Ringside Results: Your Reviews of The Met’s Ring Cycle

Thursday, May 10, 2012

When the Metropolitan Opera concludes its Ring Cycle on Saturday, it will go down as one of the most hotly debated opera events that New York has seen in modern times. Richard Wagner’s four-part, 16-hour saga was rolled out over a couple of years and culminated this spring, when the Met presented the full cycle three times.

While music critics have spilled much ink over the production, directed by Robert Lepage (read our reviews of Die Walküre, Seigfried, Das Rheingold and Götterdämmerung) audiences too have been arguing its merits.

We asked WQXR.org readers to give us their Ring reviews, an exercise that provoked a range of responses.

The Raw Numbers

Of the 32 reviews submitted, by far the most commentary focused on the Lepage production, with its 45-ton set consisting of 24 moving planks (dubbed "the machine"). Twenty-four readers gave it a negative review, three were mixed in their marks and two were positive (three others didn't comment on it).

Then there was the singing itself. Nine reviewers gave the performers positive marks, three were mixed and one was negative.

A third broad subject area focused on the overall music-making (i.e. the orchestra, conductor, general ensemble and cast). Five reviews were positive, two were negative.

A Range of Views

We asked readers to give us their overall impressions of the Met Ring but also to consider some specific points: their favorite or least favorite use of the machine, the aspects they would change, and what they felt were the most overrated or underrated contributions to the cycle.

C.S. Levin from Boston echoed a few readers when he wrote that Lepage’s directorial concept overwhelmed Wagner's ideas: “To me the main offense of the Lepage Ring cycle is that, in its attempt to be a 'storyteller,' it forgets that Wagner was one of the greatest storytellers that ever lived. It is all in the music.”

Similarly, Alexandra from Milan, Italy, said "Lepage, like most directors these days, wants everyone to talk about HIS work. The music is now last on the list of priorities."

Christy from Providence, one of the two reviewers who applauded the cycle, had the opposite reaction: “As a lover of minimalism, I enjoyed the Lepage Ring. More than anything, the simple approach to staging allowed those of us in the audience to see the work through our own prisms – something that wasn't as possible previously.”

Other comments focused on the machine's perceived noisiness, Lepage's use of body doubles, the costumes, and what was deemed to be limited stage action. 

We also asked readers for their "MVS," or most-valuable singer.

Christy from Providence, RI, nominated Bryn Terfel. “While other singers moved in and out of the productions, Terfel simply kept showing up and singing amazingly,” she wrote. Patrick from Wallington, NJ praised several singers: “[Jonas] Kaufmann, [Eric] Owens, [Hans-Peter] Konig and [Stephanie] Blythe were stunning, and [Wendy Bryn] Harmer was a lovely surprise.”

Stu Angels from Sydney, Australia said, “For me, the best thing about this production was simply the performers who suddenly had roles that showed what they could do, who had never been on my radar before (e.g. Eric Owens)."

Below are full reviews. If you didn’t get a chance already, please share your thoughts in the comments box at the bottom of this page.

The Reviews

David M. Gerstein from New York, NY

My wife and I have seen more than ten complete Ring cycles including those at the Met and others in Copenhagen, Washington D.C., Deutsche Opera, San Francisco, Chicago and Seattle, and have seen many of the Ring operas separately. We saw the individual Ring operas at the Met during the past two seasons and were so disappointed that we did not come to see any of the current Met cycles. While the singing was generally good (and, in some instances, great), the machine, even if it had worked perfectly (which it did not), was a great distraction. It was a pleasure to be able to hear the radio broadcasts of Siegfried and Walkure during the last two weekends without that distraction. This production was particularly painful for those of us who had enjoyed the Met's beautiful previous Ring with the finest Götterdämmerung finale that I have ever seen. In 2010, the Met cancelled its scheduled revival of the wonderful production of the Corigliano Ghosts of Versailles for financial reasons and yet it spent untold millions on the Lepage monstrosity. Something is wrong.


Frederico G. from Sunnyside, NY

I saw Die Walkure this past Saturday. I was stunned at how amazingly it ends, with the use of the Machine to dangle sleeping Brunilde upside down facing the audience, while the rest of her surroundings change to fire. Brilliant! I think the Machine is perfectly suitable for Wagner's psychological drama. Its rigidness and metallic plates evoke the overall feeling and traits of most characters. The most valuable singer was Bryn Terfel, Wotan. His voice is tremendous! I would say that the most underrated contribution to the cycle was the orchestra playing. I'm not sure if it's because Fabio Luisi and the Met Orchestra are still getting to know one another, or if they were tired or what. I personally missed hearing that extra vigor and brilliance in the sound which I often heard under Levine which was so emphatic and thrilling. Perhaps it's Luisi's own personal approach to the score. But overall it was an amazing experience. Bravo to the Met and everyone who made this production come to life!


Tony from Sacramento

An ambitious idea that is executed poorly. The machine does wonderful things, but the drama is missing. And certain aspects of the machine leave me feeling flat, particularly the end of Götterdämmerung, which was completely laughable and anticlimactic. What's the point of a huge piece of machinery if there is little to no work with the characters?


Brenda Slade from the Upper West Side

All things considered, artistically and aesthetically, I prefer the old Otto Schenk production, although I applaud the innovation and daring of this current one. My MVS (most valuable singer) was Eric Owens (Hans-Peter Konig was great, too.) Favorite use of the machine: Wotan's and Loge's descent into Nibelheim. Least favorite: end of Das Rheingold, gods very wobbly going off stage on the rainbow. Above and beyond everything for me are the music and the singing.

Michael Davey from Flatbush, Brooklyn

For all the noise made on stage by the now-legendary "machine", it was nothing compared to the noise made about it off stage. Every discussion, review, and snarky comment about the Lepage production has focused on it. On the one hand this is a sad commentary on the audience's appreciation, but it's forgivable in the light of the fact that the Met has repeatedly made it the focus of it's promotion of this Ring. The only unforgivable aspect of Peter Gelb's contribution to New York opera culture is his constant, tacky reminders of the cost of the scenery. It's even the focus of the Ring souvenirs in the gift shop.

So let me start by saying that if you judge it (for the sake of charity) from the point they got all the bugs worked out, it, the Machine, was OK. It had a few stellar moments I thought, especially the final scene of Die Walkure. Had I not known about the resources that went into it's construction, or been told it was "revolutionary" I would have been favorably impressed. The real failing of this production was the total lack of ascetic or philosophical focus. Like the production it replaced, it was so miserably literal. The only person who seemed to be able to bring anything unique was Fabio Luisi, who brought out a lightness that seems to have been buried beneath the Teutonic baggage of the work's performance history. Of the performances, very few were really memorable. While Eric Owens and Hans-Peter Konig were standouts, I thought that Bryn Terfel was a fantastic Wotan in every aspect and has been somewhat underrated.

Blanche from New York, NY

I attended both live and HD performances and was appalled by the ugliness and the cumbersome and unimaginative nature of the "concept", if Lepage's design can even be dignified by that word. The singers looked awkward and bunched, the projections were pallid (excepting a terrific effect of blood spreading in water after the death of Siegfried) and the attention to character non-existent. The quality of the singing was spotty but often soared; D. Voigt and J.H. Morris made valiant and often successful efforts, and there were sublime moments from E. Owens, J. Kaufman, W. Meier and B. Terfel. If I ran the Met I would scrap the Machine and hire a director who understood and revered this transcendent music.


Richard from Flushing

I saw the entire four operas over the last two seasons. Last year had James Levine at the helm. This year, Fabio Luisi. I liked both. Levine had long experience and love of the music. Luisi brought crystal clarity without losing propulsion. There were passages I never fully heard before. My first Ring opera was in 1957! Singing was on a very high level throughout, though I wish Voigt and Terfel had started warming up to their roles a few years earlier. I always admired Lepage's work but the set mostly obscured the operas.


Darlene Moak from Ravenel, SC

I was seriously underwhelmed. There were some "highs" but there were also a lot of "huh?" Brunhilde's dress in Die Gotterdamerung comes to mind; you have one of the most beautiful singers in the world and that's all you can come up with? That may sound "trivial" but it's emblematic of what was wrong with the whole production. MVS? Eric Owens hands down. Fav use of Machine? The steps used mostly in Part I. Overall: it could have been so much better.


Pierce Brennan from New York, NY

The opera should not be staged in a way that requires body doubles. This seriously compromises dramatic continuity. In Walkure, for instance, we want to take the entire journey with one performer as Brunhilde. The whole "machine" concept works nicely at times, but mostly not. It is possible that this set is not salvageable. Lepage's comments suggest that he is not really very knowledgeable about the Ring. A lot of things that might work fairly nicely for Cirque de Soleil, do not work at all for the Ring. The set is distractingly noisy, and these problems should have been worked out long before the thing was brought before the public. There are also very distracting whirring sounds from projectors or cooling fans which are especially audible during quieter moments. This might be overlooked in a Vegas Cirque, but the quiet moments in the Ring must be allowed to have their impact. The costumes are for the most part weak or ugly. I can't think of one that's really good. It's hard to make Jonas Kaufmann look dumpy and unattractive, but they did. They missed a good opportunity there. The giants' costumes were just silly. The dragon in Siegfried was just ludicrous and distracting. MVS: Eric Owens. J.H. Morris.


Alexandra from Milan, Italy

Lepage, like most directors these days, wants everyone to talk about HIS work. The music is now last on the list of priorities. He is in competition with Star Wars and Harry Potter. Why would you want a review of these operas, since "the operas" are the last thing on the list?


Stu Annels from Sydney, Australia

My take on this Ring cycle is that it is a Ring for the Wagner inexperienced. It uses a mix of familiar and unfamiliar singers, all of whom bring vivid characterizations to life. It is big on spectacle but small on depth, a Ring for beginners if you will. While watching the production via the Met in HD, I was struck at once, by how well The Machine worked to bring some scenes to life (to my mind, the Rhinemaidens were possibly the best) while also in other situations how it seemed to become a case of "let's do this because we can" rather than should. I think hanging Brunhilde upside down was probably the most egregious example of that. But yet, what saved this Ring and made it work for me, was the music. Both the singing and the orchestra (in the HD versions) came across well. There were no shockingly badly cast singers (despite some people's opinions) and some stunning ones. I think for me, the best thing about this production was simply the performers who suddenly had roles that showed what they could do, who had never been on my radar before (e.g. Eric Owens).


Patrick from Wallingford, NJ

I found this a distressing, depressing waste of talent and resources. It all looked like the work of someone who had never attended live theater before. The trench in which so many important scenes were played was typical of the disgracefully inept staging, the costumes seemed like leftovers from any number of discarded eyesores, and the machine itself was, more often than note, a creaking distraction. Rarely was it used in a remotely intriguing way, but rather as a backdrop for projections. The singers were on their own, and looked it. Kaufmann, Owens, Konig and Blythe were stunning, and Harmer was a lovely surprise.


Christy from Providence, RI

As a lover of minimalism, I enjoyed the Lapage Ring. More than anything, the simple approach to staging allowed those of us in the audience to see the work through our own prisms - something that wasn't as possible previously. I also found it an easier "sell" to non-opera loving friends because of the less specific staging. I adored Bryn Terfel - my Ring MVS – throughout the Cycle. While other singers moved in and out of the productions, Terfel simply kept showing up and singing amazingly. Despite a sometimes dodgy middle register, I also came to appreciate Voigt’s Brunnhilde. Her vocal stylings won’t go down as one of the best, but what a wonderful, sympathetic and current character she created. My niece identified with the character and wanted to learn more about her. This performance, for me, was most underrated. Both Terfel’s Wotan and Voigt’s Brunnhilde had a “humanity” I haven’t seen as fully before, although that may be because the staging allowed me to see it. I cried as Wotan prepared to put his chosen daughter to sleep.

This brings me to what I would change. First, I would countermand the decision to use a body double for a Machine special effect at the end of Walkure. My tears quickly dried up as I thought, “Wait, that doesn’t look like Voigt.” I also would have staged the fight leading to Siegmund’s death more severely, burned the ridiculous Fafner puppet on a real pyre to make way for something genuinely frightening, and given Brunnhilde a more glorious way to die. Having said all this, however, I applaud the Met for trying a new approach, even if it was not entirely successful. I enjoyed it and would return to see this Lepage Ring again.


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Comments [17]

Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Musuc Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

The troubles that tear asunder the prospect of REAL echt WAGNERIAN PERFORMANCES are the total lack of singers with squillo, ping, ringing "juicy', not dry secco tone delivery,singers WITHOUT thrilling fortissimo acuti, high , notes and WITHOUT melting pianissimi but instead substitute WAGNERIAN BARKING rather than legato full-throated singing with strained and forced and flat singing, undersized and underpowered singing, at the same time WITHOUT impressive carrying power and the final curse the inevitable throaty and/or nasal ugly voice production.

Apr. 30 2013 01:14 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

Today's news deals with deficits and declining support for the arts. Tandem to this predicament for the talented is the perception that the current situation will continue for a long time to come. Speaking specifically how this precludes the motivation for young operatic singers who must early on choose their life's work, many have turned to Broadway or the business world. Nowadays Broadway musicals are out for show-stopping sensationalism with laser distractions, monster sets, acrobatic feats and space age technical projections and featuring dancing over singing. So, for the real thing opera singer, Broadway musicals, outside of Phantom of the Opera and an occasional Les Miserables there is little prospect of a sustainable career. The Wagner oeuvre has suffered the most. Husky physiques, witness the iconic John McCormack, do not offer similar size singing voices in power or stamina. Heroic voices like Melchior, Tamagno, Ruffo and the mature Caruso are nowhere on today's world class stages. Instead we suffer to hear miniscule, non-charismatic, non-distinctively memorable singing voices essaying roles far beyond their undersized,underpowered, thin not orotund, singing potentialities lacking sufficient carrying, projection power to be consistently heard over Wagner's or Richard Strauss' orchestrations.

Apr. 29 2013 05:57 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

www.RichardWagnerMusicDramaInstitute.com, where one may download, free, at RECORDED SELECTIONS, 37 complete selections, "live," from my four solo concerts in the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall.

Jan. 21 2013 11:02 AM
Steve Smith from Charlotte NC

I have watched this now on video, something that has convinced me not to attend live.

Let me start with the great. The Met orchestra is a finely tuned machine. The horns are simply incredible.

For singers, I thought Gerhard Siegel's Mime was the real standout.

As for the production, it is a miserable failure. The billing summarizes the problem: "Robert Lapage's acclaimed production of the Ring." Lapage gets top billing. Watching the production, I do not get the feeling that the goal was to present Wagner at its best but rather a Lapage vanity project with opera as the backdrop. For the record, I cannot find any acclaim for the production in reviews.

There has been some debate over theatrics for the modern viewer versus tradition. That line of argument is nonsense in this context. The entire production is a gimmick: the giant teeter-totters. They serve no real purpose except to be high concept. They are just a distraction.

Low points of the production include the end of Die Walkure where the drama is sacrificed at the altar of the gimmick. Another low point is the dragon scenes of Siegfried. With all the technological gimmickry, you would think they could do better than a silly rubber dragon. And the immolation scene.

One positive aspect of the production is that is shows the potential for computer generate images for operas that have unworldly locales.

Oh, by the way, some guy named Wagner wrote the music.

Sep. 14 2012 10:16 PM

One has only to compare “Wotan’s Farewell” as sung by James Morris in the Schenk production from 1989 with the same scene in this new production and it will be obvious that the “plank machine” completely destroys the heart-rending interaction between the two principals. The backdrop in the older production is infinitely more suitable for Morris’s tear-jerking rendition.

May. 23 2012 10:14 AM
Elliot from New Jersey

I fully expected to detest the LePage Machine staging and after an initial exposure to Gotterdaemmerung in September 2011 I actually did detest it then. However, having seen the complete Ring cycle this past April I have not only come to terms with it but have come to actually appreciate, even enjoy, it. In fact, some moments of The Machine were absolutely brilliant, such as having the Valkyries ride the slats as horses in the Ride of the Valkyries. Some singers were uncomfortable when on The Machine, which was unfortunate, and it looked to me as if some tripped when on it, and there is no question that the thing continues to be way too noisy.

The reality is there is no ideal staging for any Wagner music drama. The time scales are too long and the action to static and abstract to stage in any "normal" manner. The music stands alone and contains the entire message; it neither needs nor wants help of any kind from any visual aspect. Therefore, in many ways The Machine circumvented this inherent difficulty and often enhanced the presentation. Actually, the best staging of a Wagner music drama that I ever saw was the MET's Lohengrin from the mid-90s staged by Robert Wilson--a truly minimalist production with geometric light projections and extremely slow and highly stylized stage movements by the singers.

So on balance I've done a major turnaround and come to accept The Machine for what it is. Most of the time I even like it.

May. 22 2012 10:40 PM
Zulema from Bronx, NY

The correct thing would have been for Mr. Gelb to respond to what he considered undue criticism, not for WQXR to quash it. Because of general outrage he has now reversed himself on his ban on Opera News. You have set a bad precedent and I hope you do not buckle under again.

May. 22 2012 10:30 PM
Judith E Targove from Highland Park, NJ

I read that WQXR withdrew a blog comment because Peter Gelb objected to its criticism. I didn't know that the Metropolitan Opera Company controlled WQXR. I think it's a mistake to withdraw criticism unless it contained erroneous information -- in which case it can be corrected -- or was rude and unseemly to those who value civility.
Can Mr. Gelb really control criticism from an organ not under his control?

May. 22 2012 09:02 PM
D. Baldwin

This thing (the machine) was a horrible distraction. The projections made it all the worse. At a time when artistic organizations are scaling productions back or canceling them all together, the Met spent its money and talents on this? Hopefully the entire thing will be dismantled and put away for good or perhaps sold to a theme park.

May. 22 2012 08:58 PM

I liken it to a quantum mechanical treatment of an opera that should be a classical, deterministic and continuous flow. How ironic that the “planks” used should so directly refer to one of the founders of quantum mechanics, namely Max Planck. The uncertainty of position and momentum in this staging is readily apparent. The series of planks represent energy levels that sometimes are static positions, and at other times are undulating waves. Can a story such as this be bound into such a microscopic universe?

Having singers jump from one energy level to another, mediated by visible strings, is the silliest concept yet for this type of opera. The grossest example of this is the character Loge, representing fire. Instead of the freedom required for this part, he is made to resemble a 2-dimensional tethered entity.

It’s unfortunate that we are living in a world now where most people are unable to follow a continuous story line and are only moved by spectacular effects which are separated by long stretches of, what they consider, boring dialogue. Mathematically (for the physicists who read this), they look for the “eigenvalues” of the story position. This is equivalent to ignoring the momentum entirely. All operas, and especially Wagner’s, require momentum. The greatest singers develop this momentum and it reflects in their acting. In this production however, just about everyone of the principles involved felt uncomfortable, having to make conscious moment by moment decisions of where to stand and move.

Fortunately, James Levine was there to give some value to the production with his superb sense of continuity. I am pretty sure that in his mind he has had some misgivings about the staging from the beginning but, due to ill health and age, has not sought to question the current “techno-establishment”. We have now come to the the point where the stage hands are the primadonnas, with Lepage as “master stagehand”. Artistry is now superceded by mechanics.

I suggest that this “plank machine” be dismantled and relegated to the junk pile. Wait!! It might conceivably be saved and brought out some time in the future when some composer decides to turn Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” into an opera, making it perfectly suitable for the staging.

May. 22 2012 04:51 PM

This was my first live experience with Der Ring des Nibelungen, in fact, this was my first series of opera - ever! Many roads have lead me here and I am in the possibly enviable position of having nothing but enthusiasm going into the epic Wager series: Here is my experience.

The moment I buy tickets my life is consumed. For half a year I do all the things a good opera attendee does to prepare for an enlightened evening at the opera. It is a date with destiny. As I enter LePage’s vision I accept what he gives me without question. The Machine is fluid and transforms with ease. I know about the controversy and choose not to be distracted by it. As a result, Das Rheingold is a joyous romp with the gods. Bryn Terfel, Stephanie Blythe, Eric Owens (I could go on listing them all) are magnificent; the costumes, the orchestra, the projections and lighting; it all works in a harmonic convergence for me. I leave the Metropolitan Opera that night as a freshly minted season subscribers. Die Walkure is next and I fear the five-hours but am emboldened and moved to tears at the end…it’s a parental thing! So, I love it. I have a very long wait for Siegfried and am pleased to see the growth and maturity of the technical side of production. The projections are more interactive and sophisticated, the music my favorite of all the operas. I am happy, grooving and totally in synch with the production when at the dramatic meeting of Siegfried and Brunnhilde the Machine comes to a clunking halt and I fear for the safety of Deborah Voigt and Jay Hunter Morris heroically performing in front of a towering pile of “burning” planks. I applaud & shout “Bravi” for the shear strength of their professionalism.
I am sad to report the fear never leaves me. Gotterdammerung opens with the “Weird Sisters” weaving their tale of woe for the future and suddenly a plank starts swinging wildly to and fro then another and another and I FREAK OUT! I cannot let go of my concern even when I realize it is an intentional metaphor for the world swinging out of order. But I’m done. The remainder of the opera is tempered with worry and I am not able to reach the ecstatic connection I had early on. I admit it, The Machine got in my way in the long run. I still defend the production and hope, fervently, that the bugs get fixed and I will get to experience the full cycle in all its technical glory next year!
I want to see it again! I want it! If this is what opera’s like then I want more!

May. 16 2012 05:13 PM
FTI from comments

The Times, yesterday, had an artilce dealing with the production empahsizing the "machine" or the staging. The author never asks or seeks to discovery whether the means of the production was part of what the director was seeking to get at. I think that it is. I attended the Third Cycle which concluded on Saturday.
These giant moving plates upon which much of the action is performed are as much a means of a projection and creation of the scenes of the various locals of the Ring and a "special effects" platform as they are also part of the message that the director is seeking to convey.
What was implicit in the earlier operas, I think was made explicit in Gotterdammerung.
The plates are giganitc forces of nature and of the universe's laws upon which each of the characters lives and acts. Each from the gods and particularly Woton who believes especially at the beginning in Das Rheingold, that he is a person of complete free will who controls his fate and that of all the the balance of the universe, acts unaware of the underlying forces at work which influence their choices and lives.
At the beginning of the Ring Cycle, before there is any music, the curtain opened while the audience was getting settled in their seats, to the plates in neutral grey, with a backround of somewhat blue. That was the exact state of events after the conclusion of the music in Gotterdammerrung.
The world of the gods has been destroyed but not the universal forces upon which they existed. There will be and is still life that will go on created and influenced by these forces.
Just as we are largely unaware of the forces around us, particularly the universe and the infinite number of actions that is occuring at any given moment, so are each of the characteres in the Ring Cycle. Each of them believes that they are acting in accordance with the free will they have constrained by the forces and circumstances in which they find themselves. However, they are not aware of all of those circumstances or forces. That is what the plates signify. And the characters that are unaware include, as far as I can tell, Erda and her Norn daughters, since it is the plates themselves that disrupt and tear apart the ropes of fate at the beginning of Gotterdammerung; ropes of fate woven by the Norns in accordance with the dreams of the Earth mother Erda but which even when destroyed, the world goes on: which is the story of Gotterdammerung. Think of the lines during the Norn scene: what will happen to the gold, one asks; and the others say they do not know. Which means it is not within the rope of fate that they have woven but subject to a force outside what they have forseen: the tatonic universal forces of the plates as the free will of the characters,is lived out during the Opera.
Yes: go and judge for yourself.

May. 15 2012 12:24 PM
Chris from New York City

The Lepage Ring was my first one ever and I must say I found it riveting. I've been subscribing to the Met for ten years and during that time have seen many operas, but the difference in the new Wagner in the Ring: I don't take intermittent and very expensive naps. Even taking into account that Wagner and his Ring tend to attract a rather intense, almost cultish following, I think the vitriol that is being used to bash "the machine" is sounding like a "me too" position and I caution people considering the Ring next year of this negativity that seems to be very much en vogue right now... I hope it's not just becomming trendy to bash things that are new - we'll never attract the younger audiences we need to hold onto the opera form and the Met. The production is stunning, interesting, digestible, beautiful and an education. Which it should be for the prices and the Met as an institution.

May. 15 2012 11:31 AM
Diane McCall from Zephyr Cove, NV (Lake Tahoe)

I've seen the Met Ring productions in HD. I thought the production was fantastic. The giant set was brilliant and was used and worked in many different To me, it never seemed cumbersome. Rather, it seemed to be alive.

May. 11 2012 07:50 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

THE RING, despite the thousands of productions world-wide, survives because of the MUSIC and the SINGERS not so often the set designers or costume designers who DO seek uniqueness rather than adherence to the wishes of the composer. If we can deservedly complain over the NOISE of cellphones going off LOUDLY during a performance how much MORE DISTRACTING that the set itself is the villain. Commendable were the singers Owens, Blythe and Kaufmann in this current Lepage production. Those three have exceptional talent vocally and dramatically and with Fabio Luisi's conducting save this RING production from pedestrian drabness and lack of characterization and spontaneity. MELCHIOR, FLAGSTAD AND SCHORR as a team are unlikely to ever be matched, but their recordings, commercial and private issues, support the epic exciting qualities that only Wagner's music dramas at their best may attain. My study of voice with Friedrich Schorr, Alexander Kipnis, Margarete Matzernauer, Frieda Hempel, Martial Singher, Mack Harrell, John Brownlee and Karin Branzell, all leading singers at the Met Opera before they retired, prepared me for my rep decisions. Schorr, Kipnis and Singher I saw in performances at the Met long before I got to study with them. I am a Wagnerian romantischer heldentenor, the director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, and an opera composer of “Shakespeare” and “The Political Shakespeare." I have sung, and commercially recorded LIVE for Valhalla Records CDs four main hall, Isaac Stern Auditorium, solo concerts, three of them three hours long. Stamina is part of the requirements for a heldentenor career.

May. 11 2012 06:14 PM
James from Forest Hills Ny

This Ring was gorgeous from start to finish!

I especially loved hearing the great Wagner music -- some of his best -- especially the closing moments of "Gotterdammerung".

May. 11 2012 05:32 PM
Jimmy Wadia from Queens, NY

Was it Cirque Du Soleil? Ka perhaps? Well, from a perspective standpoint, nothing wrong with injecting a bit of theatrics into an opera which IS about theatrics anyway.

However, some visual depiction seems to have suffered. For instance, the raw emotion which the Ride of the Valkyries offers seems to be considerably muted with a bunch of maidens galloping on planks! Contrast that with earlier productions depicting screaming, moving (on the stage) Valkyries with dead men all around, dragging their bodies (and souls) to Valhalla.

But then, the 45 ton diva was well employed in Götterdämmerung, the Hall of the Gibichungs very well portrayed. But portrayal of Grane was a bit too contrived with the mechanical horse needing a stage hand to manipulate it and then pushing it on wheels (you can't see that from orchestra seats!) towards the funeral pyre. Something more subtle should have been devised.

All in all, whereas innovation is always welcome in any endeavor, try to minimize on the gimmicks and don't go all the way. Not that I really care about a creaking sound or two, but it is best at times to build a scene on stage (or on 24 movable planks) and let it be and let the singers and orchestra do the talking (or singing and playing).

The best praise goes to Fabio Luisi, who did very well in place of the legendary James Levine, preserving the integrity of the music in its original.

And though all singers (including the formidable Met chorus) delivered well, nothing like Jay Hunter Morris singing the forging song. Kudos. I compared that with earlier recordings and not even one came close, including the Chicago production.

May. 11 2012 03:28 PM

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