Countdown to Siegfried: 3...
Saturday night is the opening of the Washington National Opera's "Siegfried." As it approaches, I want, as promised, to return to the interviews I did with four opera directors about the "Ring" cycle, which yielded far more wonderful material than we could fit in the paper.
Here's what they had to say on the length of Wagner's operas.
Achim Freyer: "The ["Ring" cycle] is 7 hours, not 19, because it’s so gripping. Sometimes you sleep a little, which isn’t bad; you hear more intensely when you’re sleeping."
...Anne Midgette: Should you cut Wagner?
AF: "You shouldn’t, not by one second. I would like to do staged introductions and make it longer, but I didn’t."
Stephen Wadsworth: Wagner is “so interested in intimacy between people that he explodes time. He’ll actually take us to bed with Tristan and Isolde… It actually is real time. But it doesn’t feel like real time.”
“I think of all [dramatic] music as being different ways of describing real time in which intimate transactions occur.”
Otto Schenk: "The length is a part of [the experience]. If you’re not ready or don’t have the piety to attend a long Mass, you shouldn’t go to the "Ring"…. Thomas Mann, in the forward to “The Magic Mountain,” says, “What I’ve written may have gotten a little long” – “Magic Mountain” is 1200 pages long – but he always believed that only the thorough is truly compelling."
Francesca Zambello: "I may be a heretic to say it, but I’d be happy to do the ten-hour version [of the “Ring”], and whittle certain moments down…. Wagner would benefit from a little cutting. We cut every other composer except Wagner… His contemporaries, we have no problem cutting them."
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