Gil Kane’s and Roy Thomas’s graphic novel Richard Wagner’s “The ring of the Nibelung” (New York: DC Comics, 1997) transforms Wagner’s dramma in musica into dramma in pittura.
Kane’s artwork visually follows Wagner’s musical fabric while retaining the means of expression characteristic of the comic-book format. His images do not autonomously narrate the tale; rather, they double the musical narrative form established by Wagner.
For example, the drama of Die Walküre begins not with the curtain opening on the first scene, but with its instrumental Vorspeil, which depicts the storm through which Siegmund isrunning. In his graphic version of the opera, Kane begins with four pages of pictures without text, depicting visually the action painted by Wagner’s orchestral score.
This according to “Od glazbene do slikovne drame: Roy Thomasov i Gil Kaneov strip Wagnerova Prstena Nibelunga by Zdravko Blažeković (Hrvatsko slovo: Tjednik za kulturu I/18 [25 August 1995] pp. 22–23).
Today is Wagner’s 200th birthday! Above, the immolation scene and finale from Götterdämmerung (click to enlarge); below, Anne Evans’s legendary performance at Bayreuth in 1992.
With their dramatic action and vivid characters, operas have inspired a number of graphic novels, including books by P. Craig Russell and a series (now out of print) produced in collaboration with England’s Royal Opera House. The most noteworthy examples of this genre are not just illustrations of libretti; they are autonomous works of art in the graphic novel tradition.
Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen is particularly suited to the treatment it receives in The ring of the Niebelung by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane; set in a mythological time, with illustrious characters who can alter their physical forms, defy gravity, and survive without oxygen, it fits naturally into the medium’s world of fantasy and superheroes.
In some cases this drammata in pittura brings a powerful new dimension to Wagner’s drammata in musica—for example, the action that the audience must imagine during the Vorspiel of Die Walküre is fully depicted over the course of four textless pages. The cycle was first published in four installments by DC Comics.
Above, the opening of Act II of Die Walküre (click to enlarge); below, part of the 2011 production by the Metropolitan Opera.
The main entrance to the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts’s exhibition Lou Reed: Caught between the twisted stars opens up on Lincoln Plaza, directly adjacent to the The Metropolitan Opera house. On a sunny day, the Met’s … Continue reading →
Seven strings/Сім струн (dedicated to Uncle Michael)* For thee, O Ukraine, O our mother unfortunate, bound, The first string I touch is for thee. The string will vibrate with a quiet yet deep solemn sound, The song from my heart … Continue reading →
Introduction: Dr. Philip Ewell, Associate Professor of Music at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, posted a series of daily tweets during Black History Month (February 2021) providing information on some under-researched Black … Continue reading →
For it [the Walkman] permits the possibility…of imposing your soundscape on the surrounding aural environment and thereby domesticating the external world: for a moment, it can all be brought under the STOP/START, FAST FOWARD, PAUSE and REWIND buttons. –Iain Chambers, “The … Continue reading →