Monday, July 04, 2011

Going Gaga for Gotterdammerung

9AM Sunday morning at the San Francisco Opera, there was a huge line waiting for $10 standing room tickets for the 1PM matinee of "Gotterdammerung," the last opera in the third and final cycle of Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelungen." The word must have gotten out that the Zambello production conducted by Donald Runnicles was very special, since I hadn't seen a line like this for standing room since the late 1970s.

Having enjoyed all four operas in a patchwork cycle earlier in the run, I decided to join the crowds for the ultimate finale and had a wonderful time, although the "service dog" some crazy old woman had brought with her kept wagging its tail against my legs during Act 1 which was fairly distracting. (In the immortal words of Anna Russell, "I am not making this up.")

I stood in the top balcony next to the couple above with the Ringhead cap. They had already seen the cycle in seats, but decided to try standing room for the first time in 30 years. From all appearances, they managed the vertical five and a half hours with ease.

Besides the astonishing artistry of Nina Stemme as Brunnhilde fronting a strong cast and the San Francisco Opera Orchestra under Donald Runnicles playing their hearts out, the audience turned out to be one of the major components of these Ring cycles' success. Besides crazy ladies with service dogs, there were also young hipsters from the East Bay and Portland (above)...

...and smart, funny people who passed the time waiting in standing room lines reading the latest biography of Goebbels in German.

When the standing room rails became too crowded, Axel above would sit on the floor in the back of the balcony with the libretto listening to his own perfect production.

The serious trouper for the last six weeks was Charlise above, who attended most of the rehearsals and every one of the three cycles, and then wrote about about each individual performance at her Opera Tattler blog. She managed to do this while holding down a full-time day job, and there were rumors that she was being whisked off to a sanitarium directly following the end of "Gotterdammerung" to recover.

Congratulations to everyone, including the wonderful audience who managed to stay quiet until the last chord ended on Sunday. It was a legendary run, and people are going to be bragging about having seen one of these "Ring" cycles for years.

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