Der Blog des Nibelungen
— by Rich Capparela (and Wagner friends and foes everywhere)
12. Th’ th’ That’s All, Folks! — 6/28/2010
In Los Angeles, on Saturday evening, June 26 at approximately 11 PM, the world ended again, this time for good. The L.A. Ring is now history. Director Achim Freyer’s staging, so controversial over the past two years, was given a solidly rapturous seal of approval by the audience as Freyer himself appeared on stage, some 10 minutes into the applause. This time no boos could be heard over the cheering. Having witnessed the final act of Twilight of the Gods in this production on some five occasions, it no longer stuns me as it did upon seeing it the first time. Instead, I found myself on Saturday night trying to catch all of the stagecraft. Didn’t happen. I still missed how and when the dead Gunther vanishes from the front of the stage. I still couldn’t tell the difference between live performers and mannequins floating in the air. And on and on.
The Freyer production is like a night at the Magic Castle. You can sit there, just a few feet away from the performer and that deck of cards and yet have no clue as to how and what just happened. That is theater magic and that is the legacy of the Achim Freyer Ring. Yes, it was busy to a fault. Yes the Siegfried was a buffoon, not Conan the Barbarian. Yes the dragon was just shy of four feet tall. And yes, there were objects and characters throughout that still make no obvious sense to everyone.
But it was all of a piece. Thoughtful, illuminating, provocative. And exquisitely performed by singers, orchestra and stage crew alike. The orchestra especially grew into its role. By Saturday night, like the audience, the orchestra had grown accustomed to the pace and duration requirements of Wagner’s creation. And aside from a couple of minor stage mishaps in the final scene, it all came together with a passion and cohesiveness only hinted at earlier.
Just before the performance began I visited the downstairs men’s room and found myself standing next to a bearded gentleman with a beatific smile. I decided to practice impolitic stall behavior and said to him “On behalf of many of us who waited a long time for this, I would like to thank you helping Los Angeles Opera come of age, Mr. Freyer.” He grinned, thanked me, finished his business and left the urinal. The guy on my left asked “Was that…?” “Yup,” I replied “Using the public bathroom even though he has access to more private spaces. The guy is a mensch.”
Also ending is the citywide Ring Festival. Later this week there will be a wrap party for all 100+ participating arts organizations. I’ll give you a report on that event as the final blog in this series.
By the way, at the third and final Siegfried performance on Wednesday the 23rd (a weeknight performance that ended after 11 PM) we had the biggest crowd yet for the Talk Back sessions hosted by yours truly. As had become the norm, we were still going strong at midnight when the house crew gave me the “For God’s sake, man, wrap it up!” sign. Fielding questions and moderating some pretty passionate opinions will be one of my fondest memories of this Ring experience. Thanks to all who attended and thanks to the opera company for entrusting me with its patrons.
- Rich Capparela