Final musings on the San Francisco Ring – Monday, June 20, 2011


(c) Earl Love 2000

Wagner’s Bust, Festspielhaus, Bayreuth

By Earl Love

Yesterday afternoon’s “Götterdämmerung” led me to reappraise somewhat Francesca Zambello’s feminist, ecological, anti-plutocratic staging of this “Ring”. Although I didn’t see any kids in the audience, it struck me that some of the corporate types (many of whom were probably first timers judging from their whoops of delight over the comic parts) just might get the intention behind the video barrage of filthy oil refineries, smog, sewer sludge and polluted water bodies accompanying the musical interludes, as well as the vision of the Rhinemaidens collecting garbage and dragging bags of it across the stage. (Co-incidentally, the Bay Area clean-up issue was the front-page headline of the San Francisco Chronicle this morning.) It might be too much to expect that they’d understand that women will save the world (according to Zambello), but it is possible that this audience segment might get more from this contemporary staging than a traditional 19th century one, and for that I do not begrudge Zambello’s efforts.

Apart from “Das Rheingold”, the physical staging for this “Ring” was impressive. Especially handsome was the set for Act Two of Götterdämerung—a large office interior with glass and steel-girded walls receding upstage right in a sharp perspective that acted as a deep foil to the mens’ chorus. The blocking of chorus and principals couldn’t have been better conceived.

Musically, the performance was as mixed as in the previous three components. Nime Stemme again stole the show and nailed all her high notes with impressive force and commitment. A struggling Ian Storey (Siegfried) suffered a  “vocal indisposition” during Act Two, but managed to complete his role in Act Three.  Ronnita Miller, Daveda Karanas and Heidi Melton as the Norms sang with impressive depth and vocal colour.  Andrea Silvestrelli (Hagan) got off to a very rocky start in Act One but improved considerably in Act Two.  Gerd Grochowski (Gunther) was vocally out of his depth. There was little improvement in the orchestra from the other three evenings and I found myself wincing each time the horns or brass were about to play.

Score for the complete “Ring”: Production 7, Singing 6, Orchestra 5.