Richard Wagner had a way with a saga. Take, for instance, his famed Ring opera cycle, which is slated for performances in Flagstaff this week and next. Here's what you get: treachery and intrigue among the gods, an evil dwarf, stolen gold, a magic ring, a magic sword, giants, warrior women, incestuous brother-sister pairings producing epic heroes, dragons, forgetfulness potions, sacrificial pyres, the destruction and rebirth of the universe, and a spear and magic helmet (or, in the words of Elmer Fudd, a "speaw and magic hewmet"). Sound good? Perhaps a road trip to Flagstaff to see Arizona Opera's Der Ring des Nibelungen is in order.
The opera company's general director, Glynn Ross, and maestro Henry Holt were the forefathers of Seattle's outstanding annual presentation of Der Ring. The two presented Arizona's first production of the complete, four-opera cycle by Wagner two years ago. The sequence kicks off again with Das Rheingold at 8 p.m. Monday, June 1, and continues with Die Walkure at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 3, Siegfried at 7 p.m. Friday, June 5, and Gotterdammerung at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 7; the cycle then cranks up again on Monday, June 8, and continues though Sunday, June 14.
Based on Teutonic mythology, the vast work took Wagner 26 years of revisions and additions to complete. It's so monumental that it has its own horn, the Waldhorntuba or Wagner Tuba, designed especially for the work. The singular cycle received its 1876 premiere in a festival theater in Bayreuth built especially for the occasion by the spendthrift Ludwig II of Bavaria, apparently providing more justification for his nickname: "Mad Ludwig."
If you go, be careful--Woody Allen claims that after listening to an hour or so of Wagner, he always feels the urge to go invade Poland.
Der Ring des Nibelungen is performed in Ardrey Auditorium on the Northern Arizona University campus, Knoles and Riordan streets. The shows are sung in German, with English surtitles. Tickets for the whole shebang start at $135 and run as high as $675 (which includes a sizable tax-deductible donation to Arizona Opera); for individual performances, prices range from $34 to $169. 266-7464 (266-