Mortgage Problems in Valhalla

Opera Costumes?

Opera Costumes?

The story of the Ring of the Nibelungen, written by Wagner, was loosely based on German and Scandinavian myths and sagas. The entire cycle of four operas was first performed for the public in 1876, with costumes and set designs by Carl Emil Doepler.  At that performance, during the second Opera Die Walküre, the character Hunding, wore a horned helmet to signify his evil nature. A mystifying transposition from Opera to Reality then occurred. From that moment on, the horned helmet became synonymous with the depiction of Norse and Viking Gods and heroes!! 

We find it interesting that an operatic version of reality has embedded itself so thoroughly in our culture. In fact there is no evidence whatsoever that any Vikings wore horned helmets, ever!

Das Rheingold

Das Rheingold

Constance very much enjoyed a performance of the first of the Ring cycle, Das Rheingold last weekend. Ours was a “pocket-version” of Wagner because of the reduced orchestra to fit our small theatre.  The production was the first offering of the 2014/15 Opera season by our local company, Pacific Opera Victoria. We were Very Glad to note the absence of horned helmets in the performance, and enjoyed the striding, self-important Gods; the Writhing Rhine Maidens; the clanging anvils and screams of the Nibelungen; and the clumping giants!

Viking Textiles

Ironing Viking Textiles

Constance is dressed in clothing from the fibres and in the style that may actually have been worn by Viking women, who were the ones that tended the sheep and grew the flax, spun the fibres and wove the cloth worn by men women and children of the Viking ages. Their preferred colours were browns and greys of the natural fibres, and colours from plant dyes: red from the madder plant; blue from woad; and yellow from an unknown plant. They sewed with linen threads; ironed cloth flat with polished stone or glass spheres; made cords with lucets; used a nålbinding needle instead of two knitting needles; fastened their cloaks with penannular brooches…and you may never guess what important textile function was performed by earwax!!!



To view Constance’s other opera reviews go to this link



16 thoughts on “Mortgage Problems in Valhalla

  1. May never guess. And actually don’t wish to bend my mind to that task.
    Good job by Constance to correct false popular notions of those scoundrels that wreaked havoc through Europe. In hornless helmets or bare heads.

  2. The Country Hittys were inspired to ferret out their old recording of the Ring cycle and play parts of it whilst marching about trying to look Norsky. We so enjoyed your photos and the information on clothing and textiles of the time.
    Constance looks very authentic!! Thanks for the wonderful photos and information.

    • Indeed, it is a little known fact, but used to be common practice! Earwax was collected and used to wax sewing threads, and special spoons were used to collect it. This is not as strange as it sounds – people in pioneer times in North America did the same thing!

    • I spent all summer talking to kids at the museum about Viking textiles – they loved the scuttlebutt on earwax. I couldn’t help making Constance an outfit to go with this blog, and she always likes an excuse to dress up!

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