We are getting ready to see Wagner’s ‘Ring’. Just William, my 14-year-old son, and me: the rest of the family couldn’t be persuaded to join us at Covent Garden. I promise you it was William’s idea. I saw my first ‘Ring’ when I was still at school, so the attraction may be genetic.
The stories are intrinsically exciting, if told at inordinate length. With performances on four consecutive evenings, we have been immersing ourselves, as though for a religious festival with appropriate prayers to the goddess of comfortable seating. We shall be in the stalls circle, so far around the side as to be practically on the stage, level with Valery Gergiev; if over the brass section, I shall tremble for William’s ears.
I’ve seen several ‘Rings’ in my time, but not for decades. I wonder what we’ll find in it. The revolutionary ‘Rings’ of the 1970s (Götz Friedrich at Covent Garden, Pierre Boulez at Bayreuth) presented a critique of the capitalist system, although, even before the resurgent 1980s, it was difficult to believe the world as we knew it would end in a Götter-dämmerung. Now, who could miss the environmental subtext? For all trace of mankind to be swept off the world by an offended Nature seems all too likely.