Road report: LA Ring, Das Rheingold

By Jonathan Caves

Overall I really enjoyed the production and I am glad to say that the masks did not, at least to my ear, interfere with the singing. I also must state up front that this is indeed a very literal production – I did not see anything that wasn’t in the libretto – Wotan didn’t kill Loge, no one sat at a bar drinking martinis – it was werktreue all be it in a very fantastical form.

I won’t describe too much of what I saw (I know some people reading this are attending later performances) but more my impressions.

The stage really is very heavily raked – but it did not seem to impact the singers too much – though, especially in the case of the Gods, they did spend a lot of time standing, or sitting, on small unraked platforms on either side of the central rotating circle. I only noticed one fall and that was by Loge and he quickly recovered – in fact it was so well done I almost thought it might be on purpose.

I found the use of actors/avatars was hit and miss. In the case of the three Loge’s they really helped to emphazise that he is a spirit – but for Frika I thought that her avatar was some what unnecessary. Also when Flicka wiggled her hands, which are at the end of very long arms, they made an audible clanking noise that was distracting.

Wotan seemed to have several different forms and he was constantly changing between them (including one which I would not have expected to see until Siegfried).

Alberich (superbly played by Seattle Opera favorite Richard Paul Fink) was without an avatar but he had a mask. I found the character to be much less malevolant than in the Wadsworth Ring – I put this down to a mixture of the custom and the acting – both of which had a mildly comic twist. Though the curse scene was darkly played and sung – though with some extremely strange looking characters circling the stage. The transformation to the snake was the best and cleverest I have seen – there was no toad – but the replacement was equally effective and got a good laugh. RPF did not seem to have any problem with the stage and in fact he was jumping around and clicking his heals at the curtain call. I managed to talk to him afterwards and he said he really is enjoying himself. [Note: the image below is from the standalone production of Das Rhiengold and shows Gordon Hawkins as Alberich]

The giants were normal sized though wearing what reminded me of David Bryne’s big suit. They each carried a large lens which when they held it up to their faces hugely magnified their heads – so much so that you only really saw one huge eye – very effective. For some reason the fight (such as it was) was performed by the avatars with the singers singing from the side of the stage – a strange choice.

To my pretty untrained ear the singers all sounded on form – even those wearing masks. I particularly liked Morris Robinson as Fasolt and Arnold Bezuyen as Loge.

There were not as many projections as I expected and they were subtle and appropriate. I don’t know what the slowly moving white lines represented.

I thought the orchesta played superbly – and the pacing seemed good. I am glad to report that they didn’t at any point drown out the singers.

My biggest complaint would be that, as I expected, I found it to be a very impersonal production and this is definitely down to a mixture of the costumes and the staging.The actors just can’t get close to each other. Flicka may have very long arms but she never embraces Wotan (in fact a lot of the time it is her avatar that runs across the stage towards Wotan). We’ll see if things improve this evening with Die Walküre.

The performance ended with a very vocal and long standing ovation – I didn’t hear a single boo. Achim Freyer did not appear.

Some more random thoughts:

My first thought on entering the theatre was how much smaller it seemed from my memories of when I was there for Parsifal in 2005. My seat was about 8 rows from the stage almost in the middle – it was a great location – thanks Mitch!

There was no curtain as such just a lighting effect on the front scrim – so you could sort of watch the crew and singers getting ready. James Conlon entered the pit to thunderous applause – so much for that Ring tradition.

There was a very audible hum coming from backstage – you could clearly hear it during some of the quieter moments.

The performance used a few what I would call “slight of hand” tricks – they were simple and worked well.

In the orchestra section there were only a few empty seats (I couldn’t see the other areas) and most people were attentive and quiet. The young girl beside me seemed bored – she was shuffling in her seat and sighing: though see told her father afterwards that see enjoyed it. Some guy behind me kept sniffing and another person was continually flicking through their program. I only saw two people leave – but as they were sitting near the middle of a row it caused quite a bit of disruption.

I, like must people I have talked to, have no idea what the biplane is for – I think it is connected to Froh (as it was over his head) but beyond that I can’t explain it any further.

Finally one of the Loge avatars had two heads and at least three arms – I am sorry but that immediately made me think of Zaphod Beeblebrox:

This road report is reprinted courtesy of Jonathan Caves. You can follow Jonathan’s adventures in opera and technology over at: .


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