Wednesday, September 22, 2010


There's an old saying in some circles, or let's say rings, that if you learn one thing at a conference, then it has all been worthwhile. To which I would add - especially if you picked a conference somewhere you really want to go, and that excludes Toukley I'm afraid (yes, I've been to a conference in Toukley), but Shanghai is IN.

Now the thing with Wagner's Ring (and how many people persist in asking why) is that it is a really good conference, correction, really really good, as in as complete on it's subject matter as it gets, with the greatest music ever written to back it up, or drive it along, or give lectures in its own right, on the same subject every time, just delivered differently, with different perspectives, by different people, with different experiences, different cultural backgrounds, but always the same subject, abstract or concept, the one the master took a quarter of a century to commit to paper - the mystery of EXISTENCE.

And the thing about learning about existence is that it becomes addictive. The more you know, the less you know, and so on and so on. And it takes time, a lot of time, a lifetime of time, if not more. Each time something more is added to the tapestry till the Ring Experience is a collective, a melange, a tapestry, thought maybe complete till you see the next one. So there they are, Ring Addicts, hooked, always searching for the right Ring Cycle, the one that gets it right, when it all comes together, when all is revealed, when it is perfect, for them that is.

Three names go with this Ring we just saw - Cologne, Carsen and Shanghai, plus the obvious understood fourth, Wagner. Robert Carsen staged this Ring, designed by Patrick Kinmoth, for Cologne Opera, 2003, and after several revivals and trips from home (Venice) and many casts, it is now in Shanghai.

Performance details:

(with gallery)

(with Stig Andersen first run, Alfons Eberz second)

(with video link, well worth watching to get the feel of the production)

I'm seriously behind on work, so will build up on my notes bit by bit. To start, Carsen's Rhinegold planet is black, trashed, rubbished, ignored, abused, post climate change, or nuclear winter landscape, it doesn't matter, it is a Cormac McCarthy existence where we find the Rhinedaughters and Alberich. Two special moments here:

The Alberich of Oliver Zwarg, a wonderfully moving performance sung not so much with vitriol and hate as with anguish and desperateness, and the final curse, kneeling at Wotan's feet, the Ring now held above him beyond his reach, came as a crying out in despair, his only escape gone. I was there, I was Alberich, I understood him for the first time. You do what you think you have to do.

And the march to Valhalla. The stage all black, the gods dressed in black, livery in black delivering black candelabra as the rear wall rose to never ending blackness, emphasised even more by the whiteness of the blizzard into which the fools disappeared.


Jarrett said...

What an adventure!

Fortunately, there is an abundance of existence-summarising Gesamtkunstwerke. The Chinese have a few of their own. Shakespeare does it for me, perhaps partly because he so obviously wasn't trying to.

But I admire all nonviolent convictions, and so can admire Ringism without ever quite grasping it.

wanderer said...

Ah yes, the big G, you're right, that's the search, 16 letters or 3, and music shortcuts it for me, big time.

I don't know if you've been (to Shanghai), but interestingly the very impressive metro shuts down at 2230, a system presumably for the worker, not the idolent late-nighter.