I had been concerned about what Lepage would do in his production of Wagner's Ring Cycle since seeing his production of Berlioz's Damnation of Faust 2 seasons ago.
But it was a tactical mistake to offer replacements of the lavish Zeffirelli sets with miminal Bondy ones on an Opening Night performance, in which patrons are charged a hefty surcharge and forced donation to see so little. How could the Met charge so much and offer so little to see?
The pre-production publicity about the new Ring Cycle production started to allay my fears. The stories of a gargantuan 45 ton machine in a production costing over $20 million certainly suggested there would be something to see. And seeing something is part of what opera at the Met should be all about. I find myself in a fundamental disagreement with NY Times opera critic Anthony Tommasini, who seems to dislike anything other than minimalist productions, often stating that the visual spectacle of grand productions by Franco Zeffirelli and others distract from the singing and the music. I can get minimalist anywhere – including Columbus, Ohio. With the world's largest opera stage and budget, the Met should mount productions that can be experienced only there!
Well, Lepage's production of Das Rheingold meets my criterion. And it enhanced the story of the opera instead of distracting from it.
The visual magic then started, with the sections changing from their blue hue to a field of river stones – stones that reacted to pressure from the Rhinemaidens' bodies. As the performers' tails swished or they touched their bodies to the platforms, the river stones slid down the slope, as real rocks would! At first, I thought these were carefully choreographed motions made to synchronize with projected movies on the planks. As I watched transfixed, though, the coordination was too perfect. Could it be the planks were touch-sensitive and the images moved in reaction, just as a computer's touch screen display would?
At that point, I longed to find an application for my computer that would replicate this magic! I recall seeing something similar in an app for my iPhone when I first got it. A quick Google search failed to locate such an app or website; finding one – if it exits – will take some effort.
[Thanks to the Met's website and news stories on the web for the photos I've used here. The Met, of course, does not permit photography in the theater.]