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Das Rheingold, the opening of Wagner's four-part The Ring of the Nibelung, stands out as more genteel and picturesque than the others. But it immediately establishes the huge scale of the overall work, and the extraordinary musical language that will be displayed throughout. It is a miracle of musical history that Wagner's 1850 conception could be brought to completion, in an organic whole, some twenty-five years later. Stewart Spencer discusses the way in which Wagner fuses genuine mythology with his own invention and John ...

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