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When it comes to 'The Ring,' radical is the new traditional

April 24, 2010 |  8:30 am

Brunnhilde To each his own "Ring" cycle.

Wagner's "The Ring of the Nibelung," which will get its first complete production at Los Angeles Opera beginning May 29, has inspired numerous interpretations over the years, much to the delight of adventurous fans and the dismay of hardcore traditionalists.

L.A. Opera's production, directed by Achim Freyer, is an experimental staging that features puppet-like action, light sabers and video projections galore. The Brechtian mise-en-scene de-emphasizes the operas' narrative in favor of a series of elaborate but mostly static set-ups.

Critics have generally praised the L.A. production but some fans have been less impressed, calling the staging ugly, horrific and "a scandal" on online message boards.

Such strong reactions are par for the course when it comes to radical interpretations of Wagner's magnum opus. Wagner fans are among the most opinionated (and vocal) in all of opera, and they love to be scandalized.

When it comes to offbeat stagings, the L.A. "Ring" is certainly not an anomaly. Next year, San Francisco Opera will produce a new "Ring" from director Francesca Zambello that situates the cycle in a vaguely early 20th century America. (The staging is a co-production with the Washington National Opera.) In Valencia, Spain, a "Ring" at the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia employed big-screen digital effects to create a sci-fi interpretation of the saga.

Read the full story about radical "Ring" interpretations throughout the years.

-- David Ng

Photo: Soprano Linda Watson plays Brunnhilde in the L.A. "Ring" production. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times


L.A. Times coverage of the "Ring" Festival