RING at the MET
IMAGE:Ring at the METROPOLITAN OPERA HOUSE
In the spring of 1997, the Metropolitan Opera in New York staged three performances of the Ring Cycle. First introduced over three seasons from 1986 to 1988, this production was presented as a complete cycle in the spring of 1989, and for the first time since the 1938-39 season within the span of one week.

The production by Otto Schenk with sets by Gunther Schneider- Siemssen was last staged at the MET in spring 1990. By returning to the traditionalist way of staging The Ring, it marked a departure from the contemporary, at times too adventurous, stage interpretations of the work. Unsparing in its deployment of special effects, it was a spectacular production belittled by some critics as too literal, and because devoid of any attempts at illusion, intellectually unchallenging and aesthetically weak.

But the opera-going public loved it then, and the public loved it now. They came from all over the world, as if seeking to experience The Ring in its pristine purity - just the music and the drama and the myth's universal themes of timeless value; and please, skip the ideology and the sociology! Indeed, variations of the comment "But they do silly things with it in other opera houses!" were heard above the din of intermission ravings and rantings. And there were expressions of sorry disbelief when word spread that this production would be torn down to make way for a new one, and big sighs of relief when the official word declared just the contrary - production to be revived in the 1999-2000 season!

Perhaps today's public does have a point - the Ring does not need the crutch of tired socialist, anti-capitalist imagery to make a valid artistic statement. Wagner the composer-poet-cum-political revolutionary after all chose not to encapsulate his characters in the fervid socio-political images of his time, harking back instead to the imagery of ancient mythology as applicable to our time and place as to his own. Those who came in search of a production that was true to Wagner's intentions went home feeling amply rewarded.

- © GC/FanFaire


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