Tuesday, June 08, 2010
(Read my performance reviews of Achim Freyer's Ring Cycle here.)
A double surprise, moving away from me as I finally dug my camera from my bag: public transportation in LA, and with culture on the back of it too. And I arrived over the weekend only to promptly stumble into a performance at UCLA of, of all things, the Missa Solemnis--a piece, it turns out, that is rendered even more awesome by the haze of jet lag.
In conjunction with the performances of the Ring at the Los Angeles Opera, seemingly every cultural institution in town is presenting something Ring-related under the umbrella of the "Ring Festival." You can't fault the LA Opera for lack of effort, it really feels like an event here (an event which unfortunately has failed to translate into great ticket sales).
However, the buzz has been dominated by accounts of the traumatic effects of the cycle on the LA Opera's budget. The financial health of the company is obviously a matter of great concern. It is important to ask whether they should have taken this project on in the first place. But it's a horrible shame if this talk completely overshadows the artistic side of things. No matter how they got to this point, or where they're going in the future, right now we have a big and important Ring to consider, and to judge the production based on its effect on the company rather than its own artistic merits is backwards. So this will be the last I will say about financial issues until after I have written about the whole cycle. The LA Times's exhaustive Ring guide will tell you about all these matters.
Today I visited one of the exhibits associated with the Ring Festival, "Myths, Legends, and Cultural Renewal: Wagner's Sources" at LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It's a small exhibit of art, mostly from the early to mid twentieth century, inspired by the Nibelunglied and other German myths. There are a few works by Achim Freyer from the development of his production. As well as being visually fantastic, the diversity of approaches reminds us how each school of artists visually reinvented these mythic themes (that's for all you partisans of the "timelessness" of Otto Schenk's Styrofoam rocks). My particular favorite was Carl Otto Czeschka's stunning Jugendstil illustrations for a children's book of the Nibelunglied, viewable online in full here.
The exhibit is wonderfully placed right next to a great collection of German expressionist art. The rest of the museum was fantastic too (though somewhat confusingly organized, it's strongest in Asian and twentieth-century European art), and shockingly empty. For a New Yorker it feels very strange to be so alone with such high-powered art. This is particularly weird because it was after 5:00, when entry is pay what you wish. Take advantage of your cultural institutions, LA! (Edited to add: The art-lovers are at the Getty. ALL OF THEM. It was mobbed on Tuesday morning.)
It all starts with Das Rheingold is tomorrow night. I'm very excited.