The Machine

My grandparents used to refer to their car as "the machine." At the Metropolitan Opera, it has a very different meaning.

I want to state upfront that I'm just an ordinary audience member with a newfound and growing passion for Wagner but no particular expertise. I did my first Ring cycle at the Met the last year of the Otto Schenk sets, and I'm glad I had the chance to experience them. When I heard that Robert Lepage would be directing the next Met production of Wagner's Ring cycle, I went to see La Damnation de Faust. I admired the sets and loved the music.When the new productions of Das Rheingold and Die Walkure were presented in the 2010-2011 season, I saw them both. In terms of the set, while I liked the concept, I had some concerns about the execution.

When I go to the opera, I want to listen to the music. I object--strongly--to anything that interferes with my listening pleasure, including people talking, people humming along with the orchestra, cell phones going off, and sets that make a lot of noise. More than once I looked around to see where the irritating noise was coming from and realized it was the set.

Now that I've finished my second Ring cycle, I have some questions. (I'm not really expecting an answers.)

Das Rheingold, April 26, 2012 8:30 p.m.

Adam Klein covered the part of Loge (and he did it very well, in my opinion). I couldn't help but wonder how much time, if any, the singers covering for the cast get to spend on the machine. Loge has to walk up backwards, and at one point has to walk across the top of the set with Wotan, both of them attached to wires. It looked like Loge slipped,

Stephanie Blythe, who truly is a goddess, as far as I'm concerned, besides playing one (Fricka), reached out and took Bryn Terfel's (Wotan's) hand at the very end, as they were walking up the planks, which were rising as they were walking. Totally in character as Fricka, Wotan's wife, but was Ms. Blythe also scared--no, that's not the r ight word, I can't imagine Stephanie Blythe being scared--let's say concerned--was Ms. Blythe concerned about the movement of the machine. I wouldn't blame her if she was.

Why is Fasolt's dead body rolled down into whatever is beneath the machine? The program notes state that, "[t]he gods are horrified," when Fafner kills his brother. But when Fasolt's body rolled down the set people around me were laughing.

Die Walkure, April 28, 2012 11:00 a.m.

Why must Brunnhilde be UPSIDE DOWN at the end? The man sitting next to me suggested that Wotan was looking down at her from on high, but I'm not sure that I buy that. Especially since she is no longer upside down when Siegfried rescues her (Siegfried, Monday, April 30, 2012 6:00 p.m.)

Gotterdammerung, May 3, 2012, 6 p.m.

When the Norns are weaving the rope of destiny, why are some of the planks on the set whirling around? I was a nervous wreck watching that scene.

Can we talk about what I believe is known as the Immolation Scene? I was waiting for the people on stage to start toasting marshmallows and switch from Wagner to campfire songs. Major anti-climax.

Finally, I have one question that does not relate to the staging. Siegfried, wearing the Tarnhelm to transform himself into Gunther, says his sword will lie between him and Brunnhilde for the night. But Brunnhilde knows Siegfried's sword, Nothung. In fact, in another scene she proclaims that she knows that sword; it was hanging in its sheath on the walla the night Siegfried made her his. So why didn't she recognize Nothung and wonder how "Gunther" (Siegfried in disguise) came to have it?

I'm hoping to go to Seattle next summer for their Ring cycle. I'd really like to see some other productions. I fear we'll be stuck with the Lepage set for a very long time--probably my lifetime. The Met has invested a lot of money in it. What does it say when there is a tee shirt, a hat, and a magnet devoted to the set? O.K., there's a stick figure of Wotan with a spear on top ot it, but it looks like the set is the star. I think that's what has troubled me all along; the set doesn't feel like a set, it's more like a character in the opera.

On the Met store table, along with the new set apparel, there was a puzzle featuring the old set. I almost bought it.