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Mervin Jules

Wagnerian Opera

Mervin Jules distinguished himself in the 1930s as a social realist, creating sympathetic images of the lower classes and satirical representations of the wealthy. He quickly became known for his sensitive social commentary and humor. In Wagnerian Opera, Jules lampoons the overwrought drama of a scene that likely derives from Richard Wagner’s popular cycle, The Ring of the Nibelung. Jules’s depiction comes across as ironic, given that it originates from a time when the Nazis declared Wagner the “spiritual forebear of their movement.” The theme common to all of Wagner’s operas, heroes engaged in spiritual struggle, seems ridiculous when expressed by Jules’s caricature of two overfed singers performing against a painted backdrop of the castle.

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