Der Blog des Nibelungen
— by Rich Capparela (and Wagner friends and foes everywhere)
7. Everybody Back in the Water – 5/30/2010
Last evening shortly after 7:30, a few thousand people found themselves in the depths of the river Rhine. Two and a half hours later that same crowd entered the lofty fortress of the gods, Valhalla. Los Angeles Opera’s Ring has arrived, resplendent. It is some measure of the audience’s eagerness, sophistication and unity of opinion that not a single boo could be heard at the end — only a Wagnerian-length round of applause and a standing ovation.
Well that was easy, wasn’t it?
More than a decade in the making, with many dollars and the occasional controversy spilled along the way, the Land of the Plastic Lotus can take no small amount of pride in having had its opera company pull off the granddaddy of them all.
On hand at conductor James Conlon’s pre-performance talk, it was an attentive, standing room only crew. It wasn’t a night completely free of mishaps: both Alberich (while making off with the Rheinmaidens’ gold) and Loge (while noting the gods’ sudden aging after Freia’s abduction) became the latest victims of the production’s steeply raked stage. They both had minor falls. My seat mate, new to the production, was blissfully unaware of either mishap. But the singing was once again top-notch and Richard Paul Fink as Alberich, plainly embracing the whole concept, from mask to costume to props (and, yes that steep rake), clearly stole the show. The orchestra under Conlon is sounding more and more comfortable with this music; the hearty members increasingly able to better pace themselves. By the time they get to the third and final Twilight of the Gods about a month from now, they’ll be singing German motivs in their sleep.
Ring Cycle audiences aren’t like your typical opera goers. They view attending the Ring as a cross between religion and extreme sport. It was, I confess guiltily, slightly disappointing not to see even one horned helmet in the crowd prior to the lights going down. Maybe I just wasn’t looking in the right place at the right time. Even so, the Saturday house was a fascinating mixture of the hyper-informed Wagner devotee and the curious, open-minded general subscriber. They seemed to play well together before and after the performance. One thing was readily apparent to even the most casual observer: this was a celebration. A rite of passage. Our very own early summer graduation exercise. Kinda made one feel like tossing a mortar board into the air.
– Rich Capparela