Wagner’s Ring Cycle – complete – in Ealing !

Ask any opera buff whether there is a fully-staged production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle in London this year, and they will confidently tell you that there isn’t one.  They will be wrong. You only need to travel to North Ealing to experience the whole great cycle, on four consecutive evenings – August 18th to 21st – with world-class singers and a peerless orchestra, in a lavish and realistic production.   St Barnabas Church PCC is indeed presenting the complete cycle from August 18th to 21st !   So if you need your annual ‘fix’ of a fully-staged Ring, there is no need to travel to Bayreuth or Seattle – come to Ealing instead.

Of course, we will be watching a fabulous recording of the cycle, emanating from the Met, New York, from about 1990, in high quality sound and vision.   Full practical details are on www.barnabites.org/wagner-ring-cycle/ .    There is no need to book tickets, each opera will cost £10, and delicious food will be provided in the intervals.  In fact, the church has been showing operas now for 5 years, with about 55 performances covering most of the core opera repertoire.   The operas have given huge pleasure to many local people, particularly the elderly who would be unlikely to travel to Covent Garden, the Coliseum or Glyndebourne, and have raised funds for the church.  The format really does work supremely well in practice.

I am a huge fan of ‘canned opera’.   The advantages over the ‘live’ experience are self-evident and too numerous to list, but include better singing, better vision, (usually) better sound, more ease in reading surtitles and no risk of singers cancelling because of a sore throat !  These are discussed in detail in a previous blog post http://www.hughmather.uk/wordpress/the-advantages-of-home-opera/ .   I accept that there can be an extra ‘frisson’ of excitement with a live performance, but this usually turns into a massive frisson of irritation with modern productions.    Watching ‘canned opera’ at home on one’s own can be a solitary and lonely experience, whereas being part of an audience experiencing an opera together, as at St Barnabas, is enormously enjoyable.

All opera houses regard staging the Ring as their ultimate challenge –so St Barnabas PCC thought that it would take up this challenge as well !  It is a gamble, since many opera-lovers find Wagner very difficult, as do a surprising number of musicians, so we may struggle to find an audience.  I am always amazed that so few young instrumentalists, for example, seem to know any opera in general, and Wagner in particular.   And various friends who are superb musicians, particular (it seems) those with a choral background, seem allergic to what they regard as ‘overblown’, ‘emotionally incontinent’ music !   Perhaps it depends on one’s psychological make-up.   I think the excessive vibrato of many Wagner singers is a potent factor in their distaste – this is indeed a problem and needs its own blog post.   And it takes a certain amount of work to absorb the leitmotifs and the convoluted story of the cycle.   I was given the Solti set of LPs as a Christmas present by my wife around 1980, and spent whole weekends listening the music while following the turgid libretto, line by line.  Now it’s much easier to absorb the operas, watching them on DVDs instead.   Robin Duval is giving an illustrated lecture on the Ring Cycle on the preceding Sunday evening at 7 pm to help people who are new to the Ring.   He is considerable expert on Wagner, and this should be an excellent introduction.   More details again are on www.barnabites.org/wagner-ring-cycle/ .

The rewards are indeed great.  One can’t be neutral about Wagner – either it leaves you cold, or it completely knocks you over !  Your first Wagner ‘trip’ – particularly Tristan, Walküre or Götterdämmerung – can be a ‘rite-of-passage’ experience – a veritable life-event.     The cumulative emotional impact can be overwhelming.  It really does, like Heineken, reach parts which other (composers) don’t reach, although I don’t think I should be too specific as to what they might be.  One is left in awe of the genius of Wagner himself – regardless of his considerable personal failings.

So come along and enjoy Wagner’s Ring Cycle in August, whether you know the cycle intimately or not.  I am hoping that at least some people might have their ‘rite-of-passage’ experience in St Barnabas Hall in mid-August !   If you are already a Wagner fan, do come along – and please tell your friends.  It will be a mind-blowing experience, and certainly the cheapest Ring Cycle you will ever experience.  Come and be part of this special occasion.





Author: hmather@btopenworld.com

Organizer of classical concerts at St Mary’s Perivale and St Barnabas Ealing. Pianist, organist and retired physician

5 thoughts on “Wagner’s Ring Cycle – complete – in Ealing !”

  1. Err, any ‘opera buff’ would’ve been at Opera North’s stunning Ring Cycle at the Festival Hall 3 weeks ago. Or do productions from the provinces not count?

    Having said that, I wish this production every success.

    1. Thanks for your comment, and apologies for the delay in replying. You are right, of course, re Opera North’s Ring, which by all accounts was superb, but I did put ‘fully staged’ production rather than semi-staged, as a let-out clause. Having said that, the last ROH Ring, with the production by Keith Warner, would hardly count as ‘fully staged’ !

  2. Dear Hugh, Felicity and Valiant Team

    Well, I am definitely a new convert//addict, (aged 66) having had an overwhelming “Rite of Passage” over the last 3 days! (I thought I could only come to the 2nd one, but then cancelled everything to come to the 3rd and 4th….!) Thank you SO much!

    I must confess I had always rather stereotyped and sidestepped Wagner ….imagining lots of heroic striding about and humourless declaiming – but had absolutely not expected the subtlety, humour, pathos, complex characterisation and sheer emotional intelligence….all of which, of course, is excellently-served by the close-ups …..(I echo all that you say about the advantages of film.)

    Re the problems Wagner often raises …. creative geniuses (genii?) are often not pleasant or easy people, and amazing works of art may inspire all sorts of people to hijack them for their own ends……..but (I would argue) that doesn`t mean we can`t still appreciate them.

    I could go on at length, but will keep this (mercifully) short – my faithful laptop is already red-hot with Googling about everything and everybody in this brilliant Met production. { Wotan (or perhaps Hagen) for next P M , by the way………..?!} Huge thanks to you all……Sue

    1. Thank you for your kind and perceptive reply, Sue. I remember my first encounter with Walkure and Gotterdammerung as unforgettable experiences, and am delighted that you had your ‘rite of passage’ experience as well ! We had 34 people who came to all four operas, most of whom had never seen it before, and all were similarly thrilled. It was a very worthwhile project. Not sure how to cap it in future years ! BW

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