With much media attention, but little celebrated fanfare; the dedicated and hard-working Metropolitan Opera stage crew reportedly disassembled and loaded for transport perhaps the most talked about set in Met history: “The Machine”. Its 24 articulating half-diamond shaped planks are to be housed in a warehouse somewhere in upstate New York for an indefinite period of time. Until now, the most recently “most talked about” set at the Metropolitan Opera (but coming in a distant second place by comparison) was that of the three separate gigantic, and rather beautiful, sets that served as the back-drop for Puccini’s Il Trittico…a production that I sang in twice (Il tabarro) in the last handful of years. It was considered the largest set(s) to have ever occupied the stage of this august arts facility, requiring some 18 tractor-trailer trucks for transportation. The difference is that it was believed that the sets from the latter firmly enhanced the underlying music/drama that Puccini so perfectly embedded into his operas. In the case of “The Machine”, this was less than the majority opinion; with everyone entitled to their own perception.
The effect of “The Machine”, as opined by many, has almost overshadowed the glorious singing, acting, conducting, and instrumental expertise that was so clearly evident and on full display for the past three seasons as the Metropolitan Opera presented Richard Wagner’s time-shifting masterpiece, Der Ring des Nibelungen. The magnificent casts of singing actors dominated this music-drama in ways that may never be equalled…at least until the next rendering on as major a scale comes down the pike. Let us never forget that the reason opera companies commission such productions, whether controversial, loved or hated, or otherwise, is because of scores and libretti that scream for such. I can hardly speak to the cost of this recent Met production (way above my pay-grade), or its impending hiatus from the company’s schedule in the out-years. All I can say is that I was happy to be a small part of this production, aware of a nod toward history, and to be amongst such talented and gifted colleagues.
There isn’t a major musical arts institution that doesn’t dream about bringing The Ring to fruition. One such organization is currently working on its casting for what may well be the most serious and sublime of ‘Ring’ recordings and presentations in recent times. I am not at liberty to speak to this matter at this moment; but one thing is for sure…
The Ring will Cycle itself anew…you can count on it!!