Saturday, 9 October 2010
At the start of the Met Das Rheingold, someone proudly announces that "James Levine is the best Wagner conductor that ever was!". Which explains a lot about the Met and its audiences.
Here's a clip from some nobodies known as Karajan, Schreier and the Berlin Philharmonic. What do Europeans know about opera, someone said to me recently. Well listen to this! I've chosen this clip because it illustrates one of the trickier sequences to stage, when Wotan and Loge enter the underworld of the Nibelungs. It's not as flashy as say, the Rainbow bridge, but in terms of the meaning of the Ring, it's critical, This scene embodies the conflict between the Gods and Alberich, between the haves and have-nots. This scene at the Met is well done, the best part of the whole production. It's good at filling the interlude of the journey, But apart from that the expensive staging doesn't add to drama or meaning. It looks fantastic, so that'a plus.
The comment about Levine probably indicates a lot more than it seems. Basically, this is the same old Levine Ring from 30 years ago, with a high tech trendy backdrop. Why is it scary to think of Wagner's ideas? It's the drama that meant most to Wagner, and the complex, cosmic rationale behind them Sets are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. I'll be writing more about the Lepage production, which is quite weak apart from the fancy technology. But what's even more interesting is what the wider implications are. What makes an opera dramatic? And what makes Wagner opera in particular what it is? Do people really care about meaning? Here's my analysis of the Met's Rheingold.