Freyer’s Valkyrie last night was a stunner! It opened, for me, the greatness and appropriateness of this particular staging of the Ring Cycle. The performance began to gel at the end of the opening scene as Siegmund and Sieglinde move visibly closer to one other across the vast scenic ring at center stage. Previously, the performance continued with the oratorio-like withholding of physical gestures where the human body plays a minimal role in the midst of large-scale puppets, light-sabers, and magic-surreal props.
As the bodies of Siegmund and Sieglinde touched, the connection of evocatively deep emotive music came together and the magic began. The cold 21st-century distances between on-stage characters also melted at other moments, reminding us of the power of Wagner’s long, belabored, sometimes boring build-ups to a single gesture or action that then push the release button to bring the audience to tears. This magical tension-release works smoothly and hypnotically in Freyer’s glittering spectacle.
Other similar moments include the ride of the Valkyries, Wotan’s farewell to Brunnhilde, and the final Magic Fire Circle. Even those who first booed Freyer’s daring Rheingold had to rise to their feet in applause after the Magic Fire Circle shone in radiant splendor at end of the last act.
Skeptics of the LA Cycle will be fewer now that Freyer’s Valkyrie has revealed more of the full conception. Freyer has created a truly 21st-century design, building on the post-World-War-II Bayreuth productions by Wieland Wagner and – as has been pointed out by others – drawing also on Star Wars, Star Trek, and 20th-century sci-fi classics. It’s quite a wonderful cultural surprise to witness an anti-Romantic 20th-century staging that combines a 21st-century search for useable classical gestures. Add to that the sweet, warm, precise conducting of James Conlon and the amazing voice of Placido Domingo: Wow! It’s thrilling to behold.
Filed under: Los Angeles culture, Reactions & Reviews, Ring of the Nibelung
The reviews are starting to come in for Die Walkure at the LA Opera. Seems Angelinos are becoming more comfortable with the staging and enjoying the full opera experience more.
As Mark Swed LA Times Music Critic says the cries of bravo downed out the few naysayers. “ This Freyer production is not to everyone’s taste; no product of any merit, confrontational or conventional, is or should be. “
So true! However, the entertainment capital of the world deserved and expected a production that warrants conversation. I am just glad the chatter is moving away from solely being about the staging and back the production as a whole.
Filed under: Reactions & Reviews
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, Ring of the Nibelung, visual jokes
February 26, 2009 • 8:13 pm
Yesterday evening, the LA Opera production of Das Rheingold was resplendent, vivid, and highly visual.
For people with previous Ring experience, this Rheingold adds a new dimension. The production is visually arresting! Your eyes are challenged to process the stage events much as the Wagnerian music and complex archetypal drama challenges your ears and brain process.
The Brechtian “alienation effect” controls all the staging: the audience is supposed to think and understand rather than react by emotionally identifying with the illusory characters on stage . The initial weirdness of the staging subsides as the metaphors emerge: Wotan’s spear is a shaft of light; Fasolt & Fafner wield large lenses to reflect their magnitude; Loge’s multiple puppet arms reveal his sleight-of-hand skills; Froh and Donner whimsically float in the air. The colors and lights shift constantly within each scene and stimulate the eyes. Contrasts of scale continually surprise, and the audience comes to follow the human-size walking Wotan as an extension of the giant floating Wotan hovering over a side of the stage.
Achim Freyer makes the point like no other production: Loge is the Devil, Goethe‘s Mephistophiles who uses clever logic to tempt Faust. Freyer places Loge at the center of Rheingold and gives him the costume that leaves no doubt about his identity.
Filed under: Festival 2010, Reactions & Reviews, Ring of the Nibelung
February 24, 2009 • 7:21 pm
Well, here’s the link to Mark Swed’s review in the LA Times. Many of the comments posted in response to his review are not in agreement with Swed. There’s quite a strong – not favorable – reaction to the production.
Here’s the link to the review. Go down below for the comments. Quite strong reactions!
There’s also a gallery of photos from the production that give you an idea of what the commentators are talking about.
Filed under: Festival 2010, Los Angeles culture, Reactions & Reviews