A reluctant ring of the changes
by Martin Bernheimer
Published: July 22 2007 14:53 | Last updated: July 22 2007 14:53
New Yorkers love their Ring, and they love a conservative projection of the mystic myth. While the rest of the world has been exploring modernist reinterpretation – often ridiculous and occasionally sublime – the Metropolitan Opera has clung, stubbornly and proudly, to let’s-pretend realism. For better or worse, it makes a tree look like a tree, a dragon sort of like a dragon. And validating old-school romantic conviction, James Levine has been enforcing spacious, leisurely, poetic grandeur in the pit for 21 years.
Now comes the shock. For the Lincoln Center Festival, the Met has imported a very different, much-travelled Ring from the Mariinsky Theater in St Petersburg, from the company the Soviets called the Kirov. This, for all practical purposes, and impractical purposes too, is Valery Gergiev’s Ring. It hardly adheres to the progressive strictures of Regietheater, a development dismissed by reactionaries as eurotrash. Still, it manages to defy tradition at every turn. If only it could do so with equal parts confidence and competence.
Suddenly I am not so bereft at missing this.