Goal #54: See 20 new operas.
If there’s one piece of accepted wisdom in the opera world, it’s that you don’t start out an opera virgin on the Ring Cycle. The Ring Cycle has been referred to as “opera’s Everest,” and not without good reason. It’s long–15 to 18 hours altogether, depending on pacing, with Götterdämmerung, the fourth and final opera, taking more than five hours. (That’s excluding intermissions, if you plan on seeing it live.) It contains all the opera cliches that have pushed people away from the art form: the fat lady in the horned helmet, Ride of the Valkyries, etc. The music is heavy, dark, intense. The productions can be notoriously inflexible; Wagner wrote down precise stage directions that many devotees insist be strictly followed even to this day. The plots are tangled, medieval and a little creepy. And then, of course, there’s the always-controversial Wagner himself.
I’m not a complete opera rookie, but my boyfriend is. He’s seen parts of a few operas with me, but Das Rheingold was the first one he watched in full. PBS aired the Met’s new and semi-controversial Ring Cycle in full in September, and for whatever reason, that was where he chose to start. It’s been fun to have a partner with me on this trip–Wagner can be a dense forest to breach, and nobody else I know cares about opera at all, so I’m used to going it alone. I can’t imagine C. is ever going to be the kind of person who watches opera on his own, but if he’ll watch Die Walküre with me, I can probably sell him on La Traviata or Turandot.
So, Die Walküre: The plot was a little harder to follow than Das Rheingold‘s; we spent the first hour debating whether Siegmund and Sieglinde knew they were related or not. The needless repetition was annoying, too–you stand there and watch Wotan and Brünnhilde sing variations on “I must leave you now!” “No! Don’t leave me now!” for a half an hour. Rossini once said something like “Wagner has lovely moments but awful quarters of an hour,” which is an A+ description. And the Met’s multi-million-dollar revolving set piece is capable of doing some incredible things, there are occasional scenes that look a little too much like a 1980s laser light show. But I’m excited to get to Siegfried and see what comes next!
- La Fanciulla del West, Metropolitan Opera, 2011
- Boris Godunov, Metropolitan Opera, 2011
- Don Giovanni, Metropolitan Opera, 2012
- Das Rheingold, Metropolitan Opera, 2012
- Die Walküre, Metropolitan Opera, 2012