Tuesday, May 08, 2012
The film Wagner's Dream is really more Lepage's Dream. Or maybe Peter Gelb's Dream.
At the beginning it is a toy that they are playing with. They are used to playing with acrobats and their toys and designing toys for them, and so how different can an opera be? The toy of a Rhine maiden cracks her head into the machinery, and no one seems to care.
The problem immediately becomes apparent, at least to me: they are used to working with people who are young and athletic. Their stand-ins all fall into this category. They are unclear on the concept of opera. When I see middle-aged, somewhat overweight stand-ins, I will understand that they are imagining Wagnerian singers playing these roles.
The Ring is an imaginary landscape. What other opera takes place primarily outside? It is an imaginary landscape of rivers, mountains, forests, caves and glens. The characters are heroes and immortal gods. In my imagination this would work best as a cartoon. There will always be a disconnect between the imaginary landscape and the reality of a production of The Ring. Lepage has tried to bridge this disconnect with his machinery, and it is fun to watch them all try.
And O they try so hard. So much work. I always enjoy watching other people work. For me it is very enjoyable to watch opera in production. I do miss it so. The best seat in the house for an opera is in the wings. It never looks like there is much space in the wings at the Met.
Dwayne Croft is the only one of the real singers that seems to be having any fun with this new concept. He laughs as he jumps from one piece of the set to another. The rest frown and look terrified. Eric Owens is openly hostile. If they are doing something daring and don't look terrified, it's probably the stand-ins. Acrobats cross the rainbow bridge.
I'm trying to make this clear: What is probably the farthest thing from an acrobat? Quick. This is a no-brainer. The farthest thing from an acrobat is a Wagnerian. No offense, guys. 50 is the right age for a Wagnerian. 25 is the right age for an acrobat. I assure you, none of these people work out on the flying trapeze with Natalie Dessay.
And for me that is the problem with Lepage's Ring. They never manage to stop looking terrified. It ruins the tension in the scenes. The emotion of the scene is replaced with terror. Jay Hunter Morris is the best at faking it.