Tuesday, April 10, 2018

San Francisco Opera’s Triumphant and Dramatic Summer Season: ‘The Ring’ Cycle Returns to San Francisco


I’ve set aside the month of June to this extraordinary festival, and will be attending the full cycle of four operas, starting June 12. It is one of the great stage productions and profoundly involving, thrilling. Evelyn Herlitzius, Falk Struckmann and Daniel Brenna will be bowing with San Francisco Opera for the first time.

This is a long post with a lot of information—everything you must know.

The season is expected to sell out, and many opera lovers have already secured their favorite seats. I don’t want you to miss this great immersive experience.

Please reserve your ticket now (see information at the end of my post.)



A scene from "Die Walküre," the second opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera is the only North American opera company mounting full cycles of Wagner’s ‘Ring’  this year.

According to my knowledgeable source, opera lovers from all over the United States and from at least 28 countries will travel to San Francisco from June 12–July 1 to experience Francesca Zambello’s production starring Evelyn Herlitzius, Greer Grimsley and Karita Mattila. I love this very international aspect of the audience at 
‘The Ring’  festivals…people speaking German, Italian, Russian, Spanish, and French…Australian.

And note: United Airlines has special fares, code ZYZA796715 (call United 800-426-1122).


A scene from "Götterdämmerung," the fourth opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

A scene from "Das Rheingold," the first opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

A scene from "Die Walküre," the second opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera


A scene from "Siegfried," the third opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

A scene from "Die Walküre," the second opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera


Richard Wagner’s ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’ (The Ring of the Nibelung) Returns to the War Memorial Opera House: June 12 – July 1, 2018

Check the San Francisco Opera website for public enrichment events for Ring Festival including lectures, symposia, film screenings and musical programs. 

San Francisco Opera presents Richard Wagner’s 
‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’ (The Ring of the Nibelung) in three complete cycles, each presented over the course of one week as the composer originally intended. From June 12 through July 1 at the War Memorial Opera House.

Encompassing four operas—Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung—and more than 17 hours, the story and music of Wagner’s 
‘Ring’  are the acme of the operatic artform and one of the most ambitious works of music, theater and stagecraft ever created. 

A scene from "Das Rheingold," the first opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

A scene from "Götterdämmerung," the fourth opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

A scene from "Siegfried," the third opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera



‘The Ring’ — My Musical Obsession

‘The Ring’ is one of the great musical creations, and to see all of the cycle is a major commitment. It is also an achievement.

The last time San Francisco presented their ‘Ring’ production, I figured that I committed over 20 hours total to attend the cycle.

And at the end…the curtain fell finally one Sunday afternoon around 6pm, and after seeing the whole production, I wanted to start over…and see it all again. 
I recall thunderous applause and foot-stamping and whistles and shouts of ‘Bravi’ as the curtain fell and rose and the artists bowed, and the audience was reluctant to leave after almost inhabiting the opera house for the four operas.

It is powerful, engaging, and the artists who perform are among the greatest opera singers in the world. Wagnerian performers are a special group! The men are noble, the women are regal, and their voices are the highly trained thoroughbreds of the music world.

“If there is one artistic undertaking that demonstrates the complete mettle of an opera company it is Wagner’s ‘Ring’.  San Francisco Opera has a storied history with this life-affirming work, and it is a great privilege for all of us to bring it to the stage once again. It will take us all on a powerful journey, deep into the very understanding of what it means to be human.” — San Francisco Opera General Director Matthew Shilvock

An internationally-renowned cast of Wagnerian artists has been assembled for San Francisco Opera’s performances of Wagner’s epic, including Evelyn Herlitzius (Brünnhilde), Greer Grimsley (Wotan), Daniel Brenna (Siegfried), Karita Mattila (Sieglinde), Brandon Jovanovich (Froh and Siegmund), Falk Struckmann (Alberich), Jamie Barton (Fricka) and many others, directed by Francesca Zambello and under the baton of Wagnerian conductor Donald Runnicles. 


A scene from "Das Rheingold," the first opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

A scene from "Das Rheingold," the first opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

A scene from "Das Rheingold," the first opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

A scene from "Das Rheingold," the first opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera


The New Updated ‘Ring’ 2018

Utilizing visuals from the American landscape, Francesca Zambello’s interpretation, which the New York Times called “boldly contemporary” at its San Francisco Opera unveiling in 2011, will include new features, including technologically advanced projections, new imagery and restudied stage action. 


Director Francesca Zambello

“Since directing ‘The Ring’ here in 2011 and again in 2016 in Washington, D.C., I found the power of the work seems even more contemporary. The great overarching themes of the ‘Ring’ nature, love, power and corruption—resound through America's past and haunt our present. As I have worked on it I find I have placed more emphasis on the role of the family and the power of redemption through all the female characters.”Francesca Zambello 

 Conductor Donald Runnicles. Photo: Michael Winokur

Maestro Donald Runnicles will conduct all of the operas. He is one of the great Wagnerian interpreters today. He led Francesca Zambello’s production in 2011 and previous ‘Ring’ productions with San Francisco Opera in 1990 and 1999.


A scene from "Die Walküre," the second opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

A scene from "Die Walküre," the second opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera


Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About ‘The Ring’

I asked Teresa Concepcion, communications associate at San Francisco Opera, to help unravel some of the questions and mysteries surrounding Wagner’s ‘Ring’ Cycle…and in particular how long it takes, the mythology, the music.  Listen in to our conversation...

DDS: Mythology, drama, a gold ring, a journey, maidens, beauty and heroic quests for a gold ring...the drama in one sentence?
SF Opera: ‘The Ring’is a story, based on Norse and German legend, about Gods and mortals, the redeeming power of love; greed; the end of the world; and rebirth.


DDS: Why are opera lovers flying in from all over the world to see this ‘Ring’ cycle? I think two words: Richard Wagner. 

SF Opera: The music is enthralling, noble, great in concept, powerfully emotional, and it engages the audience, individually, in its operatic scope and grandeur. The production, modern, is dramatic and inventive…with moments of wild imagination. The costumes are somewhat irreverent, mixing modern with traditional.

DDS: Many opera fans consider Richard Wagner’s Ring (the total work consists of four operas) the ultimate epic musical experience.
SF Opera:
It is rarely performed because only a few opera companies have the resources to pursue Wagner’s requirements. There are always new interpretations; opera companies look for imaginative, creative artists to tell the story of the 
‘Ring’ in compelling ways. The demanding vocal challenges of the ‘Ring’ require top tier singers to perform it. Moreover, it is a huge undertaking for the musicians and conductor in the orchestra pit.


DDS: It opens on what date and closes on what date?
SF Opera:
There will be three complete cycles of the four operas of the 
‘Ring’.  Cycle One begins on Tuesday, June 12 (with Das Rheingold) and Cycle Three closes on Sunday, July 1 (with Götterdämmerung)


DDS: Which is the ideal sequence to see the entire ‘Ring’ cycle?
SF Opera:
Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung, which are presented over the course of six days (Tuesday through Sunday). Richard Wagner wanted his audience to “binge-watch” his masterpiece in this order.


DDS: How many total hours on stage is the complete cycle of four operas?
SF Opera:
17 hours (including intermissions)


DDS: How many performers will be on stage for the entire cycle?
SF Opera:
177


DDS: What are some highlights to watch for? ‘The Ride of the Valkyrie’ of course, and each opera has maximum drama.
SF Opera:
Instrumental and vocal highlights include:

Das Rheingold—Prelude, Erda’s warning, Entrance of the Gods to Valhalla

Die Walker—Act I Sieglinde/Siegmund duet, Brünnhilde’s battle cry “Ho-jo-to-ho,” Annunciation of Death, The Ride of the Valkyries, Wotan’s Farewell

Siegfried—Sword forging song, Forest Murmurs, Brünnhilde’s Awakening

Götterdämmerung—Rhine Journey, Siegfried’s Funeral Music, Brünnhilde’s Immolation


DDS: How many performances will there be and what are the names of each performance?
SFOpera:
There will be three cycles of the complete 
‘Ring’,  which is comprised of four operas: Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung

DDS: Sung in German, of course.
SFOpera
: Yes, sung in German with English supertitles


DDS: During ‘the Ring’ I don’t think about dining…only music as I watch 17 hours (four operas over the course of six days)
SFOpera
: Café at the Opera (in the Lower Lounge) is open two hours before curtain (reservations are strongly recommended). There’s also going to be Brünnhilde’s Biergarten in the Loggia/Grand Tier level, which will be open 1 hour before curtain and during intermission, where you can try local beers and German fare. Neighborhood restaurants near the opera house are very much aware of the operas' timing and be sure to tell them you have tickets.


DDS: Thanks…if there are other factoids…such as name of the production designer, costume designer…are all costumes made at the opera house studio?
SFOpera:
In Francesca Zambello’s production of the 
‘Ring’ cycle, the Set Designer is Michael Yeargan and the Costume Designer is Catherine Zuber. 

All of the costumes for Götterdämmerung were built in San Francisco Opera’s Costume Shop. The costumes for Das Rheingold, Die Walküre and Siegfried were originally built at Washington National Opera, but some were redesigned at San Francisco Opera in 2010.

A scene from "Götterdämmerung," the fourth opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

A scene from "Götterdämmerung," the fourth opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

A scene from "Götterdämmerung," the fourth opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera



In anticipation of the performances, San Francisco Opera announced a schedule for its 
‘Ring’ Festival events designed to provide the public, from first-timers to experienced Ring-goers, with enriching activities including lectures, symposia, film screenings, musical programs, public discussions and a Ring Community Day for families. 


The San Francisco War Memorial Opera House. Photo by Joel Puliatti.


For More Information:

Tickets for Ring Cycle and Ring Festival Activities at www.sfopera.com and (415) 864-3330.

Photography:
Courtesy of San Francisco Opera

A scene from "Das Rheingold," the first opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera



2 comments:

Unknown said...

I'm quite sure it's a wonderful production. San Francisco really knows how to do opera. But I'm never a fan of contemporizing anything. Call me a cretin or hidebound traditionalist, but if I want to see something modern, I'll pick something modern. Period opera is wonderful for just that - being a period piece, with the sets and costumes according to the story it portrays. Somehow, I feel a little cheated without the "gravy" of the dressing up part, in addition to the marvelous music. And I know I'm not alone in this, but perhaps in the minority.

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

cynthia--thank you for your thoughtful now.

I totally understand your thought process here.

I agree with you...and at the same time I embrace this 'rethought' and 'newly produced' production...or series of four production.

I've seen this co-production...the last time...and at no time did I feel 'this is modern for the sake of being 'modern'. It has freshness and originality and creativity...always within a Wagnerian context.

Some years ago...opera companies knew they could not continue to present Wagner with the cliches. They knew they had to refresh it or it would die...of boredom or old age or dullness or lack of fresh air.

I agree with that...this production brings fresh energy and delight and wit. Yes, wit and charm. It's 17 hours of performances...so it couldn't be all 'classic' Ring..

And to note: some of the scenes in this production are very traditional...

I've attended opera all over the world, and SFOpera is one of the top of the top. I hope you will see it this June. It's thrilling and at all times marvelously creative and engaging. I love classics, too...and this feels classic...and at once speaks of today and the future. all best--DIANE