Yes, you read that right - - the Salzburg Marionette Theatre did Wagner’s *Ring Cycle*. Thankfully only two hours of it, it was pruned down from its typical 17 hours of music. It was done in a little theater at the Met Museum, and I went with Richard and Karen and Bruce, and two of Richard’s coworkers. They all liked it more than I did. It wasn’t what I was expecting - - I thought it was going to be a staging of the operas using the marionettes, but it was only about two-thirds that, with the other third being a spoken narration by two actors, a little heavy on the shtick for my blood. It was geared more to children or people who aren’t so familiar with the operas, it wasn’t really for the die-hard Wagner fanatics like me.
But there was still plenty to like. They used the Solti recording, which is so darn glorious. The marionettes were extraordinary, so expressive in their movement, they really blew me away. The swimming of the Rhinemaidens was adorable - - they were tilted forward a bit, their arms and torsos pretty much still but their little feet kicking like mad. The Ride of the Valkyries was hilarious, they had the eight Valkyries in minidresses and go-go boots, doing a kick line - - laugh out loud funny. And there was one moment that was very touching, and so specific to the marionette format: Wotan puts Brünnhilde to sleep at the end of *Die Walküre*, takes away her godhood, and leaves her surrounded by a ring of fire on a mountaintop, where someday a hero will rescue her and marry her, now a mortal woman. This is how they staged it: the Brünnhilde marionette slowly sank to the floor, and the strings continued sinking down, followed by the wooden apparatus that the puppetmaster uses to maneuver the marionette. The wooden apparatus lowered down on top of her. It was such a powerful depiction of how powerless she was, and it brought a tear to my eye.
Happy holidays, everybody!