The many incredible reasons you need to see ‘The Ring Cycle’ by Opera Australia
A mounting sense of excitement and nerves gripped as I assumed my seat in the Arts Centre Melbourne. This was to be my first time at the Opera and I’d been granted the good fortune to start my journey with Wagner’s 16-hour epic. So I braced myself for what was surely going to be a test of endurance and a master class in wonderment.
If like me you’re a little green to the opera, The Ring Cycle is a four-part epic comprised of the prelude Das Rheingold (The Rheingold), and three full length operas – Die Walküre (The Valkyrie), Siegfried and Göttedämmerung (Twilight of the Gods).
So what’s it all about?
It covers the rise and fall of gods and humans, dragons and dwarves, giants and Valkyries. It draws upon Scandinavian and German myths and folktales. It tells the story of a magic ring that grants powers to rule the world (Tolkien must have been a fan). Like all well thought out and ageless pieces its themes are relevant even today, It tackles greed, the lust for power, innocence lost, love renounced, nature defiled, revenge, mendacity and theft, and is often portrayed as a critique of capitalism. This version is a contemporary retelling which features gods, dwarves, and river-maidens as show girls, men in suits, and lords in active wear, which makes its assessments of capitalism all the more poignant.
Why should you see it?
It is simply magnificent. To see the full Wagner’s Ring Cycle is a rare occasion, to see it done with the ambition, scope, vision and skill that is achieved in this production is a truly once in a lifetime experience.
The innovation and vision that director Neil Armfeld has accomplished is truly remarkable. It’s hard at the best of times to maintain coherence in a 16-hour production but not a moment goes by that isn’t absorbing and relevant to the overall narrative. The performances are flawless and I found myself continually blown away by the sheer skill and capabilities of the incredibly talented and captivating cast. From the time I heard the first notes of ‘the Ride of the Valkyries’ I had tingles all over. The score is masterfully conducted with maestro Peitari inkinen at the helm and the orchestra truly brings Wagner’s music to life in a way that is both visceral and divine.
I didn’t anticipate that I would find myself converted to an opera enthusiast so quickly but to say that I was completely and utterly enraptured by this incredible production doesn’t even begin to do justice to what this ambitious and visionary work accomplishes.
The Ring Cycle truly is the pinnacle, not just of the opera, but of all performance theatre, and this production simply is an experience that has to be seen in order to truly do justice to how astounding it is.
The set design is sparse so that when the occasional moments of spectacle do occur they are all the more powerful and impactful. Aside from Wagner’s outstanding score, the production it all set to Wagner’s magnificent score. The most famous musical piece is ‘the Ride of the Valkyries’ which was deployed by Francis Ford Coppola in the classic Apocalypse Now and is now a staple of popular culture.
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