The Pop-Psych Rand

Die Walküre

I saw this second opera of The Ring last night, all four hours of it, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm definitely into this now; I hope nothing prevents me from seeing Siegfried Wednesday and Götterdämmerung on Saturday. I believe I like Walküre better than Rheingold musically. Although for the most part I've been finding Wagner more interesting than moving, the final scene of this one, where Wotan repudiates his beloved daughter Brunnhilde, really touched me. 

One of the stars of this production is a crazy device which apparently came to be called simply The Machine. It's hard to describe: a couple of dozen long beams (I guess 30 feet/10 meters long) which pivot around a long shaft, the whole thing running across the stage and largely filling it. Each beam moves separately. They're flat on one side and have a low peak on the other--i.e., the silhouette would be a long low triangle. And amazing things are done with them, using positioning, lighting, and sometimes devices to suspend people in front of them, when they're positioned vertically or at a very steep angle. It can serve as anything from trees to horses to houses to mountains to waterfalls. I think if you go to this link a video of clips will start playing, and you can see The Machine in action. I think it's very effective, all in all, but at times distracting. That was especially so in the opening scene of Das Rheingold, because I couldn't figure out what I was seeing. 

I continue to think there's something unhealthy at the heart of Wagner's music, or at least of the Ring. The knowingly incestuous relationship of Siegmund and Sieglinde might possibly have something to do with that. The only one who really objects much is poor Fricka, Wotan's wife, and she comes across as a scold and spoilsport. 


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Yes, there is definitely something unsettling about the Ring, and the relationship of Sieglinde and Siegmund especially. Die Walkure is the only part of the Ring that I have heard live -- plus about half of Gotterdammerung -- and at moments I was squirming in my seat.

It sounds like the production I saw was more traditional -- less sleek and high tech -- than the one you are seeing. At mine there was a lot of grime, and the World Ash Tree looked about a thousand years old.

The staging is sleek and high-tech, the costumes are not--most of the characters, even the gods, are pretty roughly dressed, like characters from The Lord of the Rings (movie). The Ash Tree is a pattern of lights on one of those beams, and the sword is clearly sitting in a slot on it. One really good thing about the S&S romance is that it's not all sexed up, as I hear is sometimes the fashion in opera productions these days.

I think overall I prefer stylized to any attempt at realism, which is inevitably going to be a failure and quite possible a risible one, which is distracting.

I noticed on the Met web site that these are being shown in Canada, too. Have you checked around to see if they're available? I think it was roughly but not exactly the same schedule.

It probably is showing here too, but I don't want to look. Circumstances are such that I couldn't go anyway, and there's no point in tempting myself! I'm enjoying them vicariously through you.

I'm afraid I'm not doing a very good job of describing them. The idea of trying to do something on the order of an overall review is a bit overwhelming. But...I liked Siegfried, mostly. I think I would recommend this series, though, if/when they become available on dvd. Or perhaps there will be another repeat of these theater showings.

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