Much has been written, and much said about Wagner's Ring Cycle, lauded by many as mankind's greatest single work of art. Whoa. We had the chance to see for ourselves on the night of the second performance of Das Rheingold at the Metropolitan Opera.
We ascended the grand stair like oscar winners, to take our seats just moments before the chandeliers rose and the Rheinmaidens floated up before us, backlit by an ocean of blue to the opening strains. The Ring Cycle is famed for presenting a peculiar challenge. Though its themes are central to our existence, our humanity, the images are epic and fantastical. How to bring such grandness to the theater space? Director Robert Lepage created a set comprised of 24 aluminum planks covered in fiberglass. These run on a hydraulic system to reconfigure into myriad shapes for each scene- forming caves, mountains and finally, Valhalla itself. The mesmerizing contraption, comparable to a modern art sculpture or installation piece, acted as a surface for projections which were not pre-recorded, but triggered live by the music and the singing. The final, sublime image we are left with is the Gods' ascent into Valhalla, as the stone surface transforms into the heavens.
We are out of our depth to describe the god-sized music of Wagner's masterpiece, here so beautifully and intimately conducted by Met Director, James Levine. Or the stunning performances of the all star cast, who brought out the gravity of this cautionary tale, and also its power and beauty.
The next installment, Die Walküre, premieres April 22, 2010.