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Clark links Wagner, German nationalism

Debbie Allison
Staff Writer

Al Clark, associate vice president of Academic Affairs, handled a string of technical difficulties to successfully deliver his lecture, “German Nationalism and the Rise of ‘The Ring’,” on Feb. 18.

His lecture took place at 7 p.m. in the Campus Center with an audience of almost 50 faculty and students.

Clark’s lecture was the second in the “Ring Festival La Verne,” a series of lectures that is a part of “Ring Festival L.A.,” all in preparation for the debut of Richard Wagner’s “Der Ring des Nibelungen,” better known as the “Ring” cycle operas, at the L.A.Opera.

Clark’s lecture educated audience members on the relationship between the “Ring” operas and the state Germany was in during Wagner’s life in the late 19th century.

And in spite of a few technical malfunctions, Clark was still able to inform the packed room of Wagner’s influence leading up to and during the creation of his most famous operas.

He discussed how certain events led to Wagner’s creation of the “Ring” operas, including his exile from Germany, when he actually wrote the “Ring.”

And while the title of his lecture series may lead one to believe that Wagner had a deep sense of nationalism within him, that may not be the case.

“There is no evidence whatsoever that Wagner yearned for a united Germany,” Clark said. “He only yearned to return to Germany.”

The lecture ended with a question-and-answer session that gave other faculty members who had knowledge on the subject a chance to add their input.

“Cultural nationalism defines Wagner more than any state nationalism,” said Ken Marcus, associate professor of history.

“It was the culture, it was the art that he was deeply concerned about,” said Kathy Lamkin, professor of music.

All audience members seemed to enjoy Clark’s lecture, and even found humor in the technical trouble Clark faced at the start of his lecture.

“Don’t you know any German songs or dances?”

This was one of the comments jokingly shouted as Clark waited to resume his lecture amid technical difficulties.

His PowerPoint presentation had to be put on hold after the computer he was using began a 14-minute countdown until it restarted itself.

But Clark took the whole thing in stride, joking about his recent bad luck, and even how he was going to have to work to be heard over the cheerleading going on in the next room.

“I had no idea what ‘The Ring’ was until now and I thought Al Clark handled everything really well despite the technical difficulties,” said Courtney Gooden, junior radio broadcasting major.

The series will continue with Associate Professor of English David Werner’s “My Precious Illusion: Rings of Power in Wagner and Tolkien” at 7 p.m. March 29 in the Campus Center.

This will be followed by “Beyond the Mystic Chasm: Wagner Conjures for the Theatre” by Sean Dillon, assistant professor of theater arts, at 4 p.m. April 8 in Dailey Theatre.

The series will wrap up at 7 p.m. on April 16 in the Campus Center with “Drama in Wagner’s ‘Ring’: Music Propels the Action” presented by Lamkin.

Debbie Allison can be reached at

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