A RING CYCLE for the 21st Century
The Robert Lepage Production
Stage Direction: Robert Lepage
Music Direction: James Levine / Fabio Luisi
The MET’s RING CYCLE trailer
Hojotojo! Here’s an excerpt from Die Walküre: Bryn Terfel as Wotan
and Deborah Voigt as Brünnhilde
Jonas Kaufmann as Siegmund
and Eva-Maria Westbroek as Sieglinde
Thus, it is not surprising that about this newborn Ring, the in utero and post partum buzz has been largely about THE MACHINE. THE MACHINE! A 24-plank, 45-ton, computer-controlled aluminum contraption mounted on a central axis, supported by two towers on stage, about which the planks can rotate separately or in various permutations to assume any one of an almost endless number of configurations. The penultimate in technological wizardry! AND the only novelty in what has been heralded as the most complex production the Met has ever staged. Which may not necessarily be a bad thing. It may very well be that Lepage envisioned THE MACHINE to be a unifying element that would forge a perfect union of old-fashioned tradition and modern technology, from which a “Gesamtskunstwerk” of his own would arise that would still remain true to Wagner’s original intent and all its profound implications. Devoid of socio-political ideology and extraneous symbolisms. Unconstrained by directorially-imposed historical time frames.
Thus, Lepage’s characters are outwardly almost indistinguishable from the gods and creatures of myth in the Schenk/Schneider-Siemssen Ring that it ironically replaced, e.g., Wotan has not morphed into a business tycoon and his treaties are still carved in his spear; Brünnhilde still wears her breastplate armor; and Fricka makes her entrance in a ram-drawn cha(i)riot… But alas, in the three installments that have been unveiled thus far, the union appears to be less than perfect. Conflicted gods in breastplate-armor wielding spears and THE MACHINE’s geometrical topography do not a perfect picture make. The obvious disconnect between the anguished gods and their environment is not mitigated by the separate but synchronous visual narrative played out by stunt doubles hanging in mid-air from cable wires against a backdrop of eye-popping video projections, a show within a show. It is as if THE MACHINE has taken a life of its own, disengaged from the ethical conflicts that torment the gods, snatching the soul away from the drama that unfolds with each glorious wave of soaring music and often inspired singing.
But this is this Ring’s first incarnation. Surely Lepage did not program apoptosis into THE MACHINE, to self-destruct like the fallen gods of Valhalla and hopefully, in a later incarnation–inspired more by Richard Wagner than by Cirque du Soleil and THE MACHINE’s power tamed by its virtues–he will achieve the perfect union that eluded him in the first.
– © 2011 GJ Cajipe / FanFaire
THE CAST: DEBORAH VOIGT – Brünnhilde; BRYN TERFEL – Wotan; STEPHANIE BLYTHE – Fricka; JONAS KAUFMANN – Siegmund; EVA-MARIE WESTBROEK – Sieglinde; JAY HUNTER MORRIS – Siegfried