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Wednesday, December 08, 2004
The Adelaide Ring Cycle: Rheingold

The Huntington Festival ended at about 2.00 p.m. on Sunday, 5th December. Immediately after lunch, clutching one of Kim Currie’s excellent doggy-bags, I drove some 1400 km, through the night with occasional rests/sleeps, back to Adelaide for the beginning of the last trio of acclaimed Ring cycles. The Adelaide City Council had arranged for local people to attend a free, live telecast of the productions in the adjacent theatre and I had, somehow, qualified as a local (it must have been the corks round the hat). Rheingold started at 2.00 p.m. on 6th and I have never been more grateful for the half hour’s time lag ’twixt South Australia and NSW. What a rush!

One loses some things with the telecast: the apparent tangibility of the sets, the presence of an enthusiastic, rather than curious, audience, the less than adequate sound and, of course, the incredible sense of occasion.

Nevertheless, one was able to grasp details of the production that have so entranced the critics: for example, the giant and vocally assured Alberich of John Wegner (even if I would have preferred the specified dwarf) with the Rhinemaidens plunging in and out of the ‘water’ so realistically. That’s just the opening.

Wotan, Fricka and co. seem to live in a large, tiled bathroom, reclining in their individual tubs, with a partial view of Valhalla but, never mind, it’s pretty fantastic – just the thing for The Ring.

Then there’s the transition from Wotan’s abode to Nibelheim: a brilliant use of the stage trapdoor. And with the final scene as the gods ascend to Valhalla, there’s no make-believe here: they really do walk across (up) a bridge/staircase. Already, one can sense being at a Ring Cycle of rare class. I was gripped from beginning to end, despite being desperately tired. The best bits are yet to come, according to the reviewers.

Regrettably, at least twenty of the – presumably curious and local – Adelaide audience walked out after varying lengths of time, from five minutes to an hour. Two and a half hours of non-stop Wagner is difficult but well worth the effort. In this case, the effort is repaid in spades; the 2004 Adelaide Ring has already resounded round the World.

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