It’s coming, folks, with blasting trombones, shrieking Valkyries and magical flames. Yes, it’s Wagner’s “Ring Cycle,” and the Seattle Opera version is just nine months away. Devotees need no encouragement here. For the uninitiated, Wagner’s four lengthy 19th-century operas concerning the German legend of a golden ring of the Rhine river are a mammoth opus, seminal in the history of opera and a very, very big deal for companies to put on.
Why mention this now? Because tickets have just gone on sale. And if you are really keen about the Ring, you’ll know that Wagner fan worth their salt will be forking out hundreds right now to get the best seats. So you might want to, also–because when you watch fifteen hours of opera over four nights, you’d better hope the seats are okay.
It’s hard to sum up four operas in one sentence. But here goes. In “Das Rheingold” (“The Rhinegold”) the dwarf Alberich steals the Rhinegold to make a ring, which the gods steal despite the curse Alberich puts on it; in “Die Walkure” (“The Valkyrie”) the Valkyrie Brunnhilde saves the mortal Sieglinde and her unborn child from a battle, for which the god Wotan puts her into a magical fiery spell (while the dragon Fafner gets the Ring); in “Siegfried” (“Siegfried”) Sieglinde’s child Siegfried slays Fafner and gets both the Ring and Brunnhilde; in “Gotterdammerung” (“Twilight of the Gods”) everyone dies, while the Ring goes back to the Rhine.
Whew. If you like Norse sagas, endless German opera, melodramatic music and big BIG singing, you’ll love the “Ring.” Otherwise, stay away.
The only “Ring” I’ve endured completely was one I played double bass for, the first complete “Ring” in Australia, with the Adelaide Symphony and Australian Opera. Some of it was fun, but the rest was torture. We had masseurs backstage to prevent our muscles dying from the demanding parts. I did a lot of yoga, and tried to avoid Norse gods for a long time afterwards.
But Seattle Opera’s known for its new productions every three years, and this one promises good singers (Janice Baird, Stig Fogh Anderson), good direction (Stephen Wadsworth) and a host of fun apres-Ring activities, like pre-concert talks, “Rheingold” champagne parties, and performances of “Das Barbecu” (the comedic tale of what the gods do in their non-opera lives, deep in the heart of Texas.)
Wagner’s “Ring Cycle” will be performed throughout August, 2009 at McCaw Hall, Seattle. Tickets start at $302 through $1508 for all four operas, though single tickets are available also. 206-389-7676, 800-426-1619, www.seattleopera.org