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Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung: A Companion Paperback – 11 Oct 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Thames and Hudson Ltd; New edition edition (11 Oct. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0500281947
  • ISBN-13: 978-0500281949
  • Product Dimensions: 1.6 x 0.4 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 15,872 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'(A) fine translation...a remarkably well-tailored version... To see what an achievement this is you have only to look back at nineteenth-century translations of works like Parsifal, any of which is difficult to read with a straight face.'

Customer Reviews

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78 of 79 people found the following review helpful By Julian Gardiner on 18 Nov. 2001
Format: Paperback
There are many different approaches to translating Wagner's Ring Cycle. Some are meant to be sung, whilst many are intended simply as cribs to the meaning. This translation is unusual in attempting to reproduce as closely as is possible in English the alliterative verse used by Wagner in his operatic epic. The verse form he used is clearly explained in the introduction, as are the principals followed in producing this English version. This translation provides a refutation of the widely held belief that Wagner's libretti are poor literature. It is true that he was not a great poet, but his achievement in compressing the vast story he wanted to tell into the vivid and dramatic scenes of the Ring Cycle is stunning, even before a note of music is added. There are extensive footnotes to the text, showing where there are divergent readings, and making frequent references to critical writings on Wagner. There is also a long, though incomplete, list of the main leitmotifs (with numbers in the text pointing out their occurrences throughout the Cycle), plus a discussion of the stage history of the work, with photographs of a number of influential past productions. All in all this is a great book for anyone who wants to get to know the Ring Cycle better.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Ordinary Bloke on 16 Aug. 2007
Format: Paperback
I purchased this book, because like many people I have got 'The Ring' on CD and although it had a libretto it was in German and therefore I hadn't got a clue what was going on in the opera.
What I needed was a good English translation next to the German so I could follow the opera as I listened.
If you are in the same boat, look no further.
The book is divided into 2 main parts.
The first part consists of a number of academic essays written on the history and musical composition of the opera. These probably will only appeal to music students. I certainly did not gain much from them.
The second part is a gold mine. The libretto covers all the operas of the cycle with the english translation next to the German. In addition there are stage directions and synopses of the story for each scene.
An excellent, invaluable book. Highly Recommended
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Mr. G. C. Stone VINE VOICE on 31 May 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Ring is simply a giant masterwork. Tackling it is like attempting to scale a mountain. And if you're going to do it properly and get the very best out of the experience (and make the massive investment in your time worthwhile), you will want someone with you along the way. And this is where this Companion is a real must.

The introductory essays and the other material are useful primers and help put everything into context (but they are far from exhaustive - more a primer and an aid for further reading). But the real value is the libretto. My recordings come with a libretto, but straining your eyes through a cd booklet is distracting. And then there's the quality of the translation itself - and believe me it makes a real difference to your enjoyment and understanding.

Wagner's language and versifying is deliberately archaic - even in German, so any translation is at first going to appear odd and almost difficult. But follow each line with this companion and you will see that the translation somehow not only captures the meaning, it follows the sense, rhythm, cadences and line length of the original - so as you listen, the english translation flows along seamlessly with the sung lines. After while you are not conscious of translating, but are in the action and going with the flow. And my, when you get caught up the flow of Wagner (with the volume turned right up of course) it is a totally absorbing and genuinely thrilling experience.

What's great too is that there are are references you can look back to later or read ahead and look up, and just enough stage directions added. Too much direction and you can't keep up. Without any you miss vital pieces of information and action - here you can 'see' as well as hear just enough not to miss anything.

A thoroughly recommended piece of work, and really glad I got hold of it before plunging in.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Doonhamer on 27 July 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There are many other reviews here which cover the contents of Spencer's work, so I will limit my comments to the Kindle version. Before purchasing it, I was a little wary about a couple of things: firstly, the complaints that some other reviewers had about the lack of a table of contents, and secondly, whether the Kindle version would display the German and English text of the libretti side by side, which for many people like me, a novice Ring listener, will be key to successfully following whichever audio recording takes your fancy. It is a pity that the free preview file doesn't contain two or three pages from one of the libretti to allow this to be trialled on the target device prior to purchase - something that the publishers might like to consider adding to the free sample in the future. I have now tried the full Kindle version using the Android Kindle app on a Nexus 7 tablet, and the same app on a Nexus 5 phone. I can report that the table of contents is present on both devices, so whatever problem might have existed in the past has presumably been fixed. I can also confirm that the German and English texts do appear side by side - obviously on the Nexus 5 phone the screen size limits the amount of text that can be displayed on a page, but I found it to be very usable with the screen in landscape mode; portrait mode was a bit more awkward as the line lengths are very short, but at least it is still legible. I presume that most readers will be intending to read the book on a Kindle or Kindle-sized tablet like the Nexus 7, where the larger screen obviously allows more text on a page and reduces the speed at which you need to turn pages. So, take your pick of devices, read Spencer's introduction, load up your favourite Ring Cycle audio files, turn to the libretti, and off you go.
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