Thursday, 15 October 2009

Not another Ring!

So Opera North is to develop their very own Ring cycle. Though they are doing it with a bit of care, the operas will be performed in concert following on from their previous successes doing such works as Salome and Elektra in concert.

Frankly, I've always been a bit puzzled by the suicidal desire of opera companies to perform the Ring cycle. The costs are immense, not just the size of the cast required but the length of the operas means that overall costs tend to magnify as well. There is also the problem of casting. ENO tried to get round this by developing their cycle gradually, doing the works in concert first. But though this seemed an admirably democratic exercise, there was something frankly a little embarrassing singers and conductor getting to know their parts in so public a fashion.

Opera North have always done marvels on a shoe string, though sometimes they have been unable to persuade things to stretch quite far enough. So that when they did The Trojans, the two parts of the work were performed separately and never together. Something similar seems to be happening with the Ring as they are scheduling the 4 operas from the Ring in successive years from 2011 to 2014. The Press Release is delightfully vague about whether we are getting a full cycle.

Also, do we want to hear the Ring done in concert? When the Royal Opera did their semi-staged version of the Ring at the Albert Hall, the principal joy was hearing the experienced singers who could take command of their roles whatever the setting. In Die Walküre it was wonderful to hear and see John Tomlinson and Hildegard Behrens playing off each other whenever they were on-stage. But in Act 1, Kim Begley and Rita Cullis were a little too new to their roles to bring very much extra to the performance and it proved rather disappointing.

Given that they are doing the Ring, Opera North's plan to do it in concert and to search for new singers to fulfil the roles, seems entirely admirable. But it is fraught with difficulties. On the other hand, my view is rather London centric. The only way for opera lovers in the North of England to hear the Ring is if someone like Opera North does it. So perhaps we should applaud after all.

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