Friday, June 15, 2018
Kill the Wabbit! or Anticipating The Ring
Most people don't give opera a second thought. Or a first thought, for that matter. I mean, it's kind of a dead form of entertainment, right? That's certainly what I used to think about it. And you could make a case for that, I suppose, since it's a relatively limited form of entertainment. Not that it has to be that way, but it requires a lot of training and, well, there are all sorts of things I could get into about this, but none of it's what this post is about, so we can have that discussion some other time.
However, despite the fact that opera has become rather exclusive, it has influenced popular culture in ways people are unaware of and don't understand. Just the influence in music is unmistakable, and I don't even know that much about music or music history, but you can find pieces of opera music in, well, everything. Okay, maybe not everything, but it's fairly pervasive. But it's not just music, though I don't have the background (and am not going to do the research right now) to tell you how far the reach of opera is.
I do know enough, though, to be able to say that it's possible that Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle is the foundation of... well, a tremendous amount of our current pop culture. Or at least related to it.
Which brings me to the point: The San Francisco opera is doing the Ring Cycle! [Actually, by the time this posts, I will be in the middle of watching this, but, as I write this, I'm still a day away from Das Rheingold, the prologue to the cycle.] I'm very excited to see this. All 16 hours of it. Yeah, you heard me: 16 hours! Don't worry; it's divided into four operas presented on four, almost consecutive evenings (though there are opera houses who present the cycle in one marathon performance!).
In preparation for this (this is such a big deal, you have to buy tickets a year in advance!), my wife got me a copy of Das Rheingold for Christmas. It's a dvd of a revolutionary production of the cycle. We only just last week sat down and finally watched it, and the threads of influence are almost immediately apparent. I'll tell you the big three, which should be self-explanatory enough for you to get what I mean about it being foundational: The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Marvel Comics. Not to mention Bugs Bunny. It was well worth the watch even if I hadn't like it.
But I did like it! It was a good and interesting story and it's too bad that people are so unfamiliar with it these days.
One thing of note: The opera is done recitative. I'm pretty sure there are no arias in the entire thing. If you've followed my opera reviews at all, you'll know that I pretty typically do not like operas done entirely recitative. Generally speaking, this is due to the music more than the actual style. For some reason, post-Wagner operas done recitative tend to have very droning music with very little melody that -- for me, anyway -- makes it difficult to stay focused. It's like a very aggressive way to put people to sleep. But that wasn't the case with Das Rheingold. Despite the recitative quality, the music was very melodic, soaring in places, even. I wonder what changed with people after Wagner. Or maybe it's just a matter of skill? I don't know.
I do know, though, that I'm pretty sure that opera should not be a thing of the past.