Thursday, June 10, 2010

'Rings' on the rocks

The debt-ridden Los Angeles Opera, which obtained a $14-million loan from the city last December, now anticipates ticket sales coming in $1 million to $1.5 million below projections for its performances of Achim Freyer's action-heroic staging of Wagner's "Ring" cycle. Some tickets are being discounted by nearly 50 percent, the Los Angeles Times' David Ng reports:

The Metropolitan Opera, also running in the red (though not as deeply as LA), has to cough up an extra $1 million-plus to shore up its stage to support the 45-ton weight of Robert Lepage's new set for a "Ring" cycle to be launched in September. "[S]pending on the cycle could exceed $16 million," Daniel J. Wakin reports in The New York Times:

As this news breaks, Jaime Weinman, writing for the Canadian magazine Maclean's, dusts off and endorses one of the most pointed critiques of Wagner's reconstitution of music drama, as realized in the "Ring." The critic was Tchaikovsky, writing in 1876:

"Since in the moments of passionate intensity to which people living in a social community are subject nobody would think of striking up a song, arias are to be rejected; and since as a rule two people do not speak to one another at the same time, but rather one will let the other speak out first, there can be no duets either. Similarly, since people in a crowd do not generally all utter the same words together at the same time, a chorus must also be out of the question . . .

"Wagner exclusively recognizes the form of the recitative. All his music . . . is entrusted exclusively to the orchestra. The characters sing mainly just completely colourless successions of tones which are tailored to the symphony being performed by the invisible orchestra."

Weinman's full essay: