Sounds of Amerıca
Gramophone’s guide to the classical scene in the US and Canada
Focus LA Opera’s Ring Cycle – page I » The Scene Musical highlights from across North America – page IV »
Reviews The latest American CD and DVD releases – page IX » New releases Index – page XIII
John Treleaven sings Siegfried
LA Opera’s three performances of The Ring, against the seemingly impossible odds posed by the company’s financial woes and the city’s Wagnerian malaise, took over the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the end of May. It was like having a 3D film come to life on stage. If only the marketing department had known that 3D films like Avatar would be all the rage.
There was nothing this Ring wouldn’t do to pursue its vision of fantastic creatures bringing down neon fire and brimstone on the established order. The three parties jointly responsible for the project, its execution and eventual triumph were James Conlon, conductor; Achim Freyer, director and designer (and co-costume and lighting designer to boot); and Plácido
Ring of fire
LA Opera’s first ever Ring wasn’t easy to pull off but, as Laurence Vittes reports, the results were nothing short of spectacular
Domingo, producer and star tenor – and each talked to me exclusively for Gramophone after the Rings were over.
Once word of mouth had had a chance to spread throughout LA, the last of the three performances of the cycle finished to wild cheers and raucous enthusiasm. Ring addicts, both veterans and newbies, witnessed an incredible transformation take place as all the rehearsals and performances seemed to coalesce in one last surge of operatic theatre in which the musical, visual and narrative elements created a Wagnerian fabric of power and beauty. The result was a reductionist production set to a mind-bending, sci-fi scenario in which the cast, despite the huge costumes, masks and body paint, sang with immense expression and deeply personal intensity.
Among the many stunning visuals that have already become 21st-century LA icons were John Treleaven’s Siegfried scampering across the stage in a cartoonish green and red outfit that made him look like William Shatner’s airplane gremlin in Twilight Zone. This anti-heroic Siegfried feared equally the steeply raked stage (“only 20 degrees,” Freyer told me; “I’ve done 50 before”) and Linda Watson’s Brünnhilde, whose voice reached the third balcony effortlessly and who managed to wear her enormous costume and gigantic head of hair with the greatest of ease. The relationship between the two, and between Siegfried disguised as Gunther and Brünnhilde, was of profound metaphysical importance to Freyer but, as often is the case, took an active imagination to grasp.
The process began formally in September 2006, on the eve of the company’s 21st season and the beginning of Conlon’s tenure as music director, when Domingo announced the company’s first ever Ring cycle, hoping to bring a heightened sense of artistic credibility and accomplishment to the company.
“When Pláci said he really wanted me to come here, he was incredibly persuasive,” Conlon told me. “I was fired up – I wanted to make LA a hub of www.gramophone.co.uk
GRAMOpHONe sepTeMbeR 2010