The powerful female lead is Brünnhilde (Burning Hella). She’s based on the Norse mythology that gave us Beauty (Bella) in Beauty and the Beast, is Peter Pan’s Tinkerbelle friend, Cinder-Hella reduced to cleaning ashes and hoping to get the attention of Prince Mankind, and her soul-recycling volcano fire gave us the Medieval Catholic concept of “Hell.”
As the leader of the Valkyrie, her voice can summon the fallen dead and send their souls to Valhalla where the mighty Odin (Wotan) reigns; her father. But in her opera, Die Walküre, there are father-daughter problems mostly caused by her strength and desire to be independent. As a result, she’s condemned to be human and know death. She’s also imprisoned on the top of a fear-mountain inside a ring of fire; her volcano power thus becomes her prison.
The brave male character, Siegfried, is wearing the Gold Ring (after all this is from Der Ring des Nibelungen). The whole things starts when the precious Rhine Gold is stolen in the introductory opera, Das Rheingold. Siegfried has his own monsters and demons, false friends, issues with parents and is complex enough to keep Dr. Freud happy. But he crosses the fearful ring of fire wearing the ring of gold and there falls in love with the sleeping Brünnhilde (aka sleeping beauty).
At the end, he’s dead (a death only justified by the old laws) but still able to lift his hand with the ring on his finger when Brünnhilde arrives at his funeral. She jumps into his funeral fire and as she does, Valhalla burns and the old gods and old superstitions die, the gold is returned to the Rhine, and a new age dawns for mankind; an age without fear and where men and women are equals and combine their powers through love.
It’s a hard scene to stage, the Mountain of Fear, the Mountain of Old Gods, the Mountain of Joy and the New Age dawning as Siegfried and Brünnhilde enter the fire together.
The end of the letter to the Hebrews reminded me of Act 3 of Götterdämmerung. No, I don’t think the old stories referenced in Hebrews are boring operas. But there’s a word-image of the Mountain of Old Superstitious Fear and the Mountain of New Joy in Love. You can read the encouragement for us to jump from the volcano of burning bushes and touch-it-and-die over to the mountain where our Creator is pleased to live with us and share the glow. I got to read Hebrews 12 to our little Bible study group last night. I don’t know if they felt the meaning as much as I did. Sometimes we sing “I am no longer a slave to fear, I am a Child of God.”
You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Perhaps the music of Wagner also speaks better than the words.