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Let’s put a Ring on it

You know how I like the piss taken out of Wagner and I haven’t indulged in a good while. But a Ring is being forged at ROH, so I must pay my homage. This time I’ve modestly just “curated” a few quips and occasional back and forths from Le Guardian, the beacon brightening up boring afternoons at work.

Shakespeare, perhaps the world’s first psychic opera critic, summed up The Ring Cycle perfectly: “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing” (bergisman)

Just stupid. (Markus6974)

Anyone who is able to respond with an open heart to music and drama loves the Ring. (Shrimpandgrits)

Wagnerians are nut jobs. (rouputuan)

As I have said, I am tone-deaf. (Shrimpandgrits)

I’ll give this one a miss. Seen the Ring Cycle twice, tried my best, but far too long, tho with some nice tunes. (tatterdemelon)

Wagner? No! Utter dross. Mozart, Rossini, Bizet, even Verdi or Puccini on a good day. But Wagner? He should have been writing musicals, Cats or Phantom of the Opera. Fine, if you like that sort of thing, but it isn’t opera. (Linda Roberts)

You don’t really know much about music, do you?1 (LevNikolayevich)

Linda, I’ve marked your comment:

‘Wagner?’ Yes. 19th century composer, musically speaking not that controversial in the 21st.
‘Utter dross’ If you mean worthless then no it’s not dross, I encourage you to look up how much tickets cost for this production. If you mean artistic dross then I would like you to explain further.
‘He should have been writing musicals, Cats or Phantom of the Opera’ Ah, a good stab at humour there.
‘Fine, if you like that sort of thing’ A little condescending perhaps but thanks!
‘but it isn’t opera’ well, you can label it whatever you like of course but as it generally has to be performed in an opera house with operatic singers then you’ll forgive people for calling an opera from time to time.

Your score:

Engaging with the subject: C
Encouraging people to listen to classical music: D
Ensuring people don’t think of classical music lovers as Snobs, Elitist, Close Minded: F2 (Henry Melbourne)

“Wagner – utter dross”

Doesn’t say anything at all other than you don’t like Wagner.

“….even Verdi or Puccini on a good day”

So not really a fan of Verdi either, not even Otello? I don’t know why you bothered coming here.3 (dwhitley)

This is such a poorly written article. It’s in desperate need of a decent sub editor. (Campagnolo)

They said the same to Wagner. (chris1958)

Some of my friends have sat through the Ring at Bayreuth, giddy from heat and discomfort. (Shrimpandgrits)

I had the ambition to try and ‘do the Ring’ for years and persuaded my spouse that we should give it a go…and it has turned out to be the greatest cultural experience of my life – no exaggeration! (PandaMonium13)

“You’d be surprised how calm and business-like it is”

I’m not surprised at all. Wagner’s Ring, is a huge, technical tour-de-force, a gargantuan gorging on one trumpet-blast after another mechanically melded into some pretty twittering and rustling cleverly connected to a dramatic dirge dovetailed into a bombastic blast of brother-sister incest and so on. Schubert’s Winterreise has more drama, musicality and artistic sincerity in an hour and a half, than the Ring’s sixteen hours of precision engineering. You have to be matter-of-fact to deal with it as a singer. People go to see the Ring like punters flock to motor shows. To be impressed and wowed. Not moved. (routputuan)


  1. knowing something about music won’t have an effect on one’s love or lack thereof of Wagner. 
  2. I have a special dislike for people who mark somebody’s comment like this. Talk about snobs, elitists etc. 
  3. I would say for someone who doesn’t like Wagner, Verdi’s Othello would be especially problematic. Why not say “don’t you even like La traviata?” After all, she said she could sit through Verdi “on a good day”. 

Revealed: why other people love opera

…but might have an issue with Madamina, il catalogo e questo and possibly Mozart comedy in general. Time to unsheath the sword.

I wish this blog was still active, because it’s a very different take than the kind the readers of this blog and I have and would have liked to engage. Though I rarely agreed, I found myself reading on because it is so different. Example:

The transcending appeal of the Ring Cycle can definitely be compared to that of the The Lord of the Rings books. A big reason why the latter became more than “just fantasy” in the public imagination was because of the beautiful film adaptations that came out in the early 2000s. They were made by someone  who loved the books. He spared no detail in making the movies, and almost by default they were amazing. It was a big story, and he wanted to do it right. (from Why do we LOVE the Ring Cycle?)

As a self described “opera lover” who doesn’t care about the Ring Cycle and who’s (unsurprisingly) suffered impatiently through the neverending journey into hobbit imminent annihilation maturity, I found the post interesting. Whenever something bores me to death I want to understand why anyone puts up with that sort of thing. I think the last two phrases sum up the appeal of both: lots of details, big stories.

People go nuts over the Ring Cycle. As in Woodstock crazy. It’s the kind of event that young opera lovers like me dream of attending. It is an initiation into opera craziness like nothing else. (from the same post as above)

Heh. I have one word for you: contraltos 2017 (one word made of two words 😉 ). No need for lavish sets. Someone pass around the rainbow bandanas 😉

So that’s a short write-up on why opera freaks love the Ring. If you want to be a “true” opera fan, it pays to at least check it out. Which leaves folks like myself and the Opera Teen who haven’t yet seen it in a weird spot. But that craving for the Ring Cycle lingers within us. We want to see it and experience it with a desire uncommon to most works of art. (from same)

legit trv kvlt.

Ring fandom is difficult to comprehend because the Ring is so far removed from all negative stereotypes associated with opera. (from same)

😀 😀 😀

As an audience member at the opera, I may  get bored if some prat in an opera is whining onstage about how many women his master’s slept with. (from The Billy Connolly Problem (or, Why Opera Is Boring))

Interesting. Someone can sit through a 50 hour plot recapping opera mini series but gets bored by one of the most hilarious arias out there (though her example is from the Met production; ’nuff said). To be fair, she goes on to say:

But if he’s emphasizing the repetition with his body, using the language as an acting tool and not just a script to sing out, entertainment is achieved. (from above post)

So the conclusion is, we need a good director+actor if the music is boring. Agreed here but poor Mozart. Seriously, people think that aria is boring?! She did sit through Come scoglio on a different occasion and her comment was:

Miah Persson is excellent as the (mostly) faithful Fiordiligi, but her aria is the Billy Connolly Problem incarnate. She plants herself on stage and never only seems to alter her facial expression twice throughout the entire number. In earlier and later scenes, Persson lends a gravity to her character that few could ever conjure. But in her aria, she settles into being a diva. (from Review: The Glyndebourne Festival’s Cosi Fan Tutti)

Heh. The aria is called Come scoglio, after all. I suppose the subtitles were on? Otherwise, I have a feeling google translate will side with Persson. Also it’s a comedy. Mostly. I think it might have been more of a comedy in the 1790s than it is now. But there is only so much serious in a libretto that centrally features boyfriends disguised with only ‘staches.

It seems to me that a certain part of the opera going public might need a bit of adjustment to comedy before 1800 (wait, was there comedy in the 1800s? Oh, yea, Rossini, Offenbach 🙂 sorry!).

This is definitely a fluffy Romantic opera

(from the post quote above)

This is why it’s good to read up on your opera before commenting. I hope she meant Romantic in the “Romantic comedy” sense. Because it’s definitely not a Romantic opera in the Verdi sense. Nor is it as fluffy as it may seem.

Captain (18th-Century-Opera) Obvious’ Mini Lecture

It’s funny to hear an opera seria aria sendup like Come scoglio in the middle of a comic scene. That’s what Mozart and DaPonte are doing, making fun of the upright opera sentiments (here costanza) come down from Papa Metastasio (changing mores are a very important reoccurring theme in Mozart operas). This is one of those meta moments when if she looks like she’s doing a shit job at acting she’s actually acting well.

(end lecture)

Then there’s the issue of repetition. I don’t think anyone who’s ever hummed a contemporary pop song has a leg to stand when complaining about someone else using repetition in music. Not that repetition is necessary a fail. Repetition is not only widely used  in all art but it appears in nature and, by extension, everyday life (don’t tell me you woke up today at the usual time, had a cup of coffee/tea and then went to work? Was this what you did yesterday? And the day before? Like, wow).

But! Remember Statira’s aria with the endless repetition of birds chirping? Even back in Vivaldi’s time they knew repetition could be used to amuse not just in earnest. Ponnelle here uses that trick brilliantly for Come scoglio (and Gruberova is just wonderful).

I can see how people who enjoy through composed opera may be adverse to the concept of simple tune. I mean, it is simple. After all, we’ve established earlier that LOTR is not just fantasy. It’s… complicated fantasy (ok, ok, there might not be any other kind 😉 ). Like one of those dreams in which you’re trying to get out of a building only to have one corridor turn into another and then another.

Whilst we’re on the Glyndebourne Così, check out Vondung’s ending to È amore un ladroncello. I did not expect her to end so well based on how she started but I found myself in love with her (repeated, ha) “così” at minute 2:45. Splendid sound, even aside from her dramatic commitment to a breathlessly satisfied Dorabella. Now that I think about it, “chiede” at minute 2:39-2:41 is great too. That’s how you do sexy vowel ending. She earned that cake!