Sunday, September 15, 1901 - Page 4, column 6, bottom

Costumes of the German Gods

Johannes Kleinpaul writes about the costumes created for Wagner's Germanic gods and heroes in the bi-monthly journal Bühne und Welt [Stage and World]: It is not well known that in 1895 Hans Thoma undertook the task of designing appropriately styled, artistically functional costumes for the assembled god and heroes of the "Ring of the Nibelungen." His effort suceeded and in the year 1896 for the first time this costuming appeared on the stage of the Bayreuth Festival House. In 1897 pictures of the costumes became widely known through a publication by Breitkopf & Härtel. Many of the costumes would not be considered "beautiful," for example those of Erda and the Norns. The simple scruffy wolf pelts of Sigmund and Siegfried may also not be pleasing to everyone. However with regard to formal beauty, grace and charm nothing got past Hans Thoma. To a great extent the costuming reflects the characteristics, which Wagner himself entoned in this leitmotif. Thoma's costume designs represent a self-encompassing, truly Germanic work, which is thoroughly original in style. Above all else it encompasses a style which represents the women of the Germanic world of sagas. They encircle the master — quite in contrast to the beloved physical reality of the ancient Greek world — with a richly embracing, multiply defended feminine wall. The narrow necklines and the long sleeves are especially characteristic and the sleeves billow out from the elbow and gather at the wrist. There are three types of female costuming represented in Thoma's designs. Those described above relate to the costumes of Freia, Fricka and Gutrune. A second variety of costuming is used for the daughters of the Rhine and the Valkyries, who are distinguished by their original and highly stylized armour. The coats of mail, which the Rhine maidens wear, are reminiscent of world of fish in which they live.

Column 7, center

The third type of costuming is that of the Norns and Erda. These are seemingly formless robes which drape from their shoulders to the ground and lend to the recognition that here we have the representation of "beauty in its first stage of development." Among the designs for the contemporary lords of creation one finds Froh's garment especially pleasing by virtue to its correspondence to the costuming of the Spring Goddess; one also finds pleasure in the wolf pelts worn by the two woodsmen, Sigmund and young Siegfried, as well as the endlessly large, broad coat of the "Wanderer." In contrast to the warrior elements of the heros we also find the wonderful power in the mystic world of fairy tales. Above all else characterization is achieved through the accessories used by the heros and heroines, especially their helmets. It's amazing what Thoma could achieve through his many modifications and modulations in helmet style; on one he represents a carefree bird in flight, in another a maliciously creeping dragon (Hagen). Of the greatest significance for all characters in this huge drama it is ultimately the style with which Thoma imbues color within his characters. Even the coloration of the armour is important to the depiction of the characters. Wotan is wrapped in gold, Siegfried in white - the Valkyries are arrayed in silver armour while the dark character of Hagen is bedecked in rust brown steel plating. In each instance a variety of lighting effects enhance and heighten the colorful interplay.