Friday, August 5, 2011
Is Wagner's Ring too long?
Is Wagner's Ring too long? Not according to my late husband who relished every note and knew what Wagner had for breakfast but for me who stood through my first Ring in the old gallery at Covent Garden when I was 15 (Hans Hotter was Wotan so it was a long time ago) some of the monologues were definitely a bit long on first hearing and I had to sit down!
Wagner knew that his audience would possibly only hear his operas once and that it takes the average music audience and least three repetitions of a theme to appreciate the musical line. Also he had a lot of plot to explain and there was no knowing if the audience had been in the previous evening so again a lot of repetition was necessary.
This is not necessary today. What Wagner needed was an editor and it seems now he has got one and in Bayreuth the very home of The Ring. Richard Wagner fur Kinder - Der Ring of des Nibelungen which is edited down from three operas and an introductory evening to just two hours!
I should have loved to have done this 30 years ago in Auckland where I ran a small progressive opera/ballet company against all odds and no grants. We managed Schoenberg, Ravel, Bartok but I did come to grief with excerpts from Tristan and Isolde. King Mark's monologue was too much for the audience and critics and on the third night I had to cut it. The King Mark in question was so miffed he almost threw me into Lake Pupuke and has never spoken to me again.
Auckland wasn't ready for Wagner's Ring and still isn't I suspect. Might get away with the early works and perhaps a Meistersinger but Auckland might like a shortened version to get them going though even this is doubtful without a large grant from the government.
I congratulate Bayreuth for having the guts to do this. Nobody else except me. if I had the cash and health would have dared. It is long over due and will introduce many to the most some marvelous music ever written.