Last night the Wheeler Centre hosted another event at The Capitol (I’ve been to a bunch of them lately around the city) and it was Julia Zemiro talking to a panel of people about Wagner’s The Ring Cycle. (Panel being director Neil Armfield, foodie Maggie Beer, poet and writer and Australian Book Review Editor Peter Rose and arts-theatre person Robyn Archer.) It was a chat about the cult of Wagner and how some people (like Rose) are just nuts about The Ring Cycle. Mum is going, she got last-minute tickets after thinking it had all been sold out. So she’s thrilled and excited and I’m wondering how she could possibly sit through 18 hours of opera when I have fallen asleep in a normal show (Carmen, late ’80s, not my bag baby. Again, and I know it’s not opera, but Camelot too, sorry Marina.) What fascinated me was the way people talk about this production, and the stories attached, the level of obsession. I had brunch with my opera-loving friend Paul today (he is @OperaChaser on twitter) and he said that:
there’s opera, and then there’s The Ring Cycle.
Paul’s seen it before, and he’s seeing it again in Melbourne. He said his favourite bit of the music is the first two minutes. Think about that for just a second. Eighteen-hours worth of music, performance, drama, voices struggling during forty-five minute scenes without respite, and his favourite part of the music is the first hundred and twenty seconds. I love it.
Rose spoke of seeing it in Cologne in Germany and the performers staggering around on-stage, swilling from water bottles as they performed. It’s an act of endurance for all involved. Archer spoke about the audience applause — for the performers, for the orchestra and also for themselves for enduring the thing. Characters with names like Brünnhilde and Siegfried, and the Valkyries. Well, I do have a thing for German characters and the language, and while I don’t have a thing for opera, I am going to find out more about the story and the structure. The idea of the beginning and the end of the world; the idea that if you have a love of money then it erases other loves, such as love of humans and nature. The idea that someone who is expected to save the world, fails. Enormous themes that are really relevant today, if not more than ever.
If anyone is interested in reading more of what Peter Rose has to say about it, here is an article in the Australian Book Review.
As my mother said: maybe one day I’ll feel I can sit through it, but I don’t know about five hours in one evening (with a 90-minute break, even so, it would be tough). My mum’s doctor went to Adelaide to see it and was sitting next to German who’d seen in fifteen times. Mum said people say it can change your life. It was true that last night, my mind started wandering when each guest presented a 5-minute clip of music from one of the four operas. But when they were talking about it, I was completely engaged. Obsession is wonderful and I don’t know why sometimes people get a bit sheepish about it. As if they are wasting their time or money. One life, people. And it’s yours.