The challenge of lighting Wagner's Ring

I knew it was going to be an unusual evening when, before the start of Das Rheingold, one of the musicians handed me a portable spotlight and asked me to help light the performance. We were sitting on Persian rugs arranged down the centre of a large tent, with the narrow gap between the carpets representing the Rhine (see picture above).

The Threepenny Ring Cycle was being performed at the 2006 Norfolk and Norwich Festival by the French music-theatre group Les Grooms (The Bell Boys), who are an offshoot of the Théâtre de l'Unité. The Bell Boys have taken one of the most monumental pieces in the history of music and made it their own. They have deconstructed Wagner's Ring, dissected it, carved it up, peeled away its layers, shuffled it around, tinkered with it, added some spice, condensed it, dusted it off and brought it up to date. Through this alchemy, the Bellboys have transformed and rejuvenated a piece of music that until now 99.9% of the world was allergic to.

The complete Threepenny Ring lasts for ninety minutes with a one minute interval, and is hugely enjoyable. But it is not just a fun piece. As the closing pages of Die Gottedamerung are reached the audience join Siegfried's funeral cortege and files out of the big top. But then there is a magical transformation from irony to veneration, and the music and genius of Richard Wagner shine through as the tent slowly collapses onto the performers to complete the immolation of their, and Wagner's, fantay world (photo to right).

Moments like this are rare in the theatre.

Image credit - Frans Brood Productions, Wagner Society NSW and BBC. Any copyrighted material on these pages is used in "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
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