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Wagner's "Das Rheingold" at the LA Opera: Ann Powers tackles the cycle

June 9, 2010 |  4:02 pm

RheingoldOver at Culture Monster, the Times' pop critic Ann Powers has chimed in on the first installment of Richard Wagner's "Ring" cycle, and it's worth a read for both lovers and non-lovers of opera. She name-checks Lady Gaga, Bono, Joseph Beuys, the Beatles and Kurt Cobain, among others. Here's the first part of her review, if you need a little convincing before you commit to clicking to the whole piece.

Last night I put on a $20 dress I'd once worn to a party that featured an appearance by Whitney Houston, grabbed a friend, and headed to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to begin my immersion in  "Der Ring des Nibelungen." I'm a Wagner nut by disposition and regional roots -- my hometown Seattle Opera company was an early pioneer in contemporary Ring revivals. My pal, however, was a first-timer and mostly a fan of singer-songwriters like Loudon Wainwright III. I told him he could flee at intermission if the Sturm und Drang bored him, having conveniently forgotten that "Das Rheingold" -- the first of the four operas in the "Ring" cycle -- is 2 1/2 hours of lust and deceit, gods and dwarfs, leitmotifs and arias, with no break for a glass of champagne.

I needn't have worried. Achim Freyer's staging of "Das Rheingold" is as much a pop experience as it is a classical one. That's not to say it's easily digestible. Though its elements move slowly, as if in a dream, Freyer's staging still creates a kind of over-stimulation that leads the audience to focus on the elemental aspects of Wagner's score, its sometimes startling beauty and inexorable dramatic push, instead of the emotional melodrama the opera also contains. Its rewards come closer to that of ritual than of conventional drama. But this should make it even more appealing to today's pop music fans, who relish being bombarded with images and sound, and who like their stars to transform onstage, all the way to the edge of the grotesque.

Continue reading Ann Powers' review here.

-- Randall Roberts

Photo: Graham Clark (Mime) and Arnold Bezuyen (Loge). Credit: Monika Rittershaus / L.A. Opera