Monday, May 13, 2013
Sky Arts 2 have been showing Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen for the last couple of weeks, from the Robert Lepage production for the Metropolitan opera, New York. I had seen Gotterdammerung, the last of the cycle, at a Met HD screening last year, my first Wagner opera, and I loved it. So I thought it would be interesting to watch the first three operas.
Das Rheingold was such a delight! OK, Wagner is not quite as entertaining and charming as a Mozart opera, but beautiful beautiful music. And I am a big fan of the Lepage Machine! How the opera starts with a plain blue line representing the Rhine, and how the Rhine maidens were floating, with bubbles appearing when they sing, and then pebbles rolling as they move. And how Wotan and Loge are walking at a 90 degree angle from the steps leading them to Alberich's cave. It's so simple, quite abstract, and yet I find it conveys the emotions of each scene so well.
Bryn Terfel was a powerful Wotan - it must have been a nightmare to sing a full opera with half his hair over one eye, though. I would have thought an eye patch would have been easier! (I found the men's costumes a bit twee, I have to say)
I'm looking forward to the second part, Die Walkure, which I taped last night. Can't wait to see Deborah Voigt, who sings Brunnhilde. She was amazing in Gotterdammerung.
Working with the "machine" wasn't easy for the singers, or anybody else for that matter. Apparently, the floor of the backstage area where it is rolled in storage when not in use had to be reinforced, as it exceeded the weight that could be supported. And Deborah Voigt had a fall trying to get onto the first step of the machine on her opening night. But she faced her fears - the scene wasn't changed, and she had to step onto it again the next time. (For more trivia about how the production came together, check out Wagner's Dream, also showing on SkyArts 2!)
Some people may feel that the machine has taken too large a role in these operas. Personally, I love it. It's a bit like Cirque du Soleil versus an old-fashioned circus - it brings new life, and new audiences, to it. It may not be to everybody's taste, but, let's face it, without it, the art would die from lack of interest, and funding.
And don't forget to browse the Met's Ring mini website. The videos were a bit laggy when I was watching them at the weekend, but they're well worth it.