Lepage discusses making changes to the METs Ring Cycle - it makes less noise now.

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday, 23 April 2012 | 6:28:00 pm

“But when you see them as a package, it’s like connecting Christmas tree lights.
 "Mr. Lepage finished the sentence with a lemon-sucking face. “These people — go see a concert version of the ‘Ring."
“I said: ‘That’s all your stuff. Let’s strip all of that from the 20th century and go back to the 19th century.’ ”

Daniel Wakin of the NYT in a rather revealing conversation with Lepage, about the New MET Ring, the changes he has made and why.


Through May 12 the Metropolitan Opera is mounting three complete cycles of the four operas that make up Richard Wagner’s “Ring des Nibelungen.” After performances of the individual works over the last two seasons, the director, Robert Lepage, has made changes throughout.

In a recent interview in a small, unadorned office at the Met, Mr. Lepage detailed some of those changes and responded to the criticism that has dogged his “Ring”: part of the scrutiny typical of productions of such a singular work with so many passionate followers.

Mr. Lepage said that now, after focusing on each opera individually, he can more easily envision the whole “Ring,” more than 15 hours of music drama. “If you see each increment, they all mean something different,” he said. “But when you see them as a package, it’s like connecting Christmas tree lights. Suddenly the energy of one bleeds into the other, and a lot of stuff starts to make sense. For me, that was interesting, how the whole thing shines.”

Mr. Lepage said that he had restaged “a lot of stuff” for the cycle, but that the changes amounted mostly to details. He gave examples:

In Wotan’s monologue in Act II of “Die Walküre,” a giant projected eye contained images evoking later events. Those images have been made more specific, Mr. Lepage said, using elements from the productions that followed. “It’s all now much clearer and closer to the story,” he said. “It accompanies very specifically what Wotan sings about.”

During the long scene between Siegmund and Sieglinde in “Die Walküre,” the couple now spend more time toward the front of the stage. “You want them to be more present,” Mr. Lepage said. The Met’s principal conductor, Fabio Luisi, who took over when the music director James Levine withdrew for health reasons, became involved in decisions on how to move the characters around, Mr. Lepage said, adding, “It’s a more surgical approach.”

In the original “Rheingold” gods made entrances by sliding down a slanted portion of the giant set, which has 24 revolving planks on an axle that can rise and fall. Now they simply walk onstage. “It wasn’t working,” Mr. Lepage said.

The production makes heavy use of projections, creating flowing rivers, trees, squirmy worms and other elements. Sometimes the projections could be seen on the singers’ bodies. Simply repositioning the follow spotlights helped wash away those unwanted reflections, Mr. Lepage said.

Other factors are having an effect on cycle performances, he added. The sheer time spent on the huge machine has made the singers more comfortable and creates a greater sense of ease on the stage. Bryn Terfel, the Wotan, has lost around 30 pounds. His changed appearance had to be taken into consideration, Mr. Lepage said.

A slimmer Wotan looks younger, which is more fitting with the character in “Rheingold,” who has an element of the philandering husband. “The Wotan he does in ‘Rheingold’ looks much younger and hunkier,” Mr. Lepage said of Mr. Terfel, “so the whole aging of the character comes into play” through the next three operas, he said.

Mr. Lepage also said measures had been taken to deal with one of the production’s main flaws: the groaning and grinding of the 45-ton set as it transforms into different configurations. Less quiet moments in the score were found for its manipulations. Stagehands also figured out how to move it in a way to reduce noise.

“Everybody who has worked on the show has learned how to control that monster,” Mr. Lepage said. “The first test flights are way behind us, and the whole thing is well oiled, in all senses of the word. Everyone who steps on it is much calmer and knows the limits of the machinery. The crew here has a much better command of the whole concept than at the beginning. It was kind of a U.F.O. that landed in a very traditional opera house.”

Continue reading at the New York Times