Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Ring a ding ding

What was he thinking? Welsh opera superstar Bryn Terfel looks loopily divine in his gloriously OTT get-up as king of the gods Wotan in the Metropolitan Opera's new production of Wagner's Das Rheingold.

And that, Mr Gnome and I confess, is precisely what we love about opera: its unique ability to create a co-existence of the insane and the inspirational, the nutty and the numinous, barking madness and heart-piercing magnificence.

I guess I caught the opera thing at a very early age - and from a bizarre source: a childhood viewing of the Marx Brothers' classic A Night at the Opera, though it was to be years before I felt the visceral impact of a live performance.

Stage 2 infection (the Wagner thing) came in my mid-thirties. Welsh National Opera was performing its Ring Cycle in Bristol. I coughed up for all four shows, and turned up with minimal expectations.

What happened over the course of one short and three very long evenings?

Very, very hard to explain.

Something to do with the coming together of a powerful storyline (earthily human and wildly archetypal) with the music...

The music. Wagner's music. Describing the 'Wagner difference' would take a cleverer pen than mine: soaring, surging, most of the time far quieter than many imagine, earthy, airy, fiery - an irresistible river of sound.

Let's just say that it gets into the bloodstream. And you're never quite the same again.

Like a vampire? Er, I hope not.  Hyper-irritating Tristan and Islode, for example, and dreary old Parsifal leave me cold.

It's a Ring thing. Tragic, strange, funny, complicated, intensely human...

I'll be at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York City, this weekend, to start the journey all over again. Hello Wotan, hello gods, dwarfs, dragons and wild, whooping valkyries....

(All via the magic of HD digital broadcast to UK cinema screens.)

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