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Lyric Opera's Ring - Reinterpreting Wagner?

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday 7 December 2014 | 8:14:00 pm

 Kearley, Sayers, Pountney,  Lecca, and Matthew Rees
With the sad and untimely death of Johan Engels, the remaining  team behind  Lyric Opera's Ring Cycle discuss the productions future, a discussion  that may provide hints on its visual, narrative focus.

Talking to Deanna Isaacs, in a room that tantalizingly contained models of Engels' set design behind blackout curtains, and with a clearly subdued team,  model maker Matthew Rees, who was sitting in for Engels, said "We're all devastated". As David Pountney had said early last month, "Johan’s death leaves an enormous void in my personal and artistic life. We were very close collaborators, having worked on over 20 operas together over the last 20 years, and not only did we have two important projects for WNO this year, but had just completed designs for the Ring in Chicago due to be premiered over the next 5 years. Everyone who has seen one of Johan’s productions will mourn the loss of this artist with a superb aesthetic grasp and stunning visual flair. I have lost an inspiration and a friend.The theatre has lost one of its most brilliant and dedicated practitioners.'

So, where does this leave the production? David Pountney explained, as one might expect given his track record with Wagner, that this production will not be one that revises the narrative - whatever it  maybe about.  Pountney was keen to point out that any re-write of the work that places it, as has become popular, within a narrative that seems to support Fascism and the Third Reich in particular (a re-write that  was first done by the Nazis themselves, as they did with the work of Shakespeare, Beethoven, Bach and much else) is not what he wants.  Indeed, he was adamant that,"To narrow the vision that yielded (the Ring and the 20 years that Wagner spent on it) is incredibly stupid." Poutney says they simply want to "tell the story,". As Wagner seemed to want, and as might, at last in someways, be fitting with the intellectual zeitgeist of his time, any interpretation will be made by the audience. If Wagner intended that his audience should interpret its meaning only by what he wrote (and clearly the Ring is much more than an operatic "Epic Fantasy" - at least if you want it to be) this is now an oddly  fresh  approach to Wagner productions.

But does this mean a use of "high tech" theatrical effects like those of the METS recent Ring cycle? Not according to Pountney, "This Ring will be characterized by its avoidance of high tech,”  It'll be "pure theater," with the "virtuosity" coming out in the storytelling. While each opera will have its own environment and the cycle will move through time, the works will be mounted on a "common theatrical skeleton," with the artifice exposed.

The full interview can be read here