Arts & Events

The Ring, Or Wagner as Scam Artist

James Roy MacBean
Saturday June 16, 2018 - 09:52:00 AM

Ernest Newman famously wrote of Wagner that “The ‘problems’ of his operas are generally problems of his own personality and circumstances. His art, like his life, is all unconscious egoism.” Discussing both Verdi and Wagner, Peter Conrad wrote that “For Verdi there is no god, so music must fill up the absence; for Wagner there is no god, so he must personally assume the role.” Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, currently mounted by San Francisco Opera in all its 17-hour glory mixed with tedium, (or is it tedium mixed with occasional glory?), is Richard Wagner’s arrogant attempt to rewrite the history of the world and cast it in his own image. Opening night of the first Ring cycle was Tuesday, June 12, for Das Rheingold. Two more complete Ring cycles will continue through July 1. -more-

SF Opera’s RING Cycle Ends with a Whimper

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Tuesday June 19, 2018 - 09:25:00 PM

In director Francesca Zambello’s revised staging of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, currently on display at San Francisco Opera, Die Götterdämerung, the final installment of this 17 hour marathon, ends with a nine year-old girl placing a potted sapling of an ash tree center-stage as the orchestral music fades. This is supposed to signify the beginning of a new era after the downfall of the gods. I don’t have much confidence that this ‘new’ era will be any different than the old. -more-

New: Wagner’s SIEGFRIED Is Hard to Take

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Tuesday June 19, 2018 - 09:20:00 PM

Act I of Wagner’s Siegfried has to be the most vile, mean-spirited act in all opera! It is one long, vituperative attack on an individual, Mime, the brother of Alberich, who in the course of this act reveals himself to be the ultimate stereotype of Wagner’s notion of the Jew. Mime is forever whining, and when he’s not whining, he’s wheedling for an opening to advance his greedy self-interest. What is perhaps even worse, Siegfried, the ostensible hero of this opera and of the entire Ring cycle, epitomizes just how Wagner believes Jews should be treated, which is utterly beyond contempt. -more-

DIE WALKÜRE Reaches THE RING’s High Point

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Saturday June 16, 2018 - 09:56:00 AM

On Wednesday, June 13, San Francisco Opera opened Die Walküre, the second in Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelungen. Unlike the other operas in The Ring, which often get bogged down in tedious exposition, Die Walküre soars from beginning to end. Act I of Die Walkure presents the love of Siegmund and Sieglinde. Wagner, the ultimate narcissist, depicts the ideal love as one between twins separated early in childhood. In other words, for Wagner, the ideal love is for someone as much like himself as possible. Thus, when Siegmund and Sieglinde meet, it is love at first sight. -more-

MTT Makes A Mish-Mash of Mussorgsky’s BORIS GODUNOV

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Tuesday June 19, 2018 - 09:36:00 PM

One thing I certainly won’t miss once Michael Tilson Thomas steps down as music director of San Francisco Symphony is his misguided penchant for gussying up the music with ill-conceived visual effects. Yet again MTT hooked up with Los Angeles-based video artist James Darrah, this time in three performances, June 14-17, of the opera Boris Godunov by Modest Mussorgsky. What MTT finds in the work of James Darrah I simply can’t fathom. I find Darrah’s video embellishments of classical music and opera puerile at best, and often quite distracting. (The one time I found Darrah’s imagery effective was in the semi-staged production of Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes.) This time around, with James Darrah serving as both video artist and director, we were subjected to Darrah’s usual overuse of the Davies Hall aisles for gratuitous entrances and exits of the singers, plus Darrah’s random and extraneous video imagery. (The only image that fit the story of Boris Godunov was Darrah’s inclusion of what looked like Russian Orthodox saints depicted in frescos on the walls of a monastery near Moscow; and even with these images, why in the world did Darrah abruptly switch them from color to black and White?) As I’ve said many times before, it’s a pity MTT won’t let the music simply stand on its own. -more-

The Berkeley Activist's Calendar, June 18-23

Kelly Hammargren, Sustainable Berkeley Alliance
Saturday June 16, 2018 - 11:14:00 AM

June 26 City Council meeting is available for comment email -more-