Der Blog des Nibelungen
Commentary and observations on Los Angeles Opera’s production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle — by Rich Capparela (and Wagner friends and foes everywhere)
3. Talking Back (After the World has Ended) – 4/26/2010
A few hours after seeing the second Los Angeles Opera performance of Twilight of the Gods, I found myself in a phone conversation with a gentleman named Carl Selkin who’d been in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion that day as well. He noted “The pre-opera talks are fine, but what they should really have for the patrons are post-opera discussions. People come away from these productions with a whole lot on their minds. A chance to talk through it with others would be a real service.” I agreed. In fact, I mentioned it to a couple of people with Los Angeles Opera. And a few days ago the opera company wrote to me to say “You’re on.” I’m what?
So, feeling like the dog that catches the car, I found myself in a kind of “Now What?” World. This past Sunday afternoon was the final stand-alone performance of Twilight of the Gods prior to the three complete Rings. It was followed by the first ever Talk Back, hosted by yours truly. The setting was the same second-level space where the pre-opera events take place, and I was given the use of a wireless microphone and a pair of staffers who would pass around two other mics to those needing to speak their piece. As the moments ticked down to the start of the event it all felt very much like inventing the wheel. Would anyone come? Would there be angry yelling? Insightful questions? Provocative comments? Would there be no questions at all – just me vamping to an increasingly empty space for ten awkward minutes until we gave up and went home, older but wiser? No one could know what was about to unfold.
The answer came soon enough. We began moments after the applause died down, just shy of 6:30 and we ended some forty minutes later. My security blanket consisted of printouts of comments from the KUSC Ring blog and David Ng’s piece titled Horns Locked Over Horns’ Disposal from that day’s edition of the Los Angeles Times. For starters, the crowd was, I dunno, three? four? times larger then I’d dare imagined. Two hundred or so? Big, that’s for sure. But it was the quality of discourse that impressed. People did indeed need to talk. Some were disappointed at Achim Freyers’ visuals. Others were entranced by them. And everyone was passionate. It was an honor to witness one heartfelt comment followed by a polar opposite point of view – equally articulately expressed.
The Ring Cycle experience of the crowd ranged from first timers to those who have spent decades traveling the world to hear Wagner’s epic. Here’s one quick example of the kind of insights that were being tossed around: One woman, describing the very last stage images, noted that, with a certain clever use of lighting, the director created the illusion that, not only was the Rhine river overflowing its banks, drowning all those on stage – but we in the hall were being submerged as well. The entire world was ending – ours as well as Freyers’. That comment got a nice round of applause; as did the remark by the fellow who said that, because this was L. A.’s first Ring, it should have been more conventional, more accessible to a broader audience. In other words, the opinions were all over the map.
For me, it was like hosting the best cocktail party ever: surrounded by like-minded people with whom one might agree or disagree – but everyone remaining civil, intelligent, engaged. The end of the world has never been so much fun.
The final verdict: I have been invited to host three more Talk Back sessions during the Ring itself, following each performance of Siegfried (Thursday June 3, Sunday June 13 and Wednesday June 23). My reply? Hella yeah.
– Rich Capparela
(Photos by Robert Millard)