Los Angeles Ring Festival 2010

Seminar at MSMC about the LA Ring Festival 2010

Press Conference January 5, 2010

January is Los Angeles Arts Month, and the 2010 kick-off celebration was a press conference at the REDCAT auditorium in Disney Hall. Much of the press conference touched on the LA Ring Cycle, and over 100 cultural Ring partners were represented. My Flip camera caught all 45 minutes of the gathering and some of the clips are now on YouTube:

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spoke about the relationship of the arts community and the City of Los Angeles: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fH4LO-GFtM0

Barry Sanders, leader of the Ring Festival and one of the posters on this blog, spoke about the Festival: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXcxzOUaZJk

And here’s the official logo of the Festival:

Logo for the LA Ring Festival

Logo for the LA Ring Festival

Filed under: Festival 2010, Los Angeles culture, Related culture, Ring of the Nibelung

Two Seminars on the “Two Rings”

Two seminars are now open for enrollment:

– a 2-day seminar on June 11 & 12, 2010 open to the general public via ticket sales
– a 4-month graduate seminar from January to April in the 2010 Masters in Humanities program at Mount St. Mary’s College

Both seminars take place on the Doheny campus (downtown Los Angeles). Both seminars are called “Two Rings: Wagner & Tolkien.” The June 2010 seminar is a compressed version of the 4-month graduate seminar.

Here is the downloadable syllabus for the 4-month graduate seminar. Information on admission to the graduate program is here. This graduate seminar meets all-day on six Saturdays from January to May and focuses on the myth and imagery of the Ring in the epics of Tolkien and Wagner, in Norse sagas and 20th-century fantasy.

The 2-day seminar is on June 11 & 12, 2010 (9 am – 4 pm) and welcomes all opera and fantasy fans who wish to discuss the Two Rings. The college campus will host the lectures and discussions in the historic gardens of the Doheny campus in downtown LA. Sign-up for the June 2010 seminar does NOT require admission to the Masters Program but is open to members of the general public who have purchased tickets. Information and tickets (Paypal) for the 2-day workshop / seminar is at: http://www.msmc.la.edu/ringseminars

For more information on either or both seminars, email Dr. Mike Heim: mheim@msmc.la.edu or mike*at*mheim.com

Filed under: Festival 2010, ideas for celebrating the Festival, Lord of the Rings, Los Angeles culture, Related culture, Ring of the Nibelung

“Star Wars” Ring?

Here’s why the LA Opera Ring is being called the “Star Wars Ring.”

Valkyries with Light Sabers

These are the Valkyries with their Light Sabers. This still shot conveys the idea, but to get a fuller visual impression, you can view the video clip on YouTube.  Only in the theater, however, with live action and motion do you get the full impact of this performance.  Think of sparklers in the dark. 

Note the “dead bodies” like mummies at the feet of the Valkyries. These are the fallen warriors who are chosen on the battlefield to become heroes sung and celebrated in the halls of Valhalla. (Implied comment on contemporary heroism?) The “bicycles” are the horses ridden by the Valkyries. These bikes later become the torches spinning around Brunnhilde when Wotan condemns her to the protection of the Magic Fire Circle. Red electric lights are mounted on top of each bike as the bikes turn each on their own axis.

And there in the center is Wotan in one of his incarnations, pulling the Valkyries on ribbon strings. Sometimes Wotan will appear on the stage in several simultaneous incarnations. This particular incarnation has Wotan wearing a floppy-brim hat, the Wanderer’s Hat that usually adorns him at the beginning of the opera Siegfried during the Riddle Contest with Mime. Here the lack of a head enhances the mysterious quality of Wotan the Wanderer as his power and purpose diminish and he gradually gives way to inevitable failure and the growing Twilight of the Gods.

Filed under: Festival 2010, Reactions & Reviews, Related culture, Ring of the Nibelung

Freyer’s Valkyrie Is Stunning!

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

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, ,

First Look at Rheingold

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