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Ring cycle's through at LA Opera

Achim Freyer's new "Ring" cycle at the Los Angeles Opera replaced George Lucas's planned but too-expensive version, still landed the company $14 million in debt, and has now reached its conclusion with this weekend's staging of "Götterdämmerung," the fourth and final opera in the cycle. Reviews from the Orange County Register and the Los Angeles Times are thoughtful and mainly positive, but from their accounts it seems the Los Angeles audience is primed for bear and screamed boos at Freyer when he took his bow. It sounds from these accounts, though, that the production is worth a far more probing appraisal than this. The whole cycle will get three full performances, starting May 29th.

Here's a Ring challenge: How would you summarize the Ring in two sentences for an intelligent person who's unfamiliar with the cycle? I've made a number of attempts over the years and would love to hear some other thoughts.

By Anne Midgette  |  April 5, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  news , opera  
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I've always thought that it's impossible to give a short synopsis of the Ring without focusing on one of the many possible readings of its meanings. I like:

"Wotan, king of the gods, steals a cursed ring of power, forged from gold of the Rhine. Across three generations, the ring incites betrayal and treachery from and against all those who bear it until Brunnhilde, the favorite daughter of Wotan, realizes its true nature and returns the ring to its guardians by cleansing it in purifying fire, destroying herself in the process."

Posted by: WallyP1 | April 5, 2010 8:26 AM | Report abuse

A tale of man, gods, nature, power, and how power corrupts. And it's also a story about how familial love and power intersect, and the redemptive power of love.

Posted by: LisaHirsch1 | April 5, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Both of the reports I read (Tim Mangan's and Brian at Out West Arts) mentioned a standing ovation mixed with boos. Will have to read Swed as well.

Posted by: LisaHirsch1 | April 5, 2010 9:30 AM | Report abuse

I liked Rosalie’s costumes for the three Norns better. (Haven’t yet seen the film of the La Fura des Baus’s new version -- this past Saturday being the Great Sabbath.)

Posted by: snaketime1 | April 5, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

The LA Ring cycle is a disaster. Staging is never more important than the music. $30 million - Domingo is not a Heldentenor and should retire from singing - he is becoming a reincarnation of Martinelli. When will opera companies - instead of reducing the number of operas realize that minimal staging or concerts of lesser performed works is cost effective in recessions. The Met "Hamlet" not performed in 100 years and minimal staging was very satisfying.

Posted by: c_w_gray | April 5, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

The best two-line synopsis of the Ring Cycle I ever heard was from a joke list read somewhere: "The Rhinemaidens lose their gold. Fifteen hours later, they get it back."

Posted by: Charles_D | April 5, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

From my seat in the house Saturday, the thunderous ovation for Mr. Freyer easily drowned out the few boos, and deservedly so. From beginning to end (apart from a couple of technical glitches), the staging was gripping and the music was superb. I hate to disappoint c_w_gray (above) but Wagner — who called his works "music dramas" — would have said the staging was extremely important to the overall impact of the "Ring." He certainly spent enough time on it.

Posted by: BobTatFORE | April 5, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Hhaha CharlesD- I have a feeling that may have been Anna Russell. I'm not making this up, you know!

Posted by: ianw2 | April 5, 2010 7:51 PM | Report abuse

The King of the Gods takes out a subprime loan to build his castle. Bad stuff follows.

I've got tickets for the 21st. It should be an interesting evening.

Posted by: GRILLADES | April 5, 2010 9:50 PM | Report abuse

Based upon his study of old German and northern European (including Icelandic) mythology, and Märchen (or fairy-tale legend), Richard Wagner attempted to revive what he (and other German thinkers of the mid-19th century, including Friedrich Nietzsche, who stayed with the Wagners in the villa provided for by a German king, and who “loved” Wagner’s tall, highly intelligent, cultured, musically talented, and beautiful, young second wife, Franz Liszt’s daughter, Cosima, and who – being a very part-time composer and homosexual himself, succumbed later in middle-life to a debilitating form of madness which Wagner was said to have interpreted as the inevitable outcome of Nietzsche’s closeted-homosexuality, use of pornography, and onanism) interpreted as the spirit of ancient Greek civic and cyclic tragic drama, largely Aeschylean, using the resources of the modern European symphonic orchestra, Wagner’s own long-lined, beautiful but alliterative, bard-like singing and declaiming style, and his own specially-designed, and early modern technologically-outfitted, auditorium (seating less than 2000). Wagner’s story initially centered on the heroic exploits (and “tragic” death) of the “perfect hero” Siegfried, but working both backwards and forwards on his own poetic texts over several years, which he first read privately, largely among the newly enriched, south German aristocracy, to promote his new ideas of a revived European music-drama, he turned first to the stories of the symbolically one-eyed Wotan, the old Norse and German king of the gods, who built his royal fortress-palace in the sky with borrowed financing (the cycle having been written after the rise of linked, government-backing,

Posted by: snaketime1 | April 6, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

investment and commercial banking conglomerates in Italy, France, England, American, and Germany) backed by pure gold (the cycle was also conceived during the California gold rush of 1849) first taken from the floor of the Rhine river linking Germany to the Scandinavian lands, by the ‘quasi-human’ Alberich (no longer an early European medieval Frankish sorcerer, but a possibly non-assimilated Jewish dwarf figure), who forswore love in doing do; and later to Siegfried’s parents, who knew they were brother and sister but who willfully disobeyed human law and ethics, and to Wotan’s half-human athletic, willful, and very highly intelligent daughter Brunhild (a “perfect heroine” figure), and still later to the early and then mature and tested love between Siegfried and Brunhild (after Brunhild has enjoyed a heroine’s sleep of 20 years, allowing Siegfried to test his sword and manhood by killing his conflicted, greedy, non-relative caregiver), introducing along the way an assortment of flirtatious river maidens, hard-working and trusting giants, a cunning lawyer-like figure (also possibly based on an Aryan stereotype of newly assimilated European Jewry), Wotan’s proud and beautiful wife and beautiful teenage “good daughter”, a possibly 24-year old “prince” of thunder and lightening, a mysterious and wise earth mother figure who warns Wotan of the future, a dragon, a speaking bird, a beautiful white horse as devoted as was Lassie, and three ancient, fate-weaving and all-seeing women (and who else?) – all of whom have been interpreted over the past 150 years in archetypal, often Freudian and especially Jungian, terms of the human-subconscious.

Posted by: snaketime1 | April 6, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

The next time a newspaper or magazine editor asks me for a two-sentence summary of the "Ring," I am definitely going to present snaketime's (with attribution, of course).

Posted by: MidgetteA | April 6, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

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