Saturday, July 31, 2010

Folge mir, Frau...

The Ring sets are here!  The New York Times has the story.  Frankly, reading about hydraulic machinery, steel girders, and a brand new room to house thirty-two (!) computers causes me a shiver of pragmatic worry about finances.  Zerbinetta over at Likely Impossibilities has voiced reasoned doubts about other aspects of the production as well.  But if this comes off... it would be so exciting.  My only exposure to Robert Lepage so far has been through his Damnation de Faust at the Met last autumn, which left me, on the whole, favorably impressed.  A fine instinct for theatrical spectacle and striking, stylized imagery will, of course, get one a great deal further with Berlioz' Faust than with the Ring.  Lepage himself has been quoted (repeatedly) in Met programs describing the Ring, enthusiastically, as containing its own universe.  One is tempted to snap back, "Of course it does, Mr. Lepage!  What are you going to do about it?"

Apparently, what he is going to do about it involves a set consisting of "two 26-foot towers that bear an axis on which planks can seesaw up and down into various configurations. The axis can rise and fall."  Having that much information is a relief, although my roommate and I may continue to call it the Picket Fence of Symbolism, a moniker which we gave it after seeing the above image adorning Met playbills. The fact that the sets and their symbolism will apparently stand or fall by the computer projections gives me more than a few Luddite misgivings, but also a frisson of excitement. I'm still flying the flag of Ring-optimism: Levine will be conducting Bryn Terfel, Honorary Uncle Extraordinaire, as Wotan, and Stephanie Blythe will be Fricka... so a Picket Fence of Symbolism, even if it misfires, will have to work hard to distract me. Furthermore, the exciting Eric Owens will be Alberich. I thought his Oroveso was a highlight of Philadelphia's 2008 Norma, and he was great in John Adams' El Niño at Carnegie Hall this past December. So: I am excited. My calendar is marked for the premiere on the 27th September, and I will be there if I have to stand at the top for the whole thing. Give me a good rainbow bridge, Mr. Lepage!


  1. Never would I judge a production before actually hearing and seeing, but Im worried, and I'm definitely not a conservative. The only Lepage in opera I've seen was The Rake's Progress which started out with a perfectly valid idea, some brilliant moments but didn't develop further. Terfel and Blythe are belters, though subtlety might not be needed. OTOH, this might be what's needed to purge the old Met costume drama out of the system.

  2. Well, a tendency towards brilliant moments without development IS worrisome, given that this is the Ring! Thanks for your input on Lepage, disquieting though it may be. I was actually quite impressed with Terfel's dynamic range in Tosca, but otherwise know him only from recordings (live and studio), where he hasn't struck me as a "belter." I suppose we'll have to writhe in suspense till September... and hope that Lepage will have had the vision to actually put something meaningful and thought-provoking together.

  3. Sorry to post a comment not related to your post, but wanted to thank you for checking out my blog (unrelated to opera, no less, and for your comment and video.) Very cool for a mom in the burbs to hear from an artisit in the city. Wishing you well.
    -Sarah (Lunch Box Mom)

  4. Thanks for the kind words, Sarah. :)


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