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'Ring' cycle parodies thrive on YouTube

April 24, 2010 |  1:15 pm

Bugs

Hey, Richard Wagner -- why so serious?

The 19th century German composer of "The Ring of the Nibelung" wasn't known for his sense of humor. His long, serious operas barely crack a smile while tackling such singularly un-funny subjects as death, unrequited love and self-immolation.

Comedy, of course, thrives on the the dramatic, the tragic and the self-important. So it should be no surprise that the "Ring" -- perhaps the ultimate in epic, tragic opera -- has inspired numerous parodies over the years, many of which have found their way to YouTube where they can be enjoyed over and over again.

From animation to musical theater, here are three of the best-known "Ring"-related parodies.

What’s Opera, Doc?

Chuck Jones’ seven-minute parody of Wagner – starring Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd – premiered in 1957 and is still considered one of the best animated shorts of all time. Fudd plays Siegfried, who is intent on killing “the wabbit.” Fearing for his life, Bugs Bunny dons drag as Brunnhilde, descends from a mountaintop on the back of a fat stallion and successfully seduces her enemy. The film features selections from “Die Walkure,” “Siegfried” and “Tannhauser” – all of them sacrilegiously re-arranged for maximum comic impact. (Here's a full version of the movie.)

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Anna Russell

“The ‘Ring’ is a magnificent work, supposing you can make any sense out of it,” quipped Anna Russell, the English-Canadian comedienne who cornered the market on live “Ring” parodies. 

Russell’s 30-minute musical lectures on the “Ring” provided a comic Cliff’s Notes version of the cycle that poked fun of the opera’s long-winded impenetrability. (“You know, I’m not making this up,” was her catchphrase.)  Russell, who died in 2006, garnered the affection of Wagner purists and neophytes alike with her deadpan observations. The “Ring,” she said, “is the only opera on Earth that comes in the giant economy package.”

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Das Barbecu

Set in a Texas backwater town, this musical-comedy parody of the "Ring" gives Wagner's epic cycle a head-to-toe makeover complete with big hair, white boots and a country-western score. Featuring a book and songs by Jim Luigs and Scott Warrender, the musical has played off-Broadway and at regional theaters across the country. As part of the Ring Festival L.A., the Musical Theatre Guild will mount a production on June 14 at the Alex Theatre in Glendale.

-- David Ng

Photo: Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny in "What's Opera, Doc?" Credit: Warner Bros.

RELATED

L.A. Times coverage of the Ring Festival

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