Tonight’s the night all Metsdom has been waiting for: the Major League debut of top prospect, pitcher Noah Syndergaard. He arrives on the Major League stage at Wrigley Field accompanied by much fanfare and already in possession of a nickname: “Thor”.
The genesis of the nickname was Syndergaard’s Halloween costume this past October, a photo of which he tweeted and which was then retweeted widely. Naturally, the blogosphere is having great fun with the nickname and its associations with the Marvel Comics superhero and subsequent movie of the same name as well as the character’s original incarnation in Nordic mythology as the God of Thunder.
However, as an opera lover, “Thor”, conjures up something different to me. At the mention of “Thor”, I hear softly murmuring arpeggios in the cellos. Then, I hear the Violas joining in. Then the Second Violins. And, finally, the First Violins. The undulating sextuplets I hear in my mind are the magical introduction to Thor and his sorcery as written by Wagner in his opera Das Rheingold.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
First, I should mention Wagner’s god has a slightly different name: Donner. The Old German equivalent of the Norse “Thor” is “Donar”. Donar’s name day, as it were, became Donnerstag “Donar’s day”, otherwise known to us English-language speakers as “Thursday”.
But I digress.
German composer Richard Wagner spent years composing a Ring Cycle comprised of four operas, based upon Donner and other gods of Norse mythology. The first opera, Das Rheingold, is performed as one act–with no intermissions. The four scenes of the opera meld seamlessly into one another, and there is no break in the music or drama from the beginning until the end, about two hours and forty minutes later.
During the opera, a lot of action has taken place in this amount of time. The viewer has watched the Rheinmaidens extol the virtues of their gold, a character steal the gold from them, a god and his accomplices descend to that character’s underworld to claim the gold for themselves, two giants subsequently lay claim to the gold, and finally, one giant bludgeoning his giant brother in order to seize his brother’s share of the gold. Oh, and before the grisly murder, there is an appearance by Erda, the earth goddess, who forecasts gloom and doom for those who are consumed by this gold (more specifically, a ring forged from said gold, but you get the idea.)
Towards the very end of the opera, there is an exhilarating moment for Donner, a role for bass-baritone. After all of the mayhem and madness following a goddess coming up out of the ground unannounced and a bloody fratricide, Donner decides that it is time to, literally, clear the air. The god of thunder and storms conjures up a thunderstorm meant to dispel the fog and general discontent.
Donner’s glorious invocation to the heavens, summoning the cleansing mists, is stirringly answered by four French horns, playing in unison. The ensuing winds and storm rage as the string arpeggios morph into an ascending scale, by the whole orchestra, gradually increasing in intensity and dynamic until, [ding], Donner wields his hammer to dispel the storm and, how operatic, a rainbow then magically appears.
I happen to really like this video interpretation of the scene, set to an *audio recording of the opera excerpt:
*Eberhard Wächter with the Vienna Philharmonic, conducted by Georg Solti.
It’s a magical moment in music.
I don’t know what kind of magic Mr. Syndergaard might wield on the mound this evening or in his starts to come. But this optimistic Mets fan can’t help but hope for signs of a dominating talent.
God-given or otherwise.