Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Wagner's Ring Cycle Documentary

A great fan of stagecraft, I found the documentary about the Metropolitan Opera's new Ring Cycle -- Wagner's four four-hour long operas based on myth replacing the reign of the gods with the Age of Man -- entrancing.  The odd thing in the photo here is the set in one of it's many, many permutations.  The set is made up of heavy planks on a computer (and human) controlled mechanism that can be arranged many, many ways to depict the floor of the Rhine River in the first opera where the Rhine maids swim about as they sing, or the entrance to Valhalla, or the fires that encircle Brunhilde as she awaits the human who will save her, or any of the many other settings needed for these operas -- the same massive structure serves all of them, it weight 90 tons, so much the floors and underlying supports had to be strengthened.

The documentary emphasized the set which is startlingly new for any opera but it also covered most of the other aspects of the two-year introduction of the four new productions, from Deborah Voight's first time singing Brunhilde, to the sudden need to replace the heldentenor who was going to sing Seigfried with a wonderful Texan whose name I don't have at hand.  It showed the back stage work, the costumes and wigs, the patrons buying tickets, the opening night audience with such recognizable patrons as Henry Kissinger.  It showed computer problems and Voight's stumbling on the set her first night.  Peter Gelb the Met's manager was the worried producer and the beloved James Levine, the conductor, had to drop out for back surgery.  It was a very human story but at the center was an amazing amount of imagination and the one organization, perhaps in the world, that could put the resources into such an effort the the sake of opera -- not the most popular art form in the world and the Ring is certainly not the world's most popular opera(s).  Wagner had a vast imagination and the documentary shows that this may be the first time a team with aspirations great as his has tackled this challenge.  I find the effor, the creative teamwork, thrilling ... to me more thrilling than actually sitting through 16 hours of opera.

1 comment:

Rick said...

This sounds like a presentation to remember!