When I went to Wagner in the theaters and I saw the twins find each other, I was so torn.
On one hand – fucking ew. On the other, these two people finally found the other half of themselves that is amazing. That is kind of what we are always looking for, that idea of finding exactly where we belong, that perfect person.
But seriously, fucking ew.
Siegmund and Sieglinde belong together, their names tells us that, their stories tell us that, the music that they sing when they meet tell us that, and part of me – even though I as a person know it is genetically icky – kind of rooted for them. I am not sure if it is the love or the sense of belonging that moved me more in that story. The two are twins, they’ve had nothing but strife, but when they first meet, they know they are home, they know they belong.
There is logic to it, a logic that is gross, but is also welcoming, that is also about feeling completely at peace.
I think that thought struck me again when I recently watched Sundays In The Park With George. There is nothing as overtly sexual in the piece or as overtly incestuous as there is Wagner’s Die Walkure. Not even close. But the relationship between grandson and grandmother, between George and model, between artist and model and how time becomes a thing that is traversed in mere seconds and is joined by a woman, by a muse, by art, love and inspiration, and desire and in the end – understanding all become kind of blurry.
Both stories have this need for belonging, even if it is only a fleeting impression that I’m imposing on the story, the need for belonging is there. How loneliness and desire becomes the same thing and they all become mixed up in the relationships of family. It is easy to sit back and think these things about characters I’m not related to, it is easy to theorize and say in a removed fashion that we are all searching for a sense of belonging. It is easy, and gross, and sad – which is what adds to the sense of loneliness, because none of it makes any sense as we search for the perfect place to belong.
In Die Walkure the idea is easy, the metaphor is simple to break down, two halves of the same whole. Twins, two pieces that become one. That is fairly simple, but that they are brother and sister is confusing and makes one itchy. But they are royal, and children of gods, does that make it better? Worse? More easily dismissed because it happened so long ago and far away? Is it part of why we continue to stare – the comforting discomfort of the whole thing?
In Sundays in the Park the desire is less desire and more a kind of time traveling need to be the artist delivered through the medium of the lover from before. It isn’t so much incestuous as it is a connection to the past. But it is kind of the same, it is family, and belonging, and need, and love.
Always at the end it is this strange uncomfortable craving for love. We all want to be loved, and we all desire to belong. People don’t spend a lot of time standing around demanding less love. We may not want sex or touch or marriage or exactly the same things that everyone else wants, but part of us wants to be loved, part of us wants to belong somewhere. I think that is what leads to my fascination with these themes, these stories, the need for belonging and love.
I am uncomfortable with the idea of the genetics and the knowledge of the Die Walkure twins that are lovers, but I find myself so happy that they found each other and that somehow the two of them are in love (however fleetingly). I am a little weirded out by how close George and Dot are in act II of of Sundays in the park, but really it is just a reflection of a different kind of love that Dot had once had with Georges had with Dot and is only an idea, just an idea of a continuation of love and thought. It does however bring me joy to think of art and love as a never-ending concept that can always keep growing.
Maybe incest isn’t in both stories, maybe incest isn’t in the stories at all, but I like to think that knowing characters are searching for, and find for a fleeting moment a place to belong means that anyone can belong anywhere – for a little while