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Thread: My review of the Seattle Ring Cycle!

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    Default My review of the Seattle Ring Cycle!


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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Thanks for the detailed review! You play piano at Canlis? I'm afraid the out-of-towners won't know what this means (although I have moved to California and so am one). Canlis is the THE posh restaurant in Seattle, perched on a hill overlooking Lake Union. The food...well, the food...and the wine...did I say it's expensive?

    I like that Canlis is famous for passing guests of whom it doesn't quite approve little cards, suggesting that they don't come back. The menu, of course, is too refined to list prices.


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    Senior Member Oreb's Avatar
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    Enjoyed the reviews. Asher Fisch conducted the first Ring I saw, in Adelaide - available on the Melba label - and he was very, very solid. The advantage is that he lacked idiosyncrasies, the slight disadvantage perhaps, in terms of a recording, was that he wasn't overly memorable either.

    How would you sum up his approach in Seattle?

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    Quote Originally Posted by KenOC View Post
    Thanks for the detailed review! You play piano at Canlis? I'm afraid the out-of-towners won't know what this means (although I have moved to California and so am one). Canlis is the THE posh restaurant in Seattle, perched on a hill overlooking Lake Union. The food...well, the food...and the wine...did I say it's expensive?

    I like that Canlis is famous for passing guests of whom it doesn't quite approve little cards, suggesting that they don't come back. The menu, of course, is too refined to list prices.
    As far as I know the card story is just a story. They've challenged people to present one of those supposed cards, and no one has ever been able to do so. But I can't know anything for sure!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Oreb View Post
    Enjoyed the reviews. Asher Fisch conducted the first Ring I saw, in Adelaide - available on the Melba label - and he was very, very solid. The advantage is that he lacked idiosyncrasies, the slight disadvantage perhaps, in terms of a recording, was that he wasn't overly memorable either.

    How would you sum up his approach in Seattle?
    Well, I don't know if I know enough to answer your question, but my own personal feeling with the knowledge and experience that I have, is that they were simply trying to execute a "good" performance of the music. I heard absolutely nothing that hinted at any kind of unique interpretation or unusual artistic choice. The great moments were when the orchestra knew their notes well and played them with intense expression, and the weak moments were when it sounded like they were sight reading. But even in the great moments they were just playing it fairly squarely in terms of the range of possible interpretations of the music.

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    Senior Member Don Fatale's Avatar
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    Thanks for the review. It was a fun read. I'd love to go there in 2017. As long as it's faithfully played and sung I don't need it set in spaceship or whatever the latest ego-driven director wants to do, so that production would do me fine. Whether I can afford to dine out at Canlis too is another matter :-)

    I agree that Gotterdammerung Act II can seem rather a mess - so many characters and people suddenly on stage, not to mention the scenario which almost belongs in another opera. However I've read at least one commentator saying it was Wagner's greatest single act, musically speaking (not necessarily my view). A shame that most are just trying to concentration on what's happening.

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    Thanks for the review, macgeek. I know it took you some time and trouble to write, but I appreciate you sharing it.

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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by macgeek2005 View Post
    As far as I know the card story is just a story. They've challenged people to present one of those supposed cards, and no one has ever been able to do so. But I can't know anything for sure!
    Well of course I didn't say they actually passed out the cards, just that they're famous for passing them out (which is quite true). I suspect they keep the story alive themselves!


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    I agree almost completely with your assessment of the performance... but the opera itself... oh my.

    Siegfried is really the low point of the cycle. Act 1 is either tedious (the horrifically long and predictable question and answer game between Wanderer and Mime), or cheesy (Sword forging song).

    Act II is beautiful music certainly, but also cheesy. And it is the central dramatic failure of the Ring (bringing Gotterdammerung down with it): namely, that Siegfried is not a hero.

    I'd say being a hero is all about self-sacrifice for the greater good. And yet here Siegfried does nothing heroic in Act II. He murders Fafner for his own self-interest (to learn fear) upon the manipulation of Mime. Fafner kept to himself and actually maintained the evil Ring in a "safe state" away from those who would use it to enslave the world, like Alberich and Mime. And we could argue Fafner had the greatest claim to the Ring at this point. Alberich was entitled to the ring upon making the prerequisite sacrifice (he never "stole" the Ring, as is claimed), but he used it to enslave a race. We can assume this is a rather unacceptable abuse of power and so Wotan is rather justified in forcefully taking the Ring from Alberich. In turn, Wotan trades the Ring to the giants for services rendered. Now Fafner is guilty of fratricide certainly, but his brother HAD attempted to hoard the Ring for himself, when Fafner was equally entitled to it. The gods haven't really implemented a terrific system of justice in this world anyways.

    This makes Siegfried a rather unsympathetic character and which is why we don't really care at his loss. Brunnhilde's proclamation that Siegfried is a "supreme hero" at the end is simply chuckle-worthy.

    For Gotterdammerung I actually prefer to re-imagine Siegfried so that Fafner abused the Ring, ie. terrorized and destroyed villages to add to his hoard, such that Siegfried actions in killing him are more justified. Makes Gotterdammerung much more enjoyable.

    I love Act II of Gotterdammerung. Certainly the opera is somewhat contrived, this is because it is faithful to the highly contrived Volsunga saga. The only part I'm not really a fan of is how Brunnhilde betrays Siegfried (and is Hagen such a dolt that he really needs to be told that the best way to kill Siegfried would be to stab him in the back when his guard is down?) However this betrayal is in the saga. We can assume however that as ring-bearer Brunnhilde has her mind poisoned by the Ring as well which leads to this decision, and well, Valkyries are vengeful creatures by nature.

    With 4.5 hours of some of Wagner's most mature and profound music, Gotterdammerung is easily my favourite part of the Ring.
    Doch dieses Wörtlein: und, -wär' es zerstört,
    wie anders als mit Isoldes eignem Leben wär' Tristan der Tod gegeben?

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    Senior Member Seattleoperafan's Avatar
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    Couchie, good assessment of Gotterdammerung, but you left out praising the entralling Dawn Duet with Siegfried and Bruinhilde in Act 1. When done well it is opera at it's most thrilling IMHO!

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    Senior Member SiegendesLicht's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Couchie View Post
    I'd say being a hero is all about self-sacrifice for the greater good. And yet here Siegfried does nothing heroic in Act II... This makes Siegfried a rather unsympathetic character and which is why we don't really care at his loss. Brunnhilde's proclamation that Siegfried is a "supreme hero" at the end is simply chuckle-worthy.
    The thing is, though, that at the time Wagner's source literature: the Nibelungenlied, the Völsungasaga etc. comes from, the values were somewhat different. It was largely physical prowess and courage, feats like killing a dragon or escaping a cunning foe like Mime, that made one a hero. Even the chivalrous age with its ideal of performing heroic feats for the sake of the chosen lady was not yet come. Of course Wagner reworked a lot in his sources and made them into a framework for his own ideas, which include the heroism of self-sacrifice, but some of the spirit of the early Middle Ages with its own idea of what makes a man heroic, still comes through.
    ... yet for us will still remain the holy German art... (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg)
    ***
    God gave all men all earth to love,
    But since our hearts are small,
    Ordained for each one spot should prove
    Beloved over all.
    R. Kipling

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    Senior Member Seattleoperafan's Avatar
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    They are recording this one to sell. Is this one worthy of being immortialized?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Couchie View Post
    I agree almost completely with your assessment of the performance... but the opera itself... oh my.

    Siegfried is really the low point of the cycle. Act 1 is either tedious (the horrifically long and predictable question and answer game between Wanderer and Mime), or cheesy (Sword forging song).

    Act II is beautiful music certainly, but also cheesy. And it is the central dramatic failure of the Ring (bringing Gotterdammerung down with it): namely, that Siegfried is not a hero.

    I'd say being a hero is all about self-sacrifice for the greater good. And yet here Siegfried does nothing heroic in Act II. He murders Fafner for his own self-interest (to learn fear) upon the manipulation of Mime. Fafner kept to himself and actually maintained the evil Ring in a "safe state" away from those who would use it to enslave the world, like Alberich and Mime. And we could argue Fafner had the greatest claim to the Ring at this point. Alberich was entitled to the ring upon making the prerequisite sacrifice (he never "stole" the Ring, as is claimed), but he used it to enslave a race. We can assume this is a rather unacceptable abuse of power and so Wotan is rather justified in forcefully taking the Ring from Alberich. In turn, Wotan trades the Ring to the giants for services rendered. Now Fafner is guilty of fratricide certainly, but his brother HAD attempted to hoard the Ring for himself, when Fafner was equally entitled to it. The gods haven't really implemented a terrific system of justice in this world anyways.

    This makes Siegfried a rather unsympathetic character and which is why we don't really care at his loss. Brunnhilde's proclamation that Siegfried is a "supreme hero" at the end is simply chuckle-worthy.

    For Gotterdammerung I actually prefer to re-imagine Siegfried so that Fafner abused the Ring, ie. terrorized and destroyed villages to add to his hoard, such that Siegfried actions in killing him are more justified. Makes Gotterdammerung much more enjoyable.

    I love Act II of Gotterdammerung. Certainly the opera is somewhat contrived, this is because it is faithful to the highly contrived Volsunga saga. The only part I'm not really a fan of is how Brunnhilde betrays Siegfried (and is Hagen such a dolt that he really needs to be told that the best way to kill Siegfried would be to stab him in the back when his guard is down?) However this betrayal is in the saga. We can assume however that as ring-bearer Brunnhilde has her mind poisoned by the Ring as well which leads to this decision, and well, Valkyries are vengeful creatures by nature.

    With 4.5 hours of some of Wagner's most mature and profound music, Gotterdammerung is easily my favourite part of the Ring.
    Well, overall I think Die Walküre would be my personal favorite of the cycle. And when I spoke about Siegfried being the greatest I was speaking almost entirely in terms of the music.


    Quote Originally Posted by Seattleoperafan View Post
    They are recording this one to sell. Is this one worthy of being immortialized?
    I wasn't aware they're recording it to sell. It is not worthy of being immortalized, no. It was just a very good performance.
    Last edited by macgeek2005; Sep-14-2013 at 09:06.

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