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Wagner's Ring: Turning the Sky Round Paperback – August 1, 2004

4.6 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Lee (classics, St. Michael's Coll., Univ. of Toronto) is a frequent guest on the Saturday afternoon Metropolitan Opera broadcasts, where his lucid, witty, and learned comments both instruct and entertain. Based on his commentaries during the Ring Cycle's presentation on four consecutive April weekends in 1989, the book takes its title from C.S. Lewis's remarks upon first seeing Arthur Rackham's illustrations for the Cycle: "The sky had turned round. . . . Pure Northerness engulfed me." In a concise, beautifully shaped style, Lee summarizes the plot and analyzes each opera musically and psychologically while also examining the mythological roots and the meaning this work can hold for today's audience. The result is a readable critical essay that celebrates its subject and makes one eager to hear the operas. Highly recommended for academic and public libraries with strong music collections.
- Beverly True, Cumberland Regional Lib., Amherst, Nova Scotia
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

...one can learn a great deal about the... stories, what underlies them, and the history of the times surrounding the composition... --Opera News.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 126 pages
  • Publisher: Limelight Editions; Reprint edition (1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879101865
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879101862
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.4 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #129,662 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This was the book that first taught me to appreciate Wagner's Ring cycle. Before reading this book, I had tried to watch the Met telecasts and listen to the music, but I confess that I actually found Wagner boring. Then, one year, my father gave me this small book as a Christmas present.
Since then, I have read and re-read the book, and listened to the operas over and over again. I have seriously considered becoming a collector of Ring recordings; I own the Bohm version recorded at Bayreuth, the Solti version and the Karajan version. I have gone from being indifferent to Wagner to being a Wagnerolater, and Father Lee's book is what set this off.
The book may not be of as much use to someone who is already well versed in Wagner scholarship, however it is an excellent introduction to the Ring cycle. It exposed me for the first time to the depths of Ring interpretation. It also ably explained Wagner's musical techniques and his historical context in ways that the layperson can easily understand. For understanding the various leitmotifs in the index, some musical training is helpful, but having a recording of the Ring by your side should help to make up for any deficiencies in this department.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in getting to know Wagner, and interested in understanding how he can weave such a spell over his audiences. This book opened my own eyes; it can do the same for you.
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Format: Paperback
Father M. Owen Lee, who is known for his erudite commentaries on Metropolitan Opera broadcasts has recently published another book about the Wagner's Ring Cycle, called "Athena Sings. Wagner and the Greeks." Father Lee is a Classics scholar, so it should be no surprise that the Greeks also inhabit "Wagner's Ring: Turning the Sky Around." This book is only 120 pages long, but like Wagner's Ring it seems to inhabit the whole human experience from the birth of consciousness to the death of god.
If ever a book should published in an audio version, it is this one. 'Turning the Sky Around' stemmed from a series of talks that the author gave during Met broadcast intermissions, and while an 'Index of Musical Themes' might be okay for those who have a piano handy, how wonderful it would be if the book could simply 'play' them for the rest of us. I wonder if the original talks were taped and are lying about in a Met Opera warehouse somewhere---probably just wishful thinking on my part.
Even opera lovers who have every reason to dislike Wagner the man (especially the blatant anti-Semitism of Mime's character and death) will gain insight into the astonishing scope of the Ring from this slender book. As Father Lee puts it: "The subject of Wagner's Ring is not much less than the world itself, the world projected in myth and music."
This book's title is taken from an epiphany experienced by the Christian apologist C. S. Lewis, who wrote about the first time he saw Arthur Rackham's illustrations for Wagner's Ring: "The sky had turned round...Pure 'Northernness' engulfed me; a vision of huge, clear spaces hanging above the Atlantic in the endless twilight...
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Format: Paperback
Is there a better writer on opera today than Father Owen Lee? This book provides five essays on The Ring (an introduction plus an essay on each individual Ring opera) which are brief (about 15-20 pages each) but always interesting and insightful. For those new to the Ring, who want to get an idea of "what all the fuss is about" without wading though hundreds of pages of analysis, this book is indispensible. And even for those who come to it with a wealth of knowledge, this book will probably provide a few new insights.
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Format: Paperback
M. Owen Lee is a genial fixture on the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts and a professor of Classics at St. Michael's College in the University of Toronto. He has published a couple books of his intermission-break talks on various operas in the Met repertory but his introduction to the four music dramas comprising Wagner's Ring cycle is indispensible; along with late record producer John Culshaw's Reflections on Wagner's Ring (and I suppose G.B. Shaw's socialist rant The Perfect Wagnerite), it helps both newcomers and veterans to form their own viewpoint of the great tetralogy. Lee's allusive and literate prose warms the heart and feeds the mind. A brief but excellent companion for those bound to opera house or sound system to intoxicate themselves with potent, magical music.
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Format: Paperback
This little book is an excellent introduction for folks like myself who have tried for years to make sense of the cycle. The narration gives a plot synopsis followed by the author's view of the meaning behind the drama. I have always been fascinated by Wagner's Ring Cycle though I do not know German. I have been very intrigued by the music. Well this book gave me a tiny little bit to get me going.

Much of Father Owens' analysis may not meet with everyone's interpretation of the cycle but it does make one think.

There is a section at the end that contains written music. My knowledge of reading music is very scant so I just ignored that section. It is not germane to the narrative because one can get these examples by listening to the work. For good examples get An Introduction To Wagner's Der Ring Des Nebulungen by Deryck Cooke on CD. Mr. Cooke's CD gives audio examples that one can appreciate without knowing how to read music.
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