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Wagner's Ring Cycle at the LA Opera

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by Ellen Reid for LAist

After all the buildup, the promotion and the hype, the stakes for the LA Opera’s first performance of Richard Wagner’s complete Ring cycle were equally high to the stakes that characters face within the opera. Do or die. Succeed or fail. Win all or lose everything.

With more than 115 cultural and educational institutions participating in the Ring Festival LA to celebrate this event, the recruitment of opera superstars such as Plácido Domingo, and the inevitable controversy that arises with the performance of any of Wagner’s work, it seems like it would be impossible for the production of the Ring cycle to actually fulfill expectations. So, the question remains: Does it or doesn’t it?

It dares to. The director and designer Achim Freyer and his collaborators Amanda Freyer (costumes) and Brian Gale (lighting) have created a hyper-stylized visual world that compliments Wagner’s musical world and captures the audience’s attention for more than 15 hours. This alone is quite a feat.

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Each of the four productions (Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung) is full of optical illusions created by puppets, masks, a moving stage and a scrim. Opera singers are notoriously bad actors, but this is not the case in the LA Opera’s Ring cycle. Some of the performers are so compelling that at the curtain call, the audience hoots and hollers as if they were at a ball game--and this doesn’t usually happen at the opera.

If you like opera, or even wonder if you like opera, you would be a fool to not jump on one of the final performances of the cycle (get your tickets here http://www.laopera.com/ticketing/season/search.aspx). A four-hour opera certainly seems daunting, but the spectacle of the design, the scope of the event, the people watching and the energy of the performance together serve to make the LA Opera’s Ring cycle a worthy way to spend an (entire) evening.

Stay tuned for LAist’s take on attending one complete Ring cycle.