Riding Back into ‘The Ring,’ with Opera Santa Barbara at the Lobero
OSB Continues with Wagner’s ‘Ring’ Cycle, the Abridged Version, with ‘The Valkyrie’
Following the idea that an opera company can’t say it has truly arrived until it takes on the challenge of Wagner — and particularly Wagner’s daunting Ring cycle — Opera Santa Barbara (OSB) is “arriving,” by practical and doable degrees. When OSB presents The Valkyrie (Die Walküre), at the Lobero Theatre for a single afternoon performance on Sunday, April 23, it will be two years after the company’s first step into the Ring, with Das Rheingold in the still-COVID era of June 2021.
The Ring of the Nibelung can present a formidable task for companies and audiences, as a definitively epic peak in opera history with shades of controversy attached. By contrast, OSB’s Ring of choice is the more accessible abridged version created by British composer Jonathan Dove. The “Dove Ring” premiered in 1990 and has since grown wings globally, been produced widely, and now stretches into the 805.
This Ring chapter turns out to be more naturally popular than others in the cycle, partly due to a certain “greatest hit” contained in its score/story: The driving “Ride of the Valkyries” is a public earworm thanks to use in Apocalypse Now and Bugs Bunny. The opera also introduces the heroic and mythical character of Brünnhilde (soprano Alexandra Loutsion), daughter of god Wotan (baritone Wayne Tigges). Tenor Robert Stahley and soprano Julie Davies appear as lovers Siegmund and Sieglinde.
Drawing on resourceful means, LED lights, and generally sensory-engaging goals, Crystal Manich returns in the directorial role she began with the 2021 Das Rheingold, and intrepid OSB head Kostis Protopapas conducts a chamber-like 20-piece orchestra for this production.
Protopapas has described this slenderer Valkyrie as “two hours of Wagner’s richest and most accessible music, and we have a dream cast. Whether you’re a lifelong Wagner fan, or this is your first Wagner opera, you will be moved by the story and transported by the music.”