Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Ring Revisited

Flipping stations idly trying to find some intelligent conversation or good music, I found myself on Radio 3, mid-opera. As I ran my bath, I found I recognised the language (German) and, slowly, the music. It was Wagner's Ring Cycle, but which opera?

Hmmm. A baritone (probably a bad guy), tenor (probably a good guy) and soprano (could be heroine or love interest) locked in some kind of conflict. The tenor was singing a lot about his Vater, so I guessed Götterdämmerung, but eventually was informed differently. It was Die Walküre, Act I and live from The Met.


Having grown up in New York and having first heard opera on WNYC's Live from The Met broadcasts, introduced to Wagner by an impassioned music teacher, this was a real find. As I reclined in my bath, I tried to follow what was going on. Ah, yes, Sieglinde and Siegmund had just run off together, incurring the wrath of the gods. And Brunnhilde was about to get in a LOT of trouble.

Now Brunnhilde and I had some history, as I had played one of her sisters, Waltraute, and also been Brunnhilde's understudy in a children's version of the cycle, though I was much relieved I never had to go on-stage in this role. Too much pressure. But, I loved the costume, and especially my winged headgarb. That was pretty cool for an 11-year-old. But, I still marvel at the utter inappropriateness of kids playing out a drama that involves such a plethora of sexcapades and murders. Oh, well. I am sure it didn't shape my world view in any view. Ahem.

It did inspire me to learn German. And visits to The Met were a ticket to the promised land, extremely rare and to be treasured. Sitting in the nosebleed seats, peering through a black scrim, trying to fathom what was happening. For six hours. Bliss.

At the end, with Wotan bidding farewell to a sleeping Brunnhilde alone on her mountaintop, punished for daring to follow her instincts, I felt a pang for the past.
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