Even Better Than “The Avengers”: Take A One-Hour Journey Through Richard Wagner’s “The Ring Cycle”

by • May 14, 2012 • MusicComments (0)1757

OK, it might not be as immersively enjoyable for some people as watching The Avengers, but earlier today I found this incredible one-hour-plus performance of Richard Wagner‘s (1813-1883) The Ring Cycle, and it’s helped turn what would have been a desk-ridden Sunday night into an epic feast for the ears.  I had always heard about Wagner’s Ring Cycle, but up until today I had never fully appreciated the scale and importance of it.  Earlier this afternoon I was talking to my friend Marc who explained how the complete Ring Cycle is actually a massive work, made up of a total of four operas which Wagner intened to be performed in sequence back-to-back:

1. Das Rheingold (The Rhine Gold)
2. Die Walküre (The Valkyrie)
3. Siegfried
4. Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods)

The problem with this (or no problem at all, depending on who you are) is that a full performance of the Cycle would require a total of four subsequent nights at the opera, with a total play length of about 15 hours (depending on the conductor’s pacing). The first and shortest opera, Das Rheingold, typically lasts two and a half hours, while the final and longest, Götterdämmerung, takes up to five hours, excluding act breaks.  In the following performance, conducted by Lorin Maazel, the running time comes in at just over one-hour and fifteen minutes.  I’m no expert, but I’m assuming this is some sort of condensed version, because in the YouTube notes it explains that all 4 operas are touched on here.  The performance is spectacular, and worth every single second, but now it’s inspired me to someday see the complete Cycle live in its entirety (NOTE: renowned director and all-around creative genius Robert Lepage recently unveiled a critically acclaimed interpretation of ‘The Ring Cycle’ at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, and you can read the glowing review by visiting The New York Times).

To learn more about this extraordinary creation which took Wagner approximately 26 years to write (from 1848 to 1874) CLICK HERE.  And for your added viewing pleasure I’ve attached a gorgeous commercial from Levi’s 2011 advertising campaign entitled “Go Forth” which used a portion of Das Rheingold in its soundtrack.  Enjoy!

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