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Reader Comment: 'Second Opinion: Ring Cycle'

We received the following long comment from reader Dennis Teti, in reaction to Robert R. Reilly's review of Washington National Opera's Ring cycle, which we publish separately here.

Robert R. Reilly’s review of the Washington National Opera’s Ring of the Nibelung is on the mark. I have seen the Ring cycle in three different versions over the years (including Herbert Von Karajan’s), plus the earlier WNO performances under the baton of the late Heinz Fricke. I was deeply impressed with the balance of powerful voices and magnificent orchestra under both Fricke and Phillippe Auguin.

As musically satisfying as this “American” version is, director Francesca Zambello’s botched misconception of Wagner’s intention is both ugly and insolent.

For example, I had thought the final “Immolation” scene of Twilight of the Gods, focused on the transcendent farewell of Brünnhilde, could not be spoiled. Yet Zambello managed to make a travesty of it, distracting attention from the suffering heroine with a cast meandering around, hurling plastic garbage bags from the back of the stage, and the Rhinemaidens joyfully executing a hooded Hagen down stage. Valhalla with the gods in flames was never seen, but a mysterious little girl with a small potted plant emerged from somewhere. In Wagner’s conception, nature is restored by the cleansing of the overflowing river as the maidens capture the fateful ring from Hagen.

Ring Reviews:

Cycle I: Das Rheingold | Die Walküre | Siegfried | Götterdämmerung

Cycle II: Robert R. Reilly, Second Opinion: WNO Re-Cycle of 'The Ring of the Nibelung' (Ionarts, May 16)
The Ring cycle is replete with Wagner’s thoughtful musical and representational symbolism. Yet the director superimposed her own alien ideas on the final visual and throughout. Maybe she thought History has moved beyond Wagner, so we should as well. I found it almost repulsive — even more so because Catherine Foster’s Brünnhilde was glorious, perhaps the best I have ever heard.

The director has a right to her ecological viewpoint, but by turning the Ring into propaganda, she despoiled Wagner’s myth. Zambello took a beautiful work of creative nature, Wagner’s incomparable telling of the ultimate things — nature, will, gods, good and evil — and made it ugly, a pollution of art as much as the belching smoke she depicted is a pollution of nature. This was not an “environmental allegory,” it was an act of artistic spite.

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