Review by Willard Manus
Los Angeles Opera is slowly--and proudly--closing in on the complete Ring Cycle. Having already produced Das Rheingold, Die Walkure and (just last month) Siegfried, the company will not only close the circle next year (May 29-June 26, 2010) with a production of Gotterdammerung, but will repeat Das Rheingold, Die Walkure and Siegfried as part of RING FESTIVAL LA. A citywide jamboree of special exhibitions, performances and symposia all centered on LA Opera's presentation of Wagner's Ring Cycle, the festival will run from April 15-June 30, with each participating organization providing its own unique point of view on the influences of Wagner's art and philosophy from the 19th century to the present day.
"We now have nearly 100 partners for Ring Festival LA," said Placido Domingo, LA Opera's artistic director. "They will unite the city in so many different ways by showcasing the astonishing diversity of LA's many cultural, educational and artistic organizations."
LA Opera's recent production of SIEGFRIED was headed by British tenor John Treleaven, who sang the fiendishly difficult title role with admirable beauty and strength (he's on stage for five hours). Also impressive were Linda Watson as Brunnhilde, Vitaliji Kowaljow as The Wanderer and Eric Halfvarson as the giant Fafner, who has turned himself into a dragon the better to guard his possession of the magic ring.
James Conlon, leading the LA Opera orchestra from under a Bayreuth-like pit cover, conducted with an expert hand as well, making Wagner's music sound properly majestic, even awesome.
Most of the kudos, though, must go to Achim Freyer and his daughter Amanda, who teamed up once again as director/designers of LA Opera's ongoing Ring Cycle project. In their inventive hands SIEGFRIED became a spectacle, a sound and light exhibition, a puppet show, a mythological and historical extravaganza. Thanks to computerization, a large technical support team (including mask- makers and a specialist in "personnel flying systems"), the Freyer SIEGFRIED dazzled the eye from start to finish. Full marks to LA Opera (and its benefactors, especially Eli and Edythe Broad) for putting up the kind of money (reputedly $30 million) it takes to create such a magnificent and memorable Ring Cycle.
There are two websites to check for relevant information: RingfestivalLA.com or laopera.com. Or phone the L.A. Opera box office at 213-972-8001. (All performances of the Ring Cycle take place at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave.)