SOME RINGS ARE FREUDIAN
Some Rings are Freudian, some are sung
inspired by the work of Jung;
some are Christian and their sparks
have been attributed to Marx.
Wagner, who was hardly modest,
was neither Christian nor a Buddhist,
yet some productions of the Ring
may do the Christ or Buddha thing
with great success, and in my view,
you could sing Wotan as a Jew,
on Wagner such revenge the sweetest
by Semites who are not defeatist,
for even were he Jewish, he might,
like many Jews, be anti-Semite.
One thing is certain, Rings are all
of the above, not one, and call
for an imagination greater
than any craven adulator
of Jung or Freud or Marx or Christ
might think, because to be enticed
by narrow theories when producing
Wagner’s Ring involves traducing
the fact that it is polysemic.
Provided they are not anemic,
productions may be varied as
the riffs on poetry and jazz,
not fixed in stone, but lordly rings
for poets, not pedantic kings.
The bottom line is: don’t be certain
before the cue to raise the curtain,
for you can surely do without
The Ring if you’ve no room for doubt.
Diane Haithman, in the LA Times, February 15, 2009, writes about Achim Freyer, the 74-year old German artist who is the director of LA Oper’s Ring Cycle:
Achim Freyer this bearded, 74-year-old German, sporting black Converse-style sneakers and a swirling meringue of white hair, has become––with all apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien––L.A.'s new Lord of the "Ring." Now you see him, now you don't; he's tweaking the seam of a big-shouldered overcoat or painting red veins on the white of an enormous eyeball. Freyer's daughter Amanda, who serves with her father as costume designer, is also busy in the backroom with a brush. Freyer's mission: to create a timeless world for Wagner's epic that pays homage to its distinguished history yet rejects all previous staging conventions. "We have so many technical things that Wagner did not have," he says….For his part, L.A. Opera music director James Conlon––who counts among his credits nine Wagner-heavy years as chief conductor of the Cologne Opera in Germany––is confident that Freyer is capable of creating the "timeless, placeless place" in which the "Ring," Conlon believes, must exist. "I think the power of myth always goes beyond the mundane," the conductor says. "The biggest cliché of the last few decades has been to reduce the subject to a specific. "I've seen Marxist 'Rings,' Freudian 'Rings,' Jungian 'Rings,' 'Rings' in tuxedos––all the things that in the '50s and '60s were considered rebellious are clichés now," Conlon continues. " 'The Ring' is Freudian and it's Jungian and it's Marxist and it's Keynesian and Buddhist and Christian––it's all of those things, but not one of those things." Another of Conlon's "Ring" requirements: that the visuals not upstage the opera. Although he does not name names, he says that film or stage directors who occasionally drop in to stage an opera often forget that. "In the case of Achim Freyer, he has lived with opera as a part of his culture––he's not someone who's 'dropping in' on 'The Ring,' " Conlon says. "The drama is in the music." Freyer agrees––but among his many dreams is to stage a "Ring" without music, with actors speaking Wagner's text to emphasize its poetry. He'd also like to stage Dante's "Divine Comedy" someday and has his eye on mounting "Les Chants de Maldoror" (The Songs of Maldoror), a poetic French novel about an evil misanthrope consisting of six cantos written between 1868 and 1869 by the Comte de Lautréamont. The work has been cited as an inspiration by Surrealist painters including Salvador Dalí and Marcel Duchamp. "I have only dreams," Freyer says––not a wistful suggestion that there are many things in life he can only dream of but instead an assertion that there's no room for anything less than dream-worthy in his life.
© 2009 Gershon Hepner 2/16/09