Ring Cycle attracts opera freaks to Hs

Peter Gillette

The Music Performance House—also known as “the Hs”—hosted a viewing of Richard Wagner’s “Ring Cycle” last Saturday, beginning around 10 AM and ending somewhere near 5 AM Sunday, breaking only at 1 PM on Saturday for Renee DeBoer’s bassoon recital.Attendance fluctuated throughout the day, with about a dozen people being on hand at any given time, save for the wee small hours. Sophomore Ben Klein boasts of being the only person to stay up, awake, and glued to the TV screen until the bitter, tragic end.

Der Ring des Nibelungen is a cycle of four operas: Das Rheingold, Die Walkure, Siegfried, and Gotterdammerung. Borrowing from Norse and German legends, the plot is complex, lengthy, and often teeters on the fine line between the epic and the ridiculous.

Saturday’s festivities reflected that balance: the opera diehards weren’t above shushing the smart alecks when the often-sarcastic running commentary began to get in the way of the music appreciation.

Will Samson, tuba performance major and RLM of the Hs, maintained law and order throughout much of the event, as far as the shushing was concerned. Samson also planned much of the event. An Appleton native, his father came by to cook beer brats, and his mother baked a tray of peanut butter bars that—apologies to Wagnerites—were the true stars of the show.

Dr. Katz was the other non-musical attraction Saturday. Fulfilling his billing, Katz came by to “speak of the end of the world,” as the hyperbolic posters throughout campus promised. Katz’s guidance helped give context to the work, and introduce neophytes to some of the operas’ primary themes.

While opera tends to strike most modern audiences as boring, Saturday’s atmosphere seemed to be more WWF than Wagnerian. The Ring Cycle’s plot is full of testosterone-fueled gusto and battlefield glory.

Fittingly, Hs members fashioned a number of makeshift swords out of household items such as mops. At specified dramatic moments, the swords would come up in tandem to join in the glory of the Valhallan Gods.

Viewers also lifted a toy birdie whenever the bird would sing in the operas. Cries of “MONSTARR!!!! MONSTARR!!!!” would erupt from the crowd—Klein and Samson in particular—whenever the garish monsters would appear on screen, in the Met’s production (conducted by James Levine.)

Hs resident Nick Towns rewarded several of the Nibelungen diehards with Ring Pops near 11 PM. When at last Valhalla was destroyed, the adrenaline slowly faded, and life returned to a tired normalcy for a small but dedicated group of avowed opera freaks.