Many people enjoy Wagner’s Ring. Some are even devoted to it enough trapse across the globe to see full productions of it.
I am neither of those types of people.
I’ve always respected it when critics were willing to acknowledge their inherent biases against a particular composer or performer. The late great Alan Rich made a point of admitting to his dislike of Brahms and Sibelius whenever reviewing concerts containing either of those composers. Therefore, let me say very clearly: I don’t like Wagner, and I don’t like The Ring.
Mind you, I don’t hate it, I just don’t want to devote that much time in my life listening to it just to learn it thoroughly enough so that I’d be able to appreciate sitting through the endless hours of a full Ring Cycle; it makes Bollywood movies seem downright improv-comedy-sketch length by comparison. I, of course, can appreciate the amount of influence that The Ring has had on musical and theatrical history, and I certainly respect the power and impact that a good production can have on one’s mind, body, and soul (so I’ve been told). The biggest hurdle for me is that despite my intellectual respect for Wagner’s music, there are so many other composers — Mahler, Stravinsky, Berg, Schubert, Shostakovich, Lutosławski, just to name a few — whose music I’d really rather to get to know better before Wagner even approaches the veritable top of the queue.
For now and into the foreseeable future, I prefer my Ring — my Wagner, in general — in small snippets: the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s concert from last November with Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting and Bryn Terfel as soloist was a good example: I went home humming the Prelude to Act 3 of Lohengrin and all was well (BTW: shouldn’t that concert have come out on iTunes by now as originally promised??!!!).
So with all that in mind, you’ll forgive me if I didn’t make a drive up to War Memorial Opera House to check out the latest version of Wagner’s epic done by our friends at San Francisco Opera. For those of you who may care, here are some links to the reviews of those more willing to endure Wagner:
- Mark Swed in the Los Angeles Times HERE
- Anthony Tommasini in The New York Times HERE
- Joshua Kosman in the San Francisco Chronicle HERE
- Philip Kennicott in the Washington Post HERE (UPDATE: Anne Midgette’s unofficial review on her blog)
- Brian reviews Siegfried in Out West Arts HERE, with other operas in the cycle earlier in his blog
- Lisa Hirsch for San Francisco Classical Voice HERE
- Opera Chic posted portraits taken of the performers