Los Angeles Ring Festival 2010

Seminar at MSMC about the LA Ring Festival 2010

Freyer Painting at the Broad Museum (LACMA)

A watercolor by Achim Freyer, visual designer of the LA Ring cycle, hangs in the current exhibit “The Art of Two Germanys: Art in Berlin during the Cold War.”  The exhibit celebrates Berlin’s enormous pent-up, always-on-the-edge-of-violence mood during the Cold War period. Giant wall photos of anti-nuclear street protests at New York City’s Grand Central Station stand opposite gild-framed portraits of US President Ronald Reagan whose stone-wall demeanor is cordoned off with red ropes at the end of a long red Hollywood-style red carpet.

Freyer’s  contribution to the museum exhibit is a large watercolor with several strips of solid sea blue (yes, solid watercolors!).  The effect is similar to a small Rothko, an abstract expressionistic beauty based on subtle shadings of banded color, in this case the single color of light ocean blue. The title is “Seascape.”

The exhibit’s several rooms in the Broad building at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) features shocking moments too, easy reminders of Germany’s 20th-century tragedies. If you lived in Berlin during the Seventies, as this writer has, you will find much to ponder in the paintings that retrieve the memories of Rudi Dutschke, the Red Army Faction, the life of Turkish “guest workers,” etcetera. 

Included in the exhibit is a wall-size Wagner-inspired painting by the noted Anselm Kiefer. Kiefer’s mead-hall vision in “Germany’s spiritual heroes” – has a lower border that is darkened by a flame that threatens to ignite the whole wooden structure. The name “Wagner” leads the list of names that include Goethe, Mechtild of Magdeburg, et al.  Another Wagner-related painting “Brünnhilde Sleeps” by Anselm Kiefer is online at:  http://tinyurl.com/Br-nnhilde-Sleeps

More about the exhibit at: www.tinyurl.com/freyer

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Filed under: Los Angeles culture, Reactions & Reviews, Related culture

Die Walküre is coming

Very excited for the second opera in the cycle.

I am hoping that this performance will generate as much hallway and dinner party conversation as Das Rheingold. We need the city abuzz about the work of Wagner and LA’s interpretation of this classic.

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Each Performance is New!

Since posting about “visual humor,” another visit to Achim Freyer’s Rheingold showed how alive and changing the theater performance can be when compared to  recordings or DVDs.

The visual joke mentioned last week no longer appears with the same intensity this week. The circular door in the floor did not open in the new performance. The ropes seemed to pull, but the door did not lift to show the interior of the Nibelung Cave. The gestural drama that took place in the Cave with the dwarves and Mime  did not happen inside the dark interior but took place directly on the stage. Was that a permanent change of performance strategy? Or was it the result of some mechanical glitch that prevented the door from opening? 

The second time around showed the freshness and cogency of the staging. Having been dazzled and puzzled on first visit, the second visit allows the audience to better grasp the symbolic connection of costume and gesture to Wagnerian meaning.  The staging introduces a visual reading of the Wagnerian text, adding another layer. 

This new layer provokes thought without distracting from Wagnerian meaning. It refreshes the opera’s significance by creating non-realistic paintings of the themes. The result is something like a series tableaux that illuminate the text. A novel and profound experience!

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Visual Jokes in Freyer’s Production of Das Rheingold

The Achim Freyer production has some hilarious moments (yes, sardonic humor in a Ring production!).

My favorite visual joke is in the Subterranean Cavern where Alberich and Mime (Scene 3) are venting anger on one another, Alberich is abusing Mime, pulling him by the ear, and Mime in turn castigates his slave workers in the mines with cruel whip lashes.   Mime turns toward his gang of brow-beaten miners and raises his hands several times,  his hands gesturing up and down exactly like a conductor with a large orchestra. The mine dwarves are frantically making agitated gestures as if they were hacking away at bizarre musical instruments. All this pantomine is awkwardly synchronized with the actual music (the musicians in this production are completely hidden by a black cover over the orchestra pit). It’s as if the orchestra with conductor suddenly appear on-stage and make themselves present in the myth. 

James Conlon probably smiles every time this scene comes around. It’s very funny once you notice it!

Filed under: Reactions & Reviews, Ring of the Nibelung, ,