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Sing Faster: The Stagehands' Ring Cycle (1999)

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With its four operas, seventeen-hour running time and months of rehearsal, Wagner's "Ring Cycle" is a daunting undertaking for any opera company. Jon Else goes backstage to show this rare ... See full summary »


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Cast overview:
Kenneth 'Spike' Kirkland ...


With its four operas, seventeen-hour running time and months of rehearsal, Wagner's "Ring Cycle" is a daunting undertaking for any opera company. Jon Else goes backstage to show this rare event entirely from the point of view of union stagehands at the San Francisco Opera. Written by <unknown>

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January 1999 (USA)  »

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25 February 2006 | by (New York, NY) – See all my reviews

I have to rate this more highly than the other reviews though my experience with at least more primitive productions of Broadway musicals perhaps made it more interesting to me than to others.

Perhaps the device of having different stagehands narrating the Ring Cycle is rather artificial but it gets the information across. For the most part, we see dress rehearsals for the four "music dramas" from the crew's point of view though plenty of the music comes through even in highly fragmented form.

The names of the gods in the opera give the stagehands endless problems, especially Loge (logeh) which one man pronounces "lohzh" as in a theater section. Another simply says "Loki" which is the Norse form of the name. Similarly with Wotan who one of the grips calls "Wootan" and another calls Odin. (Should be pronounced as "Vohton" as far as I know but Odin is the Norse form of the name.) There is no doubt the work is backbreaking and very exacting and, during these rehearsals, the S-word is used liberally. Steam and fog machines cause a lot of trouble and, though the men play poker a great deal (the stakes look to be very low-grade.), at certain points during the scene changes, they become very active. In the death of the dragon, one young man especially has to push and pull to control the head.

The relationships between the grips and singers are often quite revealing and it is said that some of them are engaged to Rhinemaidens or Valkyries. In one instance, a "traffic manager" (or whatever) is singing, badly, along with the music whereupon Brunnhilde asks if he is being paid to sing.

Of course, I wonder how much of this is true or simply staged for the purposes of this documentary. Nevertheless I find it very revealing for what it is.

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