One cannot understand Rotterdam if one does not understand JUGEND…
I finally did it! I went to see an actual opera; no parody, to extreme shortened version, no youtube video. No, I actually went to see an opera. It began with an invitation from JUGEND’s vocalist Daryl “Totalitarier” Grootfaam, apparently he does this sort of thing more often. They were performing Wagner’s Walküre in New York, the live recordings were then transmitted to a cinema in Rotterdam where we could enjoy the show with a three minute delay. I met Daryl in front of the cinema where we quickly smoked a cigarette and discussed our battle plan; the plan was that we, the good Dutchmen that we are, should try to gain as much as we can from this event. Daryl already managed to get the tickets with discount, but he explained to me that this also includes free drinks and free snacks. The original plan therefore was to try to drink at least five glasses of wine before leaving the opera. Whilst he explained this to me I couldn’t help but think of the scene from that movie, Valkyrie, in which Adolf Hilter explains to Tom Cruise that one cannot understand National Socialism if one does not understand Wagner.
We enter the cinema, a lounge area had been improvised by the staff; brown couches and shabby plants were supposed to separate those who were sophisticated enough to go to an opera from those who just wanted to see Vin Diesel do yet another crappy movie (when will he do anything interesting again?). As we drank our free coffee I gorged on the free nuts (no, not testicles) whilst observing my environment. As I mentioned the cinema seemed to had been divided into two groups, the “sophistos” who want Wagner and the “barbarians” who wanted to see some Norse god talk with an Australian accent. There were also some other clear differences between the groups. First of all, there was a major generational gap, most people in the cinema could be considered young, probably aging between 15 and 35, the opera crowd on the other hand was several times that age, somewhere between 50 and 150. The other big difference lay in the ethnic make up of the groups, the Wagner crowd could generally be perceived to consist of Caucasians, probably local Dutch people whilst those kept out of the lounge by couches and plants could be considered to represent the general ethnic make up of the Rotterdam population: a big mix of various ethnicities, primarily dominated by a mixture of those originating from Mediterranean, North African (isn’t North Africa also Mediterranean?) and Caribbean parts of the world. The old, white and protected mass must have assumed that the two of us were probably in the cinema to see Anthony Hopkins running around with an eye-patch whilst being pissed at his son for speaking with an Australian accent despite being Nordic, but that we sneaked into the protected zone to steal their free drinks and snacks!
A cup of coffee and a whole lot of nuts later we were inside. The ticket-lady tells us all that opera tickets will become more expensive the next season. Furthermore, there was a slight delay with the show, meaning we had to wait another half an hour before. We stared at a repeating slideshow representing the cast. That which I already knew became evident, only fat people do opera. I wondered why the US never truly embraced opera as their form of cultural expression. With about 65% of its population overweight, there is such a practically unlimited source of potential opera singers to be found in that country! After the ever last slide show, the death coughs of the old folks and our contemplations on how we shall devour as much wine as possible, the show began. First we got to stare at the audience in New York, mostly the same kind of crowd; mostly old people, but there were also some children who were probably dragged along by their sophisticated parents. Oh how those children would suffer, six hours of loud German singing and no, it ain’t Rammstein! Plácido Domingo introduced the madness to come, Plácido is a funny fellow, he kind of reminds me of Vittorio de Sica, the actor who played Marchese di Fiori in Andy Warhole’s Dracula (to most, the film is known as Blood for Dracula), this was probably the reason why me and Daryl kept on going “Dra…cu…la!” every time he appeared. By the way, if you haven’t seen Blood for Dracula yet, go do it now! (pronounce the “do it now!” in the same way Arnold Schwarzenegger does it at the end of Predator).
And then it began, the opera! It was pretty f***ing impressive (why did I bleep out the “fuck”?), large vertical rectangle blocks dominated the stage, they were a screen in the background that were used to represent all the terrain during the story. I think the functioned as screens as well, since it would be impossible to project anything on them if they could move all the time. The rectangles were turning a lot, that combined with the textures on the screens enabled them to create forests, mountain ranges, houses and walls of fire. Very impressive indeed, it really made the opera feel alive.
For those who don’t know Die Walküre, it’s basically part two of Wagner’s quadrilogy Der Ring des Nibelungen, compare it to Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and that kind of stuff with a good doses of good old incest and you got yourself a German opera. Note that the whole story would probably have lasted for around 24 hours or something, if each one was as long as part 2! The opera is divided into three acts, each of them lasting about two hours with two interruptions of about 40 minutes, enabling our mighty heroes to drink all the wine they can.
The story basically begins with Siegmund, a long hair bad ass who is running through the woods of some Northern European country pursued by his enemies. For some reason he has lost his shield and sword, making him a pretty lousy bad ass since he isn’t that good in unarmed combat either! It almost makes you wonder how the hell he managed to survive in the Nordic jungle for so long, but that is another topic of discussion! So yeah, we have Siegmund, running around, and he ends up coming into a house that belongs to some angry man (Hunding) who isn’t home yet. Some chick, named Sieglinde (they’re not that original with their names huh?) opens the door and lets him in. She lets him rest, feeds him and all that stuff. We immediately figure out that her marriage seriously sucks, they probably don’t get laid too much, but the more likely reason is probably financial in nature since they house seems rather shabby, as if it’s part of the forest, they are even forced to use a mythical sword as a peg for Hunding’s coat. Hunding eventually comes home and starts bitching at his wife for allowing some stranger enter their house, which is quite understandable considering the circumstances, I mean, wouldn’t you get worried/upset if your partner allows strange men to enter the house while living in a dangerous part of town? The stranger might be a thief, or worse… So yeah, Hunding is home, and he is pissed, but still allows Siegmund to tell who he is. So Siegmund starts by lying, pretending to be somebody else (what a nice way to thank Hunding’s hospitality!). Apparently Siegmund used to live with his parents and twin sister (Luke & Leia?), but one day everything went fucked when he and his dad got home and found his house burnt down, his mom dead and his sister kidnapped. We don’t really get to know what happened, but I guess that Siegmund’s mom let some strangers in the house to rest, just like Sieglinde had, unknowingly allowing some criminals to fuck up their lives. But ok, Siegmund and his dad are alone and decide to live in the forest like wolves (don’t ask me why!). They do this for a while up until Siegmund’s dad decided to probably start a new life, so he decides to ditch his son. Siegmund is alone and kind of hangs out in the woods (makes you wonder how he managed to stay so clean…), disrupting marriages by killing the wedding guests and such. Hunding tells Siegmund that he is one of his pursuers. He allows Siegmund to crash for the night (what a nice guy!), but he will kill the running fucker the next morning during combat. Hunding then leaves the room with his wife. In the other room Sieglinde, treacherous as she is, decides to poison her husband, well…not fatally, but still fucking him up. With her husband passed out Sieglinde goes to Siegmund and tells him about the pug in the living room. Apparently the pug is a magic sword (what a surprise!), just like He-Man. Sieglinde believes that whoever can pull that sword from the tree will save her from her shabby marriage. All of a sudden Siegmund and Siegline proclaim their love for each other. Siegmund then mention his father’s real name and then all of a sudden Sieglinde recognizes Siegmund for who he really is, namely her long long twin brother (oh no…)!!! He then pulls the sword from the tree and said: “By the power of Grey Skulls!” and became the most powerful man in the universe. Actually, he didn’t say that, he pulls the sword from the tree and proclaims to marry his twin sister.
After drinking several glasses of wine and devouring more peanuts we continued with the opera. The vertical blocks on the stage have turned as to symbolize a mountain range. Apparently Wotan and the other gods live there, makes you wonder right…I mean he (Wotan) invested so many resources on making his paradise but ends up living in some grey rock. He is chatting with Brünnhilde, his Valkyrie daughter who is armed to the teeth and loves to eat hamburgers. Wotan is giving his daughter instructions to protect Siegmund during his fight with Hunding. As she is about to leave for Earth Wotan’s wife, Fricka, shows up. Fricka is basically a female version of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (from Dune), which is probably the reason why her husband is making children with everybody but her. Fricka then gives Wotan a really hard time, not allowing him to do his stuff anymore. She bitches so much that eventually Wotan goes “okay…” and allows his son to die. Then there is a whole political subplot going on. Apparently Wotan is Siegmund’s dad (yes…), and he impregnated his mom so that their child would become an independent hero, a soldier who could fight for Wotan. Wotan needs that free soldier in order to obtain a magic ring (which appeared in Part 1), and this is where Siegmund would have come in. However, Fricka argues that Siegmund isn’t free since he is Wotan’s creature. So Wotan allows Siegmund to die. Brünnhilde goes to Earth and contacts Siegmund and allows him to escape to Valhalla, however Sieglinde isn’t allowed to go, so Siegmund basically tells Brünnhilde to go fuck herself. Brünnhilde is so impressed by Siegmund’s cojones that she decides to help him against his battle against Hunding. Siegmund starts to fight Hunding and with Brünnhilde’s help is he pretty much kicking ass. But then Wotan comes in and fucks up Siegmund’s sword. No longer powerful, Siegmund becomes an easy prey for Hunding and his buddies, Hunding stabs Siegmund to death after which Brünnhilde escapes the battle with Sieglinde. Wotan is all pissed off for being fucked over, so he kills Hunding. Act 2 is over…
More wine and cheesy snacks later we returned for the third and final act of the opera. Like the other acts the final one lasted for about two hours. However, it really felt as if the act was meant to last half an hour but was stretched out in order for the ending not to be so short. Brünnhilde arrives at her sisters’ place, who were riding in the clouds (Ride of the Valyries kids… Yes, Apocalypse Now) and decided to allow their “horses” (same vertical blocks that are now moving about) to feed themselves. The chubby girls giggle about their horses only to encounter their sister all freaked out. The Valkyries refuse to help Brünnhilde, so she becomes forced to delay Wotan while allowing Sieglinde to escape. Apparently at this point Brünnhilde has developed skills into detecting pregnancy since she tells us that Sieglinde is pregnant with Siegmund’s child, who shall be naked Siegfried. One can but imagine what kind of retard the baby would become, being the result of incest and all… Finally Wotan arrives and punishes his daughter; she is forced to become a mortal who has to sleep in a mountain. In those days women sleeping in a mountain were known to be easy prey for lame men, kind of the Witte Aap or Rotown of Brünnhilde’s time. Brünnhilde however is totally not in the mood of getting laid with some shabby dude so she asks her father to build a barrier of fire around her, so that only the coolest dude will come through it to have her. It is hinted at that this “hero” will be Siegfried, making the story even more incestuous since Brünnhilde is Siegmund and Sieglinde’s half-sister. Wotan then bitches for a while but eventually allows the wall of fire to be there. As Brünnhilde is surrounded by flames the opera ends…
We quickly run downstairs in order to get more wine, but the free drinks and snacks were already gone, forcing us to go elsewhere. We ended up wandering around town a bit, drinking beer and encountering smart asses who kept stealing my fries. Beyond the opera that sounded like a normal Saturday night out…