A groundbreaking new production of Wagner's Das Rheingold, the first installment in the composer's epic four-part cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen conducted by James Levine and directed by Robert Lepage, opens the Metropolitan Opera's 2010-11 season on Monday, September 27 at 6:45 p.m. The new production, which relies on a complex set that utilizes advanced technology, is the most challenging staging the Met has ever produced. Bryn Terfel brings his much-anticipated portrayal of Wotan, lord of the gods, to the U.S. for the first time, and Stephanie Blythe makes her Met role debut as his wife, Fricka. Eric Owens adds a new role to his Met repertory as the evil Alberich, and Gerhard Siegel is Mime. The cast also includes Wendy Bryn Harmer as Freia, Patricia Bardon as Erda, Adam Diegel in his Met debut as Froh, and brothers Richard Croft and DWayne Croft as Loge and Donner, respectively. It is the first time the brothers have sung together on the Met stage. The giants Fasolt and Fafner are portrayed by Franz-Josef Selig and Hans-Peter König, and Lisette Oropesa, Jennifer Johnson, and Tamara Mumford are the Rhinemaidens. Richard Paul Fink sings the role of Alberich on March 30.
Lepage's production team consists of set designer Carl Fillion, costume designer François St-Aubin, and lighting designer Étienne Boucher, the latter two in their Met debuts. The video images are by Boris Firquet, and the interactive projections are by the Quebec-based company Réalisations.inc.
Robert Lepage, one of the world's most creative directors of opera and theater, made his Met debut in 2008 with La Damnation de Faust. He and his production team bring cutting-edge technology and visionary imagination to Wagner's great music drama based on Norse mythology. "The Ring is about change," Lepage said. "I try to be extremely respectful of Wagner's storytelling, but in a very modern context. We're trying to see how in our day and age we can tell this classic story in the most complete way."
The unique set features 24 moving fiberglass-covered aluminum planks that rotate on a mobile steel axis suspended between two large elevator towers. Along with the set's extraordinary flexibility, projections are used to create the many different scenes and special effects of the four Ring operas. Interactive video projections are cued by live sound and movement. "It was important that we create a set machine that would have versatility, but at the same time feel very organic," commented Lepage.
The cycle's second installment, Die Walküre, opens later this season on April 22, and the Met will present the complete Der Ring des Nibelungen in the 2011-12 season. Das Rheingold is produced in collaboration with Ex Machina and is a generous gift of Ann Ziff and the Ziff family, in memory of William Ziff.
James Levine's 40th Anniversary at the Met
The 2010-11 season marks James Levine's 40th at the Met. The Met's music director has conducted nearly 2,500 performances with the company, more than anyone in the company's 127-year history. In addition to the opening night Das Rheingold, Levine conducts the Ring's second installment, Die Walküre, in a new production opening April 22. He also leads performances of Don Pasquale, Il Trovatore, Simon Boccanegra, and Wozzeck this season. The Met is honoring Levine's milestone anniversary with the release of two commemorative CD and DVD boxed sets of the music director's performances, nearly all of which have not been previously available. The collections, which will be available through the Met's website and in the Met Opera Shop beginning September 21, span Levine's unparalleled career at the Met, and include 11 complete operas in DVD, 11 complete operas on CD, as well as highlights from historic concerts.