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WQXR Features

On Stage and Screen, The Met's New Ring Makes its Debut

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The biggest and most ambitious production in the Metropolitan Opera's history is set to open Monday night. It’s the company’s first new Ring cycle in 20 years and it's been more than four years in the making.

The long gestation has intensified the buzz, and the combination of high-profile artists -- director Robert Lepage, conductor James Levine, singers including Bryn Terfel and Stephanie Blythe – make it one burning hot ticket (and a pricey one: top seats for the red-carpet event cost $1,700). Although the entire run of Das Reingold is sold out, there are other ways to experience the production.

    • The opening-night gala performance will be broadcast on six screens in Times Square: NASDAQ, Reuters, Newscorp-Sony, Toshiba, ABC and MTV and at the American Eagle screen at Duffy Square (46th and Broadway). Two-thousand seats will be available on a first come, first served basis with additional standing room provided.
      • The performance will also be shown on a hi-def screen on the Met façade, with 3,000 seats available on Lincoln Center's Josie Robertson Plaza.
        • The gala will be steamed live on the Met’s Web site and on Sirius XM Satellite Radio. Both transmissions feature pre-show coverage, starting at 6 p.m.
        • The October 9 performance of Das Rheingold kicks off the Met’s fifth season of Live in HD transmissions, now seen on more than 1,400 movie screens in 45 countries. Soprano Deborah Voigt hosts the broadcasts, in advance of her role debut as Brünnhilde in the Ring’s second installment, Die Walküre.

          At two-and-a-half hours, the action-oriented, gods vs. giants plot of Das Rheingold is the most swiftly paced of the four installments of Wagner’s 18-hour epic. Die Walküre opens in the spring, and Siegfried arrives in fall 2011. Götterdämmerung, the fourth and final opera in the series, will be performed the following spring. All four will use a 45-ton set with 24 planks rotating around a central axis, powered by hydraulics and controlled by computers. The set was so big it required the Met to reinforce the floors with steel girders.

          Video projections of fires, storms, underwater scenes, a rainbow and even a dragon, controlled both by computer and by the actions of the performers, will give the production further depth and variety. Though the Met declines to provide exact figures, insiders estimate the cost of the cycle at upwards of $15 million.

          Scheduled to conduct Das Rheingold and the rest of the Ring is James Levine, this year celebrating the 40th anniversary of his association with the Met.