Last night, the Metropolitan Opera premiered its lavish new production of Richard Wagner's Das Rheingold (the first opera from the four-opera cycle The Ring). The $16 million production features a specially-designed set that worked well—up until the very end.
The AP described the set as having a "45-ton metal structure consisting of 26-foot towers at either end of the stage with a horizontal bar running between them that supports 24 [independently moving] planks. The planks move independently, rotating in any direction or bending in the middle so that they can take on an almost infinite number of shapes and angles. With the help of computerized projections, they morph into the waters of the Rhine one moment, trees in a forest the next, a staircase, an underground cavern, or the hands of a giant." (Plot of Das Rheingold here.)
However, last night, the set had a little issue: According to Metropolis, "The Met confirms that the final set move didn’t happen — which left the actors looking at an abstract rainbow instead of walking off toward Valhalla." Still, critics and opera goers are raving about the production: The NY Times' Anthony Tomassini writes that it was "an inventive, fluid staging and a feat of technological wizardry that employs sophisticated video elements without turning into a video show" and conductor James Levine, who is recovering from health issues, drew a "splendid performance" from the orchestra" while Pat Kiernan said it was "stunning" but he would have liked an intermission (the nearly three-hour opera was performed in Wagnerian fashion—sans break). You can check out more chatter about the performance on opera blog Parterre.
There are three more performances of Das Rheingold in the next week and a half, and then two more next year, which will then see the second opera of the Ring-cycle, Die Walküre (also known as the opera that brought of us "The Ride of the Valkyries," whose place in pop culture is ensured by Francis Ford Coppola and Bugs Bunny, with Deborah Voigt as Brunhilde).