mistakes of the past return in the present. The Great Depression left little impact on my infant memories, but World War II left a deep imprint on an impressionable child. Herr Hitler wanted to take over Bohemia to protect the German-speaking Czechs from themselves.  Now 80 years later Господин  Putin wants to protect Russian speaking Ukranians from themselves.  Я не знаю. Я не понимаю. I speak both languages--they are nearly the same.  I do not think this is a language issue.  What am I missing? The mistakes of the past return.

The 1950s was a jumping off time--the military was integrated during the Korean Conflict, oddly so were most American professional sports. The decade was a hatching ground for the reform efforts of liberation that erupted in the 1960s.  Somehow I seemed to find myself deeply involved in most of them.  From the freedom rides and my work with Dr. King, it was a small leap into the growing antiwar movement of the late 1960s and 1970s.  I stood on a platform at Drake University in 1968 with Mark Rudd of the Weatherman movement.  I believe that he was the scariest person that I ever met.  Abbey Hoffman had nothing on Mark Rudd. I was radical, but Rudd was.... well, I am not sure what he was.  The Chicago Democratic National Convention that year helped to focus the movements of liberation--civil rights, anti-war, the growing feminist movement; despite the hatred and fear that the change we sought engendered (more beatings and arrests), the year of the convention highlighted the strides that had been made.  The Voting Rights Act had passed Congress, the Fair Employment Act had passed Congress, the Fair Housing Act had passed Congress.  Even universities in the South were integrated. I had met James Meredith when he was assigned to Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Nebraska, quite by accident, while I was working in the base education office recruiting for a local Omaha Institution. Meredith used his GI bill money to enroll at the University of Mississippi. A year or two later, I remember working with several NAACP chapters visiting homes for sale in White neighborhoods as a prospective buyer, telling the sellers to expect an offer, and then taking the real buyers (African Americans) to the private closings to get their homes--Bless those brave realtors who cooperated and helped integrate many all-White neighborhoods.  America seemed to be growing up.

The Anti-war movement at this time had converted even the National Television Networks to opposition to the war--it is from this time that the so-called "liberal bias" charge against the national networks originates.  It is still a mystery to me how my fate and the Kent State murders came together, but I watched the event from a faculty office that finally turned the nation around and, I firmly believe, forced the President to end the war (out of fear that he would be removed from office if he did not--of course, he was removed by his own stupidity, not by anti-war activists).

It seemed like a small success at the time, but the seeds that we planted in the 1960s and 70s bore fruit in the early 1980s when conservative President Reagan after the attempt on his life allowed the law that limited gun ownership to pass.  Not a big victory, but assault weapons were outlawed. Many large cities followed suit and passed stringent gun control laws.  Considering the origins of a country born out of an armed revolution against a "foreign" power, these steps were pretty big ones.

As I look back now, I remember the pain that I endured during those days, always believing that I was making a difference, that society was improving, that America was becoming a more decent, peaceful place.  I thought, I thought.  By the 1980s, most American television shows were integrated--thank you Norman Leer.  The one blip in the road was the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment in the mid 1970s.  Ironically, Betty Friedan had turned down my offer of assistance telling me that I was too radical and would probably hurt the effort more than help it.  But still strides were made.  Choice was legalized; women gained control over their own bodies. New job opportunities were available for women.

But now--now the America that I had so much hope for seems to have disappeared. Voting Rights are under attack. Since money talks, the Fair Housing Act is safe, but property prices and the increasing disparity in income levels are once again making home ownership difficult for many. Hatred and prejudice is on the rise, fostered by the polarity in the American Government. The values that I for which I fought, no longer seem to be the values of my compatriots.  One name summarizes my fears and pain--the undoing of much that I thought that I had helped accomplish--Charleston. Not even Nathan Bedford Forrest would have been proud of what happened there. Hatred, guns, death. My despair. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Imminence, eminence, and reverence--the story of Siegmund's Sisters, his Father, and What It Is Like to Look in the Looking Glass

The mirror is a fascinating yet terrifying invention.  It shows us ourselves, but not our true selves.  It shows us reversed, so we never see ourselves as others see us.  It shows us what we fear about ourselves and with a little projection, what we want to see ourselves to be.  It becomes a maze that presents endless images if we put another mirror between the original and ourselves--the depths are endless and frightening.  We are told that because it is not alive, it cannot but tell the truth, but when we look to see ourselves, we are looking at a lie, we are looking at something that is not real, we are looking at our left-handed doppelgänger. Ultimately we are seeing a "what if?"  But why be scared, why be frightened--we are only seeing a reflection.  Perhaps that mirror is the gateway to the noumenal world where all things seek their roots in the one, the universal, the oversoul that connects all living things.

Richard Wagner's second opera of the great Ring Cycle presents us with a series of mirror images that lead us from the imminence of the living force that drives us all, through the eminence of great power, to the reverence that misleads us at first, but then allows us to provide something that will be revered in and of itself.  The focal point of Die Walkure is Siegmund and Nothung.  Between them, they create what Wotan, the one who is to be revered, cannot. They are the key to unlocking the mirror images. Just as Alberich takes a mortal woman to bed to create his champion, Wotan takes a mortal woman to bed to create his champion, someone free of his bidding who can remove the curse.  Whether it is by accident or through forethought, he creates twins (the male and female mirror images of each other).  Fricka exposes the mistake that Wotan has made--as his creation, Siegmund cannot be more than a pawn--he can never remove the curse that Wotan's lust for the ring has caused.  That will be up to the image that emerges from the mirror of the twins when the gateway between the phenomenal and the noumenal opens.

The sisters of Siegmund are foils--essentially another kind of mirror image of each other.  At the opening of the opera, Sieglinde is the timid, frightened slave-wife of Hunding, terrified of her husband.  When Siegmund arrives collapsing in weakness on Hunding's hearth, he brings the spark that will awaken her courage and her true feelings.  She becomes the key actress, drugging her husband and leading Siegmund to the hidden sword.  The only one able to remove the sword that Wotan thrust into the Ash tree, Siegmund reveals himself, his true name, and the name of the sword promised him by his father.  As he does so, Sieglinde declares herself, and the brother and sister are united in the spring moonlight as they rush away together from the house of slavery and death--somehow the mirror images have merged and will produce one.

Sieglinde's foil Brunhilde opens the second act as the daring, brash young goddess, full of her own godhead, but yet reverent of her eminent father.  Her opening moments are the exact opposite of Sieglinde's opening moments.  Despite her lack of understanding of her father's commands after Fricka intercedes and exposes the flaw in Wotan's plans, Brunhilde agrees to carry out Wotan's wish to give the victory to Hunding and to bring Siegmund's body to him.  She goes to carry out the plan only to come face to face with the mirror that will change everything.  Just as Siegmund's love for Sieglinde led her to a character change, so seeing the love and its result causes Brunhilde to change. From the fierce shield maiden, she becomes Aphrodite protecting the lovers and defying her father's wishes as she sees the individual will and strength of her brother, who stands up to her and defies her.

In the struggle between Hunding and Siegmund, Brunhilde stands by allowing the battle to take place. At this point a new foil or mirror image foreshadows the future.  Wotan appears on the scene and uses his staff--the staff with the laws carved on it, the laws he broke when he tried to keep the ring and cheat the giants--to break the sword he made for his hero.  Ironically, the product of the mirroring twins will reforge the sword and use it to sever the same staff as he makes his way to awaken his aunt.

Brunhilde flees with the pieces of the sword and her mirror image step-sister.  One sister carries the hero who will eventually save Brunhilde from her humiliation; the other faces the wrath of their father and the loss of her godhood.  Brunhilde now has turned into the helpless  woman that we saw in Sieglinde at the beginning of the opera.  She faces her father fearfully, and he metes out his punishment to her.

As we move to the third opera of the Ring, we have the mirror images fully revealed.  Just as Wotan broke Nothung in the hands of Siegmund with his staff (causing Siegmund's death), now in Siegfried, Siegfried, who has reforged Nothung, uses the sword to break the staff, leading to Wotan's final sacrifice and loss of godhood as Valhalla will eventually crumble beneath him.    And just as Siegmund found the fearful woman at the opening of Walkure and through love awoke her, now his son, will find a fearful human woman and through love will awaken her.  All of the images have been reversed.