Saturday Roundup of Things Opera

Ready for the Ring

Ok, I have been practicing sitting for hours without looking at my iPhone.  I watched all four Met Opera videos of the Ring (Debra Voight played Brunnhilde, superb) and practiced the Valkyrie cry, HoJoToHo, to get in the spirit!  I reserved my parking spot at the Kennedy Center and saved $3, and printed my tickets; I tried not to look at the seat prices.  I have given thought to energy supplies easily consumable at breaks.  I have worked out a schedule for bathroom breaks.  I plan not to sit down on days between the operas.  I plan to be there by 5 pm to hear the pre-opera talks.  I am ready for Das Rhinegold Saturday night.

It’s a Big Deal

Evidence that a production of the Ring Cycle is a big deal can be found in the several articles published in the Washington Post in just the last week alone:

Apr 24, Peggy McGlone, “Wagner’s four-opera ‘Ring Cycle’ at Kennedy Center lures swarms of diehard ‘Ringers’,”  - About 25 percent of the ticket sales for the Ring have gone to buyers who live outside of the DC area.  Some aficionados travel to see every performance they can in the country and across the oceans.  Ok, I can see that for “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” but the Ring?

Apr 28, Sadie Dingfelder, “6 ways to sample Wagner’s ‘Ring Cycle’, without sitting through 15 hours of opera,”   - From Cliff Notes to a silent movie, various ways to sample Wagner are presented.  The most notable, perhaps, is that highlights of the Ring will be presented for free on the Kennedy Center’s Millenium Stage on May 12.  Check it out.

Apr 29, Anne Midgette, “Wagner’s ‘Ring’: A Scorecard,“ – This is an article which is essentially program notes, a listing and description of the main characters.  It rises above being something strange for a newspaper to do by including audio clips of Wagner’s leitmotifs associated with the characters.  It’s worth listening to the examples if you are not familiar with the concept.

Apr 29, Anne Midgette, “The Long Journey of the American ‘Ring’,” -  This is an outstanding article that presents background on the Ring itself and all the efforts to bring this particular Ring to DC.  The budget for this Ring is about ten million dollars.  The typical opera budget is about one million.  This production is an “American” version; the story takes place in America.  Intrigued?  I am.

Apr 29, Philip Kennicott, “Put a lid on the operatic Viking helmet cliché,” - In an article likely inspired by all the attention going to the Ring, Mr. Kennicott makes the case that continuing to use the Viking helmet as an opera cliché is actually disrespectful and harmful to opera.

Other operas coming up this week

There is actually a smorgasbord of very good operas that will be playing in the the mid-Atlantic this coming week, all of which I would love to have been able to go see (see the side bar for dates):

The Rake’s Progress by Igor Stravinsky, Pittsburgh Opera – no question, I would be attending this modern opera were it not for the Ring.  Elisabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote a piece this week about the set for this opera, which was designed by British artist David Hockney.

The Elixir of Love by Gaetano Donizetti, Opera Philadelphia – this is a romantic, comic Donizetti opera that depends on the sound and charm of its performers to make it special.  I’d love to see what the Opera Philadelphia will be able to do with it.

Elektra by Richard Strauss, Met Opera HD in cinemas – Ok, I admit this one scares me.  I am familiar with the story, not a pleasant one.  I am sure the music will be tense and sustained in that fashion.  If you are interested, Met Opera is trying to help folks prepare to listen to the opera with a podcast about it.  If anyone goes, please let me know what you thought of it.

Man versus Machines

In that battle, we are losing another one.  Though not about opera, I’d like to point out to you for your reading pleasure an amusing and nostalgic article that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer this week written by Peter Dobrin.  Titled “Classical page-turners turn the page into the modern era,” he reflects on the passing of the page-turner in classical music performances and the rise of iPads for turning pages.