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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Valkyries on the Potomac

Washington National Opera to finally stage the complete Ring.
Act I of Die Walküre in Francesca Zambello's production of Der Ring des Nibelungen.
Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.
Raw naked greed. Unnecessary construction projects. And workers at each other's throats after going unpaid. All on the banks of the Potomac.

No, we're not talking about the 112th Congress. According to a report by Anne Midgette in the Washington Post, the Washington National Opera has announced that it will (finally) present their complete production of Der Ring des Nibelungen, directed by new WNO Artistic Adviser Francesca Zambello. The production will be staged at the opera house in the Kennedy Center in 2016.

Act I of Siegfried in Francesca Zambello's production of Der Ring des Nibelungen.
Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.

Ms. Zambello's production of the Ring was originally planned to premiere in 2009. WNO staged Das Rheingold in 2006, Die Walküre in 2007, and Siegfried in May of 2009. But a radical drop in donations, caused by the 2008 financial crijsis led to the company nixing the premiere of the last segment, Götterdämmerung. The longest opera in the Ring, which has the most expensive and difficult technical requirements of any Wagner opera, was presented in 2009 in two concert performances.

The complete Zambello Ring Cycle had its full premiere at the San Francisco Opera in 2011. It is colloquially known as the "American Ring." The director makes Wagner's Germanic story the vehicle for a pell-mell ride through American history, presenting the gods as old-fashioned capitalists and Siegfried as an industrial worker. Uniquely, the staging is visualized as paralleling the American expansion westward, with Hunding's hut as a prairie settlement, Mime's cave as a trailer house and the Gibichung Hall atop a skyscraper.

Act II of Götterdämmerung in Francesca Zambello's production of Der Ring des Nibelungen.
Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.
The San Francisco run also afforded Jay Hunter Morris the opportunity to make his debut in of the title role Siegfried, a part which he repeated with great success at the Metropolitan Opera in October of 2011. Mr. Morris will sing his first Götterdämmerung at the Metropolitan Opera on Jan. 27.

In other WNO news, the company is also planning New American Works, an initiative to present home-grown operas to audiences. The plan is three-fold, with 20-minute works commissioned from student composers, hour-long operas by composers on the rise, and productions of reliable works by what the company is calling "American Masters." Ms. Midgette's article also pointed out that since the WNO is officially part of the Kennedy Center, the Opera can use the smaller theaters in the Center to present chamber works and experimental operas. 

Casting details for the Ring are not available. The full 2012-2013 Washington National Opera season will be announced in March.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats