The Ring Cycle
Opera Review by Willard Manus
Los Angeles Opera's first "Ring" cycle is now history--but what a history it is. Ten years in the making, the productions of DAS RHEINGOLD, DIE WALKURE, SIEGFRIED and GOTTERDAMMERUNG will long be remembered by opera fans, many of whom came from great distances to see what director/designer Achim Freyer, conductor James Conlon, and singers such as Eric Halfvarson, Placido Domingo, Vitalij Kowaljow, John Treleaven and Linda Watson--to name but a very few--would make of Richard Wagner's four epic linked operas.

Although not everyone admired Freyer's post-modern, fantastical imagery and costumes, most audiences seemed to cheer his efforts. The local critics concurred in this regard. Charles McNulty, writing in the L.A. Times, said, "Identity is one of the central connundrums in the 'Ring,' and Freyer's staging finds inventive visual correlatives. In fact, the production displaces Wagnerian leit-motifs, those tags of character and moral action, onto the design scheme."

Mark Swed, also writing in the Times, called the production a "Los Angeles and Wagner landmark," and made a strong case for it to be filmed for DVD so that there would be a permanent record of it.

I agree with Swed. Though there were moments when I felt that Freyer's stagecraft overwhelmed the action--especially when it came to his huge, crazy-looking puppets and masks, his raked stage and explosive light shows--the singing and music came through so masterfully that I found myself entranced and deeply moved.

Conlon conducted with increasing skill and sensitivity, but it was the singers who deserve the most plaudits. They delivered Wagner's message about man's rapacious exploitation of nature and the impending threat of the world's annihilation with power, beauty, and, in the end, ineffable sadness and pathos.

As Swed noted, "L.A. Opera pulled off a miracle. Here's hoping the company can do it again."

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