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  • Writer's pictureEusebius


"Wagner, among so many other things, sought to create works that would unite the accomplishments of Shakespeare and Beethoven.  If we make an analogy with his compatriot musical predecessor, the Ring can be viewed as a four-part symphony, with each movement culminating in the expression of a different aspect of love."  - James Conlon

Modernism meets Wagner in the grand performance of Der Ring des Nibelungen As Placido Domingo writes in his welcome letter, "the stage crew and technicians have managed to accomplish the impossible on a nightly basis," "the orchestra and chorus have never sounded better," (by far, one of my best opera performances I have been to) and "principal singers are amongst the best Wagnerians in the world today."

With the lucky last minute row N ticket, we were close to the center and close enough to see facial expression of singers and the occasional flying baton of the conductor James Conlon.  The stage opened with color-changing eye-ball looking sun or moon(?) at the top left corner of stage and a modernized sun (or moon) clock operated by slow and steady moving dancer pulling the lighted rod similar to the one that appears in Star Wars.  It moved clock-wise as singers sang of their present times and moved counter-clock wise as they memorate their past.  (The dancer not only steadily walked forward and backward on deathly pace for hours but must have memorized the entire text to be operating exactly at the start of sentences!!!) Placido Domingo took us by his amazing stage-presence and perfected performance along with many other great singers.  We were just so grateful to see him perform so close as it has been a while (for us) to see one of the Three Tenors sing on other occasion than a holiday.  We did take complex B vitamin energy drink prior to going as we expected to be sitting somewhat like 4 hours.  So many foreigners flew in to see this Ring Cycle -- some in kimono, some in colorful evening gowns and suits, some in jeans-- as it took years of planning for LA Opera to roll out its first ever production of the work piece by piece, involving more than 115 artistic partners.  

Taking place in Los Angeles, this opera production was not just for those who love classical music but universal, to be loved by the general public.  Wagner's leitmotif and musical expression already familiarized through science-fiction movies came even more easy to relate with Star-Wars-like lighting rods and singers in alien-like costumes.  Traditions of Wagner came together in a miraculous production that would not have been possible without the modern technology.  Singers moved about in the air by unseen connection, fire chariots blazed in the darkness of blue light, masters of opera sung with blue painted ears and face instead of Mozartian powdered wigs while the orchestra repeated the already-familiarized themes.  (The bells ending the intermission were not the usual but with this motif.) Stage setting was nothing but futuristic, although characters were gods and goddesses.

"It is the ultimate test of what an opera company is capable of," said Placido Domingo.  When domingo came on board in 2000, LA Opera had planned to team up with director George Lucas and his special effects company, Industrial Light & Magic, for a production that was quickly dubbed "the Star Wars Ring."  The projected price tag, though, eventually came to a dizzying $60-something million, and the production never made it beyond initial discussions. Still, so much better than most 3-D movie experience. Freyer, now 76, considered himself retired from the stage and initially declined the invitation to take on such a massive commitment... but Edgar Baitzel eventually persuaded Freyer to accept (before his death in 2007). 

"Our Ring is innovative, imaginative and thought-provoking," says Domingo, "so I think that it's the perfect example of what we do best.  It is completely unlike any other Ring that has ever been seen before, and I'm happy about that."   For all his radicalism, Freyer is anything but an iconoclast.  His core impulses are those of a painter, and for the Los Angeles Ring he has evolved an iconography that mirrors the organic connections of wagner's intricate musical web of motifs and associations.  Strange and surreal they are-- including such signature images as Wotan's disembodied eye, a squeezebox rainbow, Fricka's absurdily extended arms, a kind of racetrack in Siegfried, the hero shedding his skin in Gottendammerang-- yet Freyer's visual vocabulary is not arbitrary.  Like a shadow that looms larger by the hour, it gains suggestive power as cycle progresses.  - Thomas May I can't wait to go see another one next week.  This one is even longer, 5 hours expected. :)

I want to read...


Volume 15, Number 2, April 2008

E-ISSN: 1080-6601 Print ISSN: 1071-6068 DOI: 10.1353/mod.2008.0040Smith, Matthew Wilson. American Valkyries: Richard Wagner, D. W. Griffith, and the Birth of Classical Cinema Modernism/modernity - Volume 15, Number 2, April 2008, pp. 221-242

Focusing on the period from 1910 to 1915, this article argues that Richard Wagner's work was crucial to the development of American cinema. Critics and artists not only advocated Wagner's composition techniques for film accompaniment, but also turned Wagner into an emblem for far broader reforms. These reforms included a greater integration of music and film, a conception of film as a high art, and a conception of film as a medium for national purification and bourgeoisification. These reforms, and their connection to Wagner, helped set the stage for the use of "The Ride of the Valkyries" in D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation (1915).

wikipedia - Wagner's Influence on film music

Wagner's concept of leitmotif and integrated musical expression has been a strong influence on many 20th and 21st century film scores, including such examples as Max Steiner's score for King Kong, John Williams's music for Star Wars and Howard Shore's soundtracks for Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Adapted versions of Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries are used in the Francis Ford Coppola film Apocalypse Now, Bryan Singer's Valkyrie and by Ennio Morricone in the western My Name is Nobody. Most of Trevor Jones's soundtrack to John Boorman's Arthurian film Excalibur is from Wagner's operas.[15] Posted 12th June 2010 by silverpiano

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