Sunday, July 31, 2005


Thanks to a friend who worked for Seattle Opera, last night Bede and I attended the dress rehearsal of Das Rheingold, the first of four operas in Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen music-drama. For what it's worth, my favorite part in the whole opera is the first 10 minutes, with the opening notes of the "greenish twilight of the Rhine." Listen for yourself, if you're interested. Pay no attention to the snobs: Lorin Maazel's The "Ring" without Words is a good, accessible introduction to the music. Later on, you'll get plenty of chances to hear Brunhilde sing "Hoyotoho!" as she leads her Valkyrie sisters in a triumphal post-battle parade.

Ten years ago, when I attended all four operas in the Ring Cycle, I had studied books and music samples obtained from the library, watched the Metropolitan Opera versions on video, and skulked around bookstores with my ears open to any conversation that might be Ring oriented. I planned which dress I'd wear each night. I was attending the operas with my friend Val, but I secretly hoped that I'd meet Mr. Seattle and we would kvell to our mutual love of the epic. As much fun as it was to throw myself into research, I would have appreciated ACD's excellent Sounds and Fury blog had it been around then. I would have read Wagner's Ring for the Willing but Perplexed:

"One's understanding of and response to the Ring would be deepened by such intimate knowledge [of the leitmotifs] most certainly, but some experts' notions to the contrary notwithstanding, Wagner created his music-dramas to speak directly to the emotions of a theater audience, none of whom he counted on to be trained musicians or musicologists. The leitmotifs will speak to you and work their magic whether you're aware of their individual presences or not, so you may put your mind at ease concerning them.

You'll have noticed that I included no storytelling notes in regard to the Ring Cycle. There is no way a mere synopsis or even a dramatic retelling can do justice to the work as a whole. Please just trust me on this one: if you have any interest in dazzling mermaids, scheming gods, strong & foolish heroes, as well as quite a few pyrotechnics, venture to wade into the opening notes of the Ring Cycle. Take as much time as you need. It's epic.

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