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Music Pages

Los Angeles Opera's new Ring cycle

10 June 2010, Los Angeles, US

LA Opera's 'Siegfried,' featuring Linda Watson as Brünnhilde and John Treleaven as Siegfried
LA Opera's 'Siegfried,' featuring Linda Watson as Brünnhilde and John Treleaven as Siegfried(Photo: Monika Rittershaus)

LA Opera's 'Götterdämmerung'
LA Opera's 'Götterdämmerung'(Photo: Monika Rittershaus)

Report by Josef Woodard

Unfolding over the course of a year, LA Opera’s initiation into the Ring is officially complete and grandly successful. The first full Cycle has just been performed and two more Cycles are being presented between now and the end of June.

Stakes were high, given the 20-year wait for LA Opera's first Ring (including an aborted earlier version with Hollywood’s George Lucas as director), and the routinely-cited US$32 million price tag, which stirred some predictable public controversy from those who just don’t understand the sublime cultural and philosophical importance of this operatic shrine.

Credit for this fascinating new production, a treat for eye, ear and mind, goes largely to the vision of German director Achim Freyer, who has cast Wagner’s mythic epic in terms of a psychedelic carnival. The experience can be cartoonish at times, hallucinatory and spatially disorienting elsewhere, but always seizing the senses with a sense of newness, despite the familiarity of the musical and narrative elements.

A massive, steeply raked stage with moving, rotating parts, light sabres and other virtuosic lighting schemes and layered visual elements could have undermined Wagner’s intentions, but instead added levels of illusion and poetry.

Freyer’s dream-theatre framework manages simultaneously to enrich, slyly comment upon and reinvent the context. What we see and feel in the staging both contrasts and complements the big-boned earnestness of Wagner’s grand conception — from the well-oiled orchestral machinery in the pit, conducted by an inspirational James Conlon, to the casting that includes the bold, lucid singing of Linda Watson as Brünnhilde, and John Treleaven’s vulnerable heroics as Siegfried.

Josef Woodard’s full report about Los Angeles’s Ring Festival LA will appear in the September/October 2010 issue of Opera Now.


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