Richard Wagner´s epical Tetralogy "The Ring of the Nibelungs" is the most ambitious and trascendent work in the history of opera, a marvelous and complex, long dramatic musical narration made up of a prologue ("The Rhine Gold") and three so-called "journeys" ("The Walkyrie", "Siegfried" and "The Twilight of the Gods"). Uncut it lasts about 16 hours in four days, and is offered that way not only in Bayreuth but in several big theatres of the world, although the Colón, for reasons of singers´ stamina limitations, indeed cuts at least an hour, which leaves gaping holes in the narrative. To put on the complete "Ring" in a season marks the strength and organization of a theatre; the Colón could do it in the Sixties, in recent decades it has been reduced to two at a time, or even one at a time, and the last one was interrupted after "The Walkyrie".
The "Ring" is an instant bestseller worldwide, one of the hottest tickets, a sure sign that even in these twitter days there´s still lots of people that appreciate huge sagas; the Tolkien craze is another. But the current Colón sees fit to hitch on to an absurd and sad parody, the "compacted Ring". I can´t believe that Cord Garben, producer for Deutsche Grammophon of New York´s Metropolitan Opera´s "Ring", should team with the outrageous great-granddaughter of Richard, Katharina, who will be the producer (current Co-Director of the Bayreuth Festival, where she is insulting the composer´s memory with each new production), but those are the facts. Garben made the condensation to seven hours that is supposed to celebrate the bicentenary of the composer´s birth in 2013.
There have been in recent years several projects of another type: the telescoping of the best symphonic fragments of the "Ring" and of other Wagnerian operas, even taking some vocal fragments and eliminating the voices, so as to make from the original operatic materials huge symphonic poems; it certainly doesn´t replace the operas, but the desire to wallow in the magnificent melodies and harmonies imagined by Wagner without having to follow the text is comprehensible in symphonic fans. And in fact, several were played by our National Symphony. I don´t mind, as long as I can have the operas done as they should. But the "compacted Ring" is nothing of the kind, even admitting Garben´s expertise in this repertoire. Of course I haven´t heard it, nobody has, but the idea is in itself a terrible one. For Wagner´s huge canvas has to have breadth, detail and density to produce its full effect, and the music is a fantastically intricate maze of Leitmotiven (leading motives) which hold together the tremendous edifice. Any cut diminishes it, but cuts of the gigantic length proposed (nine hours less) will give us a barebones Wagner.
The idea is obnoxious anywhere, but particularly here. It will be presented in Berlin, a city that often sees the complete "Ring", so at least there they have a choice: those that are appalled by the idea will simply not go. But here… It means that the "compacted Ring" is all we are going to have for quite a few years, for in typical fashion I can see some ignoramuses saying that we´ve already had the "Ring", let´s leave a complete "Ring" for the far future. But the last time we had an almost complete "Ring" was in the lapse 1995-98! The great disruptions of the Colón´s productivity and current news about off-Colón production certainly aren´t good signs for Wagnerites, and they should strongly oppose this disastrous project. Because it´s wrong and because we have been neglecting Wagner for too long.
If the Colón wants to do something worthwhile next year, let it put on "The Mastersingers", an absolute masterpiece absent since 1980. "Parsifal" in 2013 (last, 1986!), and start in 2014 a new Ring, two a year. And in 2016, "Tannhäuser" (last, 1994). This would be a decent rehabilitation plan.
Pedro Pablo García Caffi, by the time this article is published, will have signed in Berlin the right to have the world premiere of the "compact Ring" on November 27 at the Colón. Cecilia Scalisi is the coordinator. From there the project will go out on world tour during 2013, the year of Wagner´s bicentenary. The bright marketing idea is supposed to put the Colón in the news. Of course the project is another sign of the degradation of Europe but there´s no reason for us imitate the worst of Europe if we have some artistic sense. And some talent for long-term planning. Can this be stopped yet? or cancelled? I hope it is.For Buenos Aires Herald