I had heard there were people who went gaga at this sort of thing, and I wanted to see if I was one of them. When Jeong-Hyeon offered me a free ticket to a dress rehearsal, I jumped at it.
I arrive early and wait for the doors to open, reading Moby-Dick. Two people in line comment how it’s one of their favorite books, too. Already I feel an initiate. The last guy says that the Ring and Moby-Dick are comparably great. It seems this is the start of an engaging conversation but the doors open and the current separates us, which is fine. I want to take this in alone, without the influence of another.
The footrace up the glossy marble steps is restrained; there aren’t many people competing. The problem, minor, is not to find a good seat but to choose from all available.
A sapphire sea swells on the scrim…how apropos as I sink back into Moby-Dick.
The orchestra is in street clothes. It’s nice to see their arms. The overture begins; the sea gives way to a redwood forest; a scurrying camera, music surging, I am a convert already. A house in the woods appears behind the scrim, Hunding’s house, with a Blonde pacing window to doorway, the image of Wrought. Sieglinde. The wounded Siegmund arrives. They discover they are long-lost Twins and fall in Love. Hunding returns, Complications and Complaints ensue, heroically sung. But I am distracted. What weird taste Hunding has. (I don’t think this would have been Sieglinde’s doing.) If my long-departed and less-lamented Uncle Swede had had a Man Cave, this would have been it, minus the decorative plates in the hutch and the hunting trophies; he was not that good of a shot. Two taxidermied deer heads jut from the wall, an owl and an eagle are perched on adjacent shelves. A wall hanging, exactly like the one Uncle Swede had above his recliner, depicts another antlered buck, on a boulder above a mountain lake. There is a bottle of Jim Beam on a sideboard. I have my binocs out.
Mission control, we have a Concept. Oh Dread!
The stupendous singers try to save the day. Especially Siegmund, a magnificent hunk with a voice that ripples through the house. Now the binocs rest on him. I’m back in the Boat, convinced of Everything.
Alas, there’s Sieglinde. Her voice is staggeringly beautiful but her acting is strictly staggering.
It is a great relief when the Twin Lovers, after drugging Hunding, run from that tacky House. I have my fill of decapitated Deer.
At intermission, with the curtain up, we can watch the stagehands assemble the next set. It looks put together like the Embarcadero Freeway after the earthquake, car tires littered about. The workers move in cluster. It is choreography the way they do it, hoisting, shoving, adjusting. They are almost all young, male, and intent. Bravo.
A voice behind me says, “Boy, can he project. Eat your heart out, Lady Gaga.”
Siegmund, I’m sure. What is his name? I check. Brandon Jovanovich. Brandon?
Act 2. We’re not on the freeway yet, but in a skyscraper in Valhalla. Brünnhilde swaggers, a hyperactive aviatrix. Wotan, her father and also the father of Siegmund and Sieglinde, has an eyepatch. Is there a back story or is this more Concept? Lots of backstory, but nothing about the eyepatch. Too much backstory, I am falling into the hands Morpheus, faculties dimmed, all but the editor/critic. Geez, he could have cut that. Fricka arrives, looking like a pigeon but singing so much better. She does have a point. Her denunciation of Adultery seems a bit suspect but she is right about the Incest thing; it’s a bit dicey.
Act 3, Siegmund is dead. I am waiting for the Battle Scenes. Wheeee! the Valkyies come parachuting in. They’re Wotan’s offspring, too but I’ve lost track of at what Level of Deity. I have parachuted away from the idea that I will feel something deeper, that I’m even meant to. Who’s knocking Fun?
The Ring of Fire surrounding Brünnhilde is a coup, big greedy Tongues of Flame. That’ll keep the Nogoodniks away and, if we’re lucky, not set the curtains on fire.
Curtain falls. Four hours and twenty minutes. I did it, I’m a hero. Applause is rapturous, raucous even, given the mostly empty house. The singers smile happily, and bow.