Sunday, August 18, 2013

Oh Lord It's the Ring Part IV: Gotterdammerung

Oh Lord It's the Ring Part IV: Gotterdammerung

August 17th, 2013

This Girl is En Fuego!  

It was a determined me who showed up Saturday night, after 2.5 days of drugs and pounding Gatorade.  But I WAS determined.  Even after learning that in missing Siegfried I had practically missed The Whole Darn Reason For Being There, I still felt like, dang it, I paid money for these tickets. I'm going to this thing!

As I took my seat a guy passed by wearing a shirt that said "Gotterdamnitslong", and there is a general feeling in the audience, not of fatigue exactly, but a general OK, finish line is in sight.  Whereas during the first two nights many an audience member wore fabulous outfits, either of the designer or the costume variety, by this time many of us are in jeans or other comfortable clothes.  There are a few who continue to wear their horned helmets, dirndls, or other "Escape from Ren Faire" outfits, but they are quickly dwindling.

The music opens and it's beautiful and ethereal and I am struck yet again by the fact that Wagner seems to be the main inspiration for so many film soundtracks.  Since movies are what I do, that's how I hear things I guess, but I won't be able to listen to John Williams the same after this experience.

We open on the three Norns, who we've heard about previously but are seeing for the first time.  They are daughters of Erda, Mother Nature, and I guess that makes them Brunhilde's half sisters, but that is not relevant here, apparently, just proof that I've been paying attention.  The Norns are "reading the rope of destiny" which is really just a fancy way of doing a "Previously on The Ring Cycle..."

The most interesting information we get that's new is about Wotan.  We learn how he got that fantastic staff that Siegfried so rudely broke Thursday night.  He cut a branch off The World Ash Tree, sacrificing an eye in the process. After he cut off the branch, the huge tree slowly died.  Between the magic tree killing, the sister-in-law selling, the incest condoning, the daughter imprisoning-in-fire and generally turning everything he touches to crap, I think Wotan wins the Mr. Burns award for worst dude in charge ever.

 Then we move to Siegfried and Brunhilde who are doing some morning after "I'm Diggin on You, You Diggin on Me, We Diggin on We" business, but fancy.  Brunhilde is singing a lot about how once she was terrified to lose her Valkyrie powers but now that she knows real love she knows that there's nothing better she could possibly do with her time but sit on this mountain behind a wall of fire waiting for Siegfried to pop in from time to time.  It irritates me.  But no matter. Brunhilde uses the last of her Valkyrie powers to make Siegfried basically totally invincible. Totally. Kind of.

Siegfried gives Brunhilde the ring as a sign of his love and devotion. Brunhilde give Siegfried her horse Grane, who used to be a super Valkyrie horse but is now just a pretty awesome regular horse.  They actually bring a real horse out on stage.  The horse is perfectly well behaved and does not do anything inappropriate, just walks on and walks off, which I find a bit disappointing.  Siegfried takes Grane and they go off to ride a boat down the Rhine, missing out on a perfect opportunity to use this piece of music, but I suppose "purists" would be "offended".

Meanwhile, down the river, we find ourselves in the palace of King Gunther. Gunther is hanging out with his sister Gurtrune and his half-brother, whose name is Hagen, but let's call him "Omnipotent Machiavellian Narrator", since it quickly becomes apparent that OMN's job is to spill out a ton of info that it makes no sense he knows and encourage people to act on it.  We know right away that OMN is evil because he's dressed like the Dread Pirate Roberts.  OMN suggests that the best way for King Gunther to become totally awesome is to marry his sister to a Real Awesome Hero, like this guy Siegfried for example.  And Gunther should marry this amazing woman OMN knows about who lives on top of a mountain behind a wall of fire.

And Gunther's like SNORT, but fancy, as if HE could climb a mountain and get through a wall of fire. And OMN says what you do is, you get SIEGFRIED to go get this chick, and promise him the hand of your sister as a reward.  And I just so happen to have, right here, a little potion that will help convince Siegfried to help us. And, you wouldn't believe this but Siegfried is on a boat and he's heading right this way.  And Gunther and Gurtrune think that sounds like an excellent plan and not remotely implausible or strangely intricately thought out.

When Siegfried shows up they give him a drink of this magic potion which makes him forget Brunhilde completely.  Then quick as Bob's your uncle they have him signed on to the rest of the plan and drooling over Gurtrune.  I have to admit that except for falling in love with Brunhilde, Siegfried has not struck me as remarkably intelligent so far, and this whole bit doesn't help.  The plan is that Siggy and Gunther will head over to the mountain.  Siggy will use that magic helmet from way back in the beginning which will make him appear to be Gunther, get through the fire and grab Brunhilde.

Meanwhile up on fire mountain, Brunhilde is visited by one of her sisters who is still a Valkyrie.  She tells Brunhilde that Valhalla has gone to Suck City lately.  After Siggy broke Wotan's staff, Wotan went to The World Ash and cut it down completely.  He has filled the halls of Valhalla with the wood from the tree and would have burned the place down already except he tied Loge to this mountain to keep it on fire, and he can't call him back without the staff.  Wotan believes that if the ring were returned to the mermaids, the curse of Al the Evil Dwarf would be broken and Valhalla and the gods would be saved.  Brunhilde says maybe he should have thought of that before he cast me out, but at this point I don't care.  The ring is mine. It's a symbol of my love to Siggy. I will never give it up ever. Her sister leaves.

Then Siggy/Gunther shows up to claim Brunhilde. He steals the ring from her and kidnaps her for Gunther, as Gunther.  There's a whole bit about how his sword will lie between them to ensure her virtue, and Siggy is very chuffed with himself that he managed to "win her" while preserving her honor.  Lovely.

Meanwhile back at Gunther Palace, we learn that the reason OMN seems to know so much is that he is actually the son of Al the Evil Dwarf.  He's on a mission for Daddy to reclaim the ring and the treasure.

I'll be honest, at this point Gotterdammerung starts to feel like the long boring middle part of certain Shakespearean plays, the only question being will the whole mistaken identity bit end in comedy or tragedy.  It's opera so I think that's no surprise.  There's a double wedding. Brunhilde is devastated to learn Siggy has betrayed her.  She insists that they are wed, and swears that he has taken her virtue, which is interesting. He has no memory of her, so he just thinks she's crazy and slutty.  In her rage, she tells OMN that Siggy's Achilles Heel is actually his back.  Her magic protects his front, but not his back, because he's such a fierce warrior he would never turn his back in battle.  It seems like a pretty freaking big omission to me. It's not like, for example, a HEEL. It's an entire back.

After that, Siggy is off in the woods hunting when he comes across some Rheinmaidens frolicking in the river. They flirt a bit, then ask that he give the ring back because it was stolen from the river. He says he won it slaying a dragon and never stole it from a river. They warn him about the curse and he says HE ain't afraid o' no curse.  They get frustrated with him and say let's go talk to Brunhilde. She's no idiot.

Then OMN & the rest of the hunting party catch up with him and ask him to share some of his adventure stories, so we get some more Previously on The Ring... Someone asks him about his ability to understand the birds, and he says he hasn't actually heard them in a long time, and you can tell he's sort of getting confused, as if he's realizing some of his memories are gone.  Then OMN gives Siggy another drink of the magic potion, and he suddenly remembers Brunhilde was his wife.  Then OMN stabs him in the back for being a liar and marrying Gurtrune when he was married to Brunhilde, but really that's an excuse for his evil plot (muh ha ha ha!).

OMN tries to claim the ring, but Gunther fights with him. OMN kills Gunther, but when he reaches for the ring dead Siggy's hand raises up in a warning. Meanwhile Brunhilde has been chatting with the mermaids and knows everything now.  She puts the ring on and then demands that Siggy be placed on a funeral pyre.  She also makes them put Grane the wonder horse on the fire, and that sucks because what did he ever do? She sings that she knows how to free the gods from the horrible curse, that she will throw herself on the fire and bequeath the ring to the Rhine. She also releases Lodge from fire mountain and instructs him to go to Valhalla and light the place up.  Then she walks into the (Offstage! Poop!) fire.  OMN tries one last time to grab the ring as it passes from the fire to the Rhine, but he drowns in the Rhine.

And God in Heaven Above that is the END.

Music: 6  I feel blasphemous, but 9 hours of opera with only a few WOW moments for me.  There's something about the style, maybe it's Wagner, maybe it's opera, but so much of the singing seemed like "song-aloguing" to me: long monologues in song.  I know, for example, when I went to see Carmen, that there were at least a few songs that were beautiful and memorable and I left with them in my head. But honestly the best music I thought was the orchestral pieces, and there was more than one occasion where the orchestra was playing and then someone started singing that I thought, damn, I was enjoying that.  So, consider me a peasant I guess.

Nazi Ick Factor: 0 I didn't get any ew, stop, ack from Gotterdammerung.  We're definitely not talking Birth of a Nation here.  After thinking about it rather intently, I do see that Wagner was dealing with different kinds beings, races if you will, and the idea that the humans, ultimately, would prevail over the gods and the dwarfs, and so there's a suggestion that it's about one race being triumphant. But even that I only got from pondering about it.  It didn't jump out at me.

Surprise Plagiarism: Nothing jumped out at me in this one.  I was a little surprised with the whole "memory erasing potion" plot.  It seemed very Shakespearean, so I point the finger at Wagner for the surprise plagiarism.  Of the three I saw, I think it's more than a stretch to say Tolkien stole Lord of the Rings from this.  I suppose you could argue that Tolkien was offering another view, where many races worked together to achieve an impossible task, instead of one race dominating the others.

Overall Experience: Beyond numerical value.  I'm very glad I did it.  Now I know what The Ring is!  I'm bummed I was sick and missed one.  Perhaps one of these days I'll see if the Library has Siegfried on DVD.

Oh Lord It's The Ring Cycle Part III - Revenge of the Kidney Stones

Oh Lord It's The Ring Cycle Part III - Revenge of the Kidney Stones

Although I'm sure these things are in no way related, the morning after Die Walkure I awoke to kidney stones.  They hurt. They required me to take many drugs.

Up until the last minute, I was convinced I would still go see Siegfried on Thursday. I asked my friend to give me a ride. I figured so what if I'm loopy. I can sit for 3 hours.  But as the time came for me to start getting ready, reality set in.  The same drugs that were keeping the pain at bay were making it hard for me to do things like get out of bed, put some clothes on and walk downstairs.  I toyed with not taking the drugs, because hey! I wasn't hurting anymore! I must be cool! But a few minutes of the drugs wearing off let me know pretty quick I was not cool.

So, I missed Siegfried.  And the general consensus is that Siegfried is the best damn one.  It's the Empire Strikes Back. It's the reason for the season.  When I returned for the final show on Saturday, I mentioned to another attendee, a stranger but we were practicing friendly chatting in the drink line, that I missed Siegfried and he looked at me with a combination of pity and disgust.  "You missed it?!" he said incredulously. "Well, you'll have to come back next week." I didn't snort in his face, so yay for me.

Just to give you a feel for what WE ALL missed because of kidney stones, let me explain that The Ring Cycle is about 12 hours, and I managed to miss the 3 hours in which Our Hero grows up, becomes a man, forges a magic sword, kills his oppressor, kills the evil dragon and wins his horde, smashes a god's magic stick, rescues a maiden from behind a burning wall of flame and falls in love.  I realize Wagner was a genius, but having now seen 3 of the 4 cycles, I'd like to suggest Wagner may have had issues with pacing.

I read the synopsis of Siegfried in order to follow Gotterdamerung, although I needn't have bothered since most of Gotterdamerung is people singing "Previously in the Ring Cycle, the following happened..." but in order for us to make it to the finish line, I offer you a synopsis of the synopsis.

Siegfried's mother dies giving birth to him in the crazy East Forest so he is raised by Mime. Mime is Al the Evil Dwarf's brother, and he hates Al.  Al was a real dick to everyone after he got that ring, and he hasn't been much nicer since he lost it.  Mime raises Siegfried to be able to fight the dragon and win the treasure.

Meanwhile Mime is trying to fix the broken sword pieces from Siegmund's magic sword that he rescued from that tree, with little success.  Wotan shows up and tells Mime that only the man who knows no fear can fix the sword, and that man will also kill Mime.  Mime figures out that fearless man is Siegfried, so he prepares some poison for Siggy to kill him after he kills the dragon.

Siggy fixes the sword & kills the dragon. During the battle he gets dragon blood on his hands which burns, so he puts his hand in his mouth to cool the burning. Suddenly, because of the dragon blood, he can understand bird song, and for some reason this makes me think about how they think now that birds are related to dinosaurs, which I'm betting Wagner didn't know. Profound? Unlikely. Let us continue.

So the birds tell Siggy about Mime's evil plot, so Siggy kills Mime.  Then he feels very sad and alone.  The birds tell him about this amazing woman who is trapped behind a wall of fire so Siggy decides to go free her.  Wotan shows up in disguise and tries to distract Siggy.  Siggy fights him and breaks Wotan's magic staff, which is the source of much of his power.  Oops.  Siggy passes through the fire, finds this beautiful sleeping woman, wakes her with a kiss, and he and Brunhilde "rejoice in their love" according to the synopsis, but for some reason I now have the song Get It On (Bang the Gong) stuck in my head.

Music: 10 My only knowledge of the music of Siegfried remains this.  And you know, What's Opera Doc is pretty damn good.

Nazi Ick Factor: 10 I have no idea from reading the synopsis if the story was icky or not, but kidney stones are the devil.  I'm sure Nazi's didn't invent kidney stones, but they would have if they could have.

Surprise Plagiarism: Just reading the synopsis it's entirely possible that the Connor storyline from Angel was lifted from here, and now I have Wagner to blame in addition to Joss Whedon.

Overall Experience: -11

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Oh Lord It's the Ring Cycle Part II - Die Walkure

Oh Lord It's the Ring Cycle Part II - Die Walkure  

8/13/13 - Valkyries, Incest & Walls of Fire Oh My!

Well we're starting to get into the big stuff now.  Last night's opera was 3 1/2 hours long and a lot of stuff happened.  I'm going to do my best to keep this shorter than the time it took to watch it.

ACT 1 - Opening music includes snippets of everyone's favorite Flight of the Valkyries, and it's hard not to get charged. I realize how much Wagner's music has not only been used in movies, but blatantly "inspired" pretty much every film soundtrack that uses orchestration since the 1940s.

The scene is a man running through the woods at night looking desperate.  He comes upon a cottage, lets himself in and collapses on the floor. He sings that he hopes the owners will honor the rules of being polite to a guest.  And I'm thinking there are limits.

A lovely young woman comes out and the guy and the girl are immediately sparking off each other.  She says this is her husband Hodor's house.  It's not really Hodor. I can't remember.  A Lot of Stuff Happened Last Night!  The guy is all oh I don't want to get you in trouble, I'll leave, and she's all like my life is already misery and despair, there's nothing you could do that would make it worse. (Don't say sh*t like that honey. You're in an opera.)

The woman's husband not-Hodor is out in the woods hunting this guy who killed somebody, who is the guy who just showed up at their home. The lost guy is bummed because he lost his sword and armor, and his father, the great Wolf, promised him a sword in his hour of need.  Then not-Hodor shows up and even though he and Wolf jr figure out pretty quick that they're the droids each other is looking for, Hodor says he'll honor the laws of hospitality for one night, but in the morning Wolf jr is going to die.  Then Hodor goes off to bed.

Then unhappy lady comes out and says she's drugged her husband and by the way, there's a sword stuck in this tree over here which some guy came and put there and no one's been able to pull it out.  Wolf jr pulls it out and yay! He has a sword.  Then Wolf jr and sad lady get serious about how much they're digging on each other. They dig each other because they remind each other of each other, your voice is my voice, your eyes are my eyes, and they realize that they are twins separated at birth! Oh, very Luke and Leia,except, what's that?  Ew! Ew! EWWWWWW!  I was troubled by the term "Sister Wife" when I heard it on the Lifetime show about polygamists. IT'S MORE TROUBLING HERE!

In the midst of this the sad lady is all your name is not Wolf jr! It is Siegmund, and her name is Sieglinde.
Then there's some twittering about springtime and rolling around on the grass and then it's intermission, to give you time to digest all that.

Deep breath. We're a third of the way through.

ACT 2 - So, we open, for no reason that I can figure out, back at the cottage, but Sieg Guy & Gal are gone as is Hodor.  The Head God guy from last night, who's name is Wotan, is talking with his best battle chick Brunhilde, basically saying, ok, I gave Sieg-dude the sword. You make sure he wins his battle with Hodor. And Brunhilde's all Wheee! I LOVE FIGHTING! I LOVE HEROES! I LOVE HELPING YOUR HEROES WIN! And Woton's all, you're the best daughter a god could have! And Brunhilde's all, oh damn, your wife is coming and she looks mad, I'm Audi. Later pops!

And Woton's wife shows up and she's all, Honey, you know how I'm the goddess of marriage? And Woton's like, uh, yeah, sure.  And his wife says this guy Hodor has begged for help against this horrible guy Siegmund who stole his wife, and I need you to do something about that.  And Wotan is very like, ha ha ha, don't trouble yourself over such silliness.  So they're two crazy kids who got spring fever and ran off together. I'm not going to intervene.

And his wife is all, I get that you have cheated on me with every hole from here to China, but if you respect me AT ALL, you will do something to protect the laws of marriage, which are YOUR laws, btw.  And Wotan is all, c'mon. It was an unhappy marriage.  I'm not going to enforce the vows of an unhappy marriage.

And then Wotan's wife pulls out the big guns and says, um, ok, marriage vows don't mean anything to you WHAT ABOUT INCEST YOU BIG DORK?! Even at this, Wotan seems pretty non-plussed and says something about so the Sieggies have got together and mixed their blood. Neato!  Then his wife makes the case that if he won't do anything, it will be the end of the gods, because it will show that the god's don't care about their own laws, and dogs & cats living together! It's also very disrespectful to her, because Siegmund (oh, sorry, forgot to mention) is Wotan's bastard, and she's the goddess of marriage and, I don't know. It got very unnecessarily complicated here.

Wotan tries to explain that in fact Siegmund is being prepared for a quest that Wotan needs for him to do, and that can only be carried out by a brave man with no ties or help from the Gods. And Wotan's wife is all, so giving him a magic sword is "no help from the Gods"? You're an idiot.  All you've ever done is help Siegmund. And Wotan is starting to realize he's screwed.  He agrees to his wife that he will not allow Siegmund to win the battle with Hodar, but he's pretty torn up about it.

Meanwhile Brunhilde comes back and actually eavesdrops on the last bit of Wotan & Wife's conversation.  Then after wife leaves she comes out and tries to get Wotan to talk to her about what is wrong.  Wotan begins a long bit of monologue-ing (in song), which is kind of an "in our last episode" summation of what happened last night.  He now lives in constant fear that if Al the Angry Dwarf ever gets that ring back, he will destroy Wotan.  One of the giants with the gold killed the other giant and now lives as a dragon, guarding the gold & the ring, and Al the Angry Dwarf spends his days plotting how to get it back.  Wotan can't go get the ring himself, because he made a treaty with the giants, and if he is seen as being behind an attack, it will be DOOM.  That's why he's trying to find a hero that will somehow do his will, without Wotan actually making him do his will. It's a head scratcher.

Then he orders Brunhilde not to help the Sieggies, and to make sure Siegmund loses the battle. She argues but he says that's my order, so she goes off to carry it out.

Cut to a scene with Sieglinde running frantically through the woods with Siegmund after her. She's hysterical. Siegmund begs her to say what's wrong. And she basically kind of goes Ophelia, and she's quite upset signing about how she's a horrible dirty girl, because she has enjoyed (she REALLY enjoyed. Just totally enjoyed. Seriously, allow her to enumerate in song the ways she enjoyed.) the pleasures of Siegmund, but SHE WAS MARRIED.  And I'm thinking, really? You think THAT is the biggest problem in this relationship?  Siegmund swears he'll kill Hodor and redeem her honor, but she's pretty hysterical and ends up collapsing.

Then Brunhilde shows up and tells Siegmund that his time is numbered. Soon he will die. And she will take him to the great hall of Vahalla, where he will fight with (dead?) heroes and have a great time. And Siegmund asks "Are there chicks there?" And Brunhilde says oh, yeah, tons of hot chicks.  But what about Sieglinde, will SHE be there? Um, no, she has to stay here. Her time here is not done.  So then Siegmund says no, forget it, I'd rather die with her than be dead without her, I'm going to kill us both right now.  (So sweet.  That's the sort of occasion that needs a Hallmark card, don't you think?)

And Brunhilde is just so moved by his love, she says forget it, you're going to win. You're not going to die. And Hodor shows up and they start to fight, and Brunhilde is about to help Siggie with the killing blow when Wotan shows up and kills Siegmund and smashes his sword.  He's PISSED. Brunhilde grabs Sieglinde and runs. Wotan kills Hodor just because.

And I swear to GOD, now we're at the 2nd Intermission and we're 3/4 of the way done.  If you are STILL reading, God bless you.

Act 3 opens with the full on Flight of the Valkyries, with is the BEST MUSICAL MOMENT of the last two nights. Seriously. What an amazing piece of music.

We open with a bunch of Valkyries hanging out on a rock cheering each other on.  They are watching for their sisters to return from battle on flying horses, and when they return, they open up their bags and show off their prizes of war, including heads, hands, dead bodies, etc.  It's awesome. My favorite part of the show so far.

Then Brunhilde comes tearing in with Sieglinde and the other Valkyries are all where's the fire? Why are you so upset? And Brunhilde is all DAD IS COMING AND HE'S PISSED AT ME AND HE'S GOING TO KILL ME PLEASE HELP!!!!  And her sisters are all, you DEFIED DAD? Are you INSANE? Brunhilde says well, if you won't help me, please help me hide Sieglinde. And Sieglinde says just let me die. And Brunhilde says no, you're knocked up with Siegmund's baby! And he's going to be the hero this world needs. And his name will be Siegfried, and here is the pieces of Siegmund's broken sword. Go that way to the East Forest where the dragon lives and Wotan is afraid to go. You're life is going to suck, but your son is going to be awesome.  And Sieglinde skips off.

Then Wotan shows up and he's angry and he says Brunhilde will be stripped of her Valkyrie status, put to sleep out here on the rock, and the first guy who finds her can have her.  And they have a long heated conversation about the meaning of love and betrayal, and Brunhilde was doing what Wotan wanted in his heart, isn't that what a good daughter should do?  So Wotan agrees that he won't just leave her on the rock, he'll surround her with a wall of fire so only a true hero can find her, and after 3 1/2 hours we suddenly end halfway through Sleeping Beauty.

Music: 9 The whole show isn't 9, but Flight of the Valkyries man. That is some great music! That's worth the whole show.

Nazi Ick Factor: 4  Yeah, I'm starting to get it now, I'm afraid.  Wotan spends A LOT of time complaining about "evil treaties" that tie his hands and make him powerless.  I can see some Germans in 1930 getting pretty hopped up about that.  There's also some talk about "blood" and "bloodlines" and how the Sieggies are purifying their bloodline and it's all a bit ick.

Surprise Plagiarism: Well, a lot of it's not a surprise. Apocalypse Now and an entire industry of film scores that either use or imitate the music.  The Valkyries are basically every awesome female super hero, especially Wonder Woman.  In the opposite direction, I wasn't expecting Sleeping Beauty.  The whole story about the dragon guarding the gold & magic ring is starting to go LOTR, or Harry Potter, or a million other fantasy novels.

Overall Experience: 8 The story was way more compelling than night 1 and I liked the music better too, but it was long. Hard to keep focused for that long.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Oh Lord It's the Ring Cycle Part One

Oh Lord It's the Ring Cycle Part One 

Monday August 12
Das Rheingold 

My first night of the Ring Cycle I managed to make it with enough time to go pee and buy a cookie to hide in my purse before the show.  Mental note: tomorrow leave earlier. Don't get lost.

I had blithely typed "Seattle Opera" into my GPS and it took me straight to Seattle Opera's office and warehouse, which was an interesting detour, but didn't get me quite where I needed to be.

The music starts low and builds, and suddenly it's just amazingly lovely and ethereal and I'm quite lost in it.

The scene opens and there are 3 mermaids who are actually suspended from cables to look like they're floating and they "swim" through the air and paddle their little flippers while singing and I'm just totally amazed because I'm a swimmer and I'm a singer and there are good reasons not to do both at the same time.  Those women are seriously amazing.

There's this dwarf guy and he's all about, hey ladies, come give me some loving, and they laugh at him, and lead him on and then dump his ass which makes him mad.  Then a big hunk of gold appears, which the mermaids are supposed to be protecting, and the dwarf dude wants it, but they laugh at him again and say only someone willing to forswear love completely can forge the gold into the amazing ring that will give the wearer amazing power.  He's irked so he says F you you singing fish. Who needs love? And he takes the gold away and the mermaids flip out, both literally and figuratively.

So far it seems pretty mehhh story wise. Music is really pretty but who couldn't see any of that coming?  Are mermaids really the best choice of Brinks Guards?

Then we go to a pastoral setting where a bunch of Gods are sitting around being self satisfied.  The head god guy is chuffed because the giants just finished building his castle.  His wife is mad because the payment he promised the giants for building the castle was her sister.  I'd be irritated too!  He's like, meh, whatevs, I've got my pal "Loge" on it, whose name is Loge but I keep thinking of as Loki.

 Then the giants come in chasing the sister, ready to demand payment.  One of the giant really loves the sister and the other one is really just more interested in not getting screwed over.  There's a lot of drama and then finally Loge/Loki shows up shooting fire all over the place.  I guess he's a demi-god, which I think is bad thinking.  I think the dude that shoots fire ought to get full God, but that's just me.  Anyway, he spins this tale about a dwarf who has this magic ring that has to be returned to the really sad mermaids, but hey, he's also got a sh*t ton of gold, and by the way, this ring makes him crazy powerful.  The giants get nervous thinking about the dwarf with all this power, so they agree that if the Head God will go get the ring and the gold from the dwarf, they'll take that in exchange for the sister.  But they're going to keep the sister with them til they get the gold, and they run off with her.

Then all the gods start to get sick, and it's because the sister took her magic apples with her and that's what keeps the gods all young forever, and at this point I'm thinking this Head God dude is just an IDIOT.  But Loki has one apple hidden away and he gives it to the Head God and they jump into a hole in the ground to find the evil dwarf.  They find him. They trick him. They bring him back upstairs along with his gold.

I guess I should say something about the fact that he made an amazing helmet which allows the wearer to turn into anything they want and also be invisible.  They steal that from him, but he's still wearing the ring. Then the head god dude takes the ring from him and the dwarf curses him and says anyone who wears it will be perpetually dissatisfied forever.

The giants come back. They demand that the gold be piled in front of the sister and if it's enough to completely block the sight of her, they will take the payment, but if they can still see her, the deal is off and they'll take her back.  You can see where this is going.  They pile up all the gold. It's not enough. They throw in the magic helmet. It's not enough. So the head god throws a temper tantrum about not giving up the ring, he doesn't care what it means.  Then this lady emerges from the grass and sings about how crappy things are coming, and he must give up the ring, and her daughters, the Norns, are something about nature? I was starting to zone out a bit here.

So the head god gives up the ring, the giants take it all away including the ring and the magic helmet, which I'm sure will not come back later to bite anyone in the ass. The sister gives out some god apple snack time.
Loki gives the head god some lecturing cuz he wanted the ring to be returned to the mermaids.  The Gods all head off to their new castle, Valhalla.  Loki stomps off cranky.  The End!

Musical Experience: 7  I was never bored and I enjoyed the music, but none of it really transported me, except a little part at the beginning, and I wasn't humming anything as I left.

*Nazi Scale: 0  I dunno.  I suppose a case could be made about the gods & the giants & the dwarves all symbolizing something to do with racial superiority, but the gods were such idiots I don't see how anyone can say they came out looking good.

* The Nazism Scale is not a scale suggesting that I THINK Wagner was using this opera to be digging on the Nazis or whatever.  I know there's a complicated history including his sister using his work in ways he may not have intended. By Nazism Scale I mean things about the story that make me go, ew, yeah, I get why the Nazis got all charged up by this.

Surprise Plagiarism:  Not getting a Tolkien vibe yet really.  I mean yeah, rings & dwarves & giants and all, but the stories are nothing alike.  Disney clearly stole the mermaids as inspiration for the sisters in The Little Mermaid.  The Norn is a villain in my guilty pleasure show Lost Girl, this lady who can do crazy powerful things as long as she's not separated from her tree.  So, I'm thinking a steal here.

Overall Experience: 7 I liked it. I'm going back for more!

Lord It's the Ring Cycle Introduction

Lord It's the Ring Cycle Introduction

I'm doing something completely insane this week. I'm going to see the full Ring Cycle by Wagner. It's 4 nights of opera in 6 days.  I know there are people who do this sort of thing, Ring Groupies. At least that's what I've heard.  But I'm an opera novice who had a wild hare to try something new and easy as falling down stairs here I am.

My opera experience before this week has been seeing the Marriage of Figaro in grade school and Carmen when I was in college.  In North Carolina where I was a kid there was a group, the North Carolina Opera I suppose, who went around to schools and performed Figaro for classes.  Due to changing grades, changing schools and a few moves, I managed to see this presentation at least 4 times.  By 12, I was pretty much over the Marriage of Figaro.  The music was ok and all, but it was kind of boring.

I volunteered to be an usher in order to see Carmen by the Seattle Opera when I was in grad school.  It was cool and emotional and violent and beautiful, but what startled me the most, the "duh" moment, was the realization that they call soap operas "operas" for a reason.  It was so melodramatic, so over the top.  I had in my mind that "opera" was for cultured folk with refined tastes who wanted to listen to some lovely singing for a few hours, clap politely, and head out for an expensive and late dinner, probably involving a Salad Nicose and subdued conversation about mutual funds.

But Carmen was crazy! Carmen was bullfighters battling over whores and blood in the streets and barely anyone left standing to sing the final act.  Why didn't the NC Opera bring THIS to our school?  I guarantee there would have been significantly more long term interest in opera from North Carolina school children.

But, even though I thought Carmen was cool, I somehow didn't get around to seeing more opera.  I had season tickets to the ballet for a while, and then I switched to season tickets for the 5th Ave, which does Broadway Musicals, and then I didn't have season tickets to anything.

Then a few months ago I heard an add on the radio that Seattle Opera was doing The Ring Cycle.  And I thought you know, I'm 4++ years old and I've been hearing about This Ring Cycle my whole life.  As a kid, I was quite fond of the Bugs Bunny Ring Cycle.  Then in college it started to come up in conversation about historical context, Nazis and what have you.  And I was witness to more than one conversation about The Ring Cycle and derivative-ism and whether everyone from Tolkien to George Lucas stole from Wagner.

I began to believe I understood what the Ring Cycle was, even though I'd never seen it.  But, the older I get, them more I realize it's important to keep learning, and The Ring Cycle sits on the same shelf as Russian Novels as "Things I keep Meaning to Get To".

So I went to the Seattle Opera page to see about tickets. And they were INSANELY EXPENSIVE. $600 - $1100 range I recollect.  I was a bit dumbfounded.  I ranted about it on Facebook, because that's what Facebook is for, and assumed my Ring dreams were over. Imagine my shock a week later when a colleague called me at work to say that someone who'd seen my post mentioned it to her and hey, she just happened to have an extra set of tickets!  Suddenly Insanely Expensive became a much more manageable "Not Cheap but Reasonable".

I agreed and then promptly forgot about it for several months, when I suddenly realize OH, that's happening. And it's happening soon. And it's happening ALL IN ONE WEEK!  What are you people crazy? Oh well. In for a penny.  In for the whole bag of crazy.

So, here begins my chronicle of the novice experiencing the Ring.  Each post will discuss the last night's Episode.  I'll let you know, since it's all coming as a surprise to me, just what this story is about. I'll also try to weigh my preconceived notions on scales of 1-10.  I will break Godwin's Law and include a Nazism scale, as well as a "Surprise Plagiarism Scale", which will measure how much The Ring reminds me of cultural touchstones with which I'm familiar (in other words, damn, So & So TOTALLY stole that from Wagner).

So sit back with a bag of chips (No salad Nicose!) and enjoy the ride.