Wagner’s Fat Lady Sang: Impressions on Lepage’s Ring Cycle

Opera is an acquired taste. While I love music, I do not associate opera with music; I find it more closely related to theatre than concert music.  Opera, however, speaks to me in terms of its canonical greatness, and I understand how any educated person must attempt to cultivate an appreciation for the masterpiece works. Whether it is great books, great music or great art, there is intrinsic value in struggling to understand the message inherent in classic works that have been lost to a digital native generation. In my own heart, Wagner’s Ring Cycle will always be my foundational study, as it was the piece that captured my resolve to listen to the 16 hour masterpiece in its entirety. Sadly, I have yet to reach my goal, but I have learned much since I began in 2003.

All of this preamble is to review my experience watching Wagner’s Das Rheingold in tonight’s simulcast rebroadcast of Robert Lepage’s direction for the Met’s most recent production. Cineplex Odeon theatres are featuring the four operas over the course of two weeks, but with only one showing for each scheduling is a little tricky in my hectic life. I was able to make tonight’s performance, so I excitedly drove to the theatre after work and plunked down my $19 for the 3 hour show.

The first thing that I noticed was that I was the youngest audience member by about twenty years in the half-full cinema. I suppose this makes perfect sense given the time-commitment to watch the event, and the natural audience for the art form. I have to admit being disappointed in the overall quality of the theatre experience. I had expected vibrant sound and HD visuals, but ended up with a mediocre soundscape and projection. The only object in high definition was Bryn Terfel’s mole on his right eyelid.

The second thing that came to mind was that I am not a big fan of Lepage’s art direction. His attempt to use a series of panels to represent the Icelandic teutonic plates while providing an engaging visual spectacle was an utter failure. The scenery takes away from the mood and tone of the piece. I did not engage with the minimalist digital approach, and I had expected to, and felt myself longing for the 1990s Met production with its lavish and fantastical stagings.

In the end, I am going to reflect on whether I should attend Saturday’s performance of Die Walkure at 10am. Another $19 and another 3 hours might warm me to Lepage’s vision, but I am not convinced, and then I would be half way through the cycle…could I withstand the entire cycle in this production? Even if I still owned the killer helmet featured in my Christmas photo from 30 odd years ago I do not think I would have the strength to persist.

On another note, Adobe has announced the release of CS6 in a new “Creative Cloud” format which is really just a DRM subscription to Adobe’s applications for  between $29-79 a month. With Photoshop and LightRoom both having been updated, I will need to consider for my business whether to purchase software discs at around $300 or subscribe to the entire suite for $360 for the year. The entire concept worries me about the future of software ownership. Frankly, ownership has always been a vague concept with software as its use becomes outdated within 2-3 years at best – then you just own a disc and a license that you might be able to upgrade. Perhaps that is where the Adobe model of cloud fails…at the end of the subscription there is no value to an upgrade path, and one loses his investment in the path [which can be substantial]. Hmmm, interesting ideas to consider.

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