Classical KUSC Blog

May 30, 2010

LA Ring Blog – Installment #7

Filed under: Capparela's Blogarellium,LA Ring Blog — classicalkusc @ 8:25 pm

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


  1. I’ve now seen Rheingold and Walkure, and even though I saw them individually two years ago I was even more thrilled with each of them this weekend. Freyer’s concept in Rheingold is so engaging and illuminating–I’ve never felt so engrossed by this opening night of the Ring. And Walkure just blew me away. The emotional high points were brilliantly supported by the production, and even the narratives that can be a little dry were compelling. Lots of credit is due to all the parts of this puzzle–singers, orchestra, and production. I am more than ever persuaded that this production is quintessentially Wagnerian, with all of its fleeting details and the rich variety of corny and intense moments, for there are plenty of corny moments in the drama too and Freyer has captured those as well as the sublime moments. Freyer has also managed to avoid limiting the operas to any place or time. This gives the production a universality that enhances the drama and the music. I’m so excited about Siegfried on Thursday.

    Comment by Jeff Horton — May 31, 2010 @ 10:48 am | Reply

  2. OK I confess;I am a Ring Head (my 21st this time) and British snob whose first and best Rings were in the 80s at Covent Garden and the Colliseum.
    Musically this has been,so far the most shattering version I have experienced (though can someone find a half competant brass player in LA for the REALLY important bits?….what the hell is Seigfried going to be like if they carry on guessing the notes?).
    I am starting to get the production although I can’t see if it is meant to help first timers not get bored or reassure old hands that Wagner knew where he was going.Probably neither.
    I dont like it (yet;the show aint really over til Ms Watson sings on Sunday).
    We are at an interesting time in Ring stagings with the Weiland W. psychological (sort of Jungian approach) coming back but also a return of the stage clutter (the Royal Opera Ring is like staying in a badly run Marriott on a rainy public holiday).I worry that this production hasnt clear a way forwards to doing “something new”.
    This said,my brother in law (LA rock musician producer) and my wife (ex rock musician now physician and heretofore violent Wagnerphobe) were blown away by the whole thing.Marcia (wife) and I had a Wotan-Fricka syle row about Wagner only on Monday so I am feeling very happy.
    Whether you like it or hate,so far it proves that you have to see it in the theatre.
    Finally,the audience were so well behaved (little coughing, a bit of “inappropriate” laughing,less than 5% asleep )and letting the music to end before clapping;at the Met they always applaud as if the Master could have left out the last 3 notes.

    Comment by Richard O'Flynn — May 31, 2010 @ 1:14 pm | Reply

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