Los Angeles Opera has just concluded its performances of Wagner’s Ring Cycle. It was the first Ring produced by the opera company and cost over 30 million dollars, including a 14 million emergency loan by the City Council.
Artistic director Placido Domingo and music director James Conlon said it would put Los Angeles Opera on “the map,” as doing The Ring seems to signal that a company has arrived. Whether or not the performance succeeded in generating the desired and hoped for interest in the company remains to be seen. But we must give them a gold star for trying.
As part of The Ring events, Los Angeles Opera organized events around the city desigend to draw attention to The Ring. One such project was Das Barbecu, a mediocre musical at best, performed by the ambitious Musical Theatre Guild at the Alex Theatre in Glendale on June 14th.
Part of the problem with Das Barbecu is that to appreciate it as satire the audience member really needs at least a passing knowledge of the story of The Ring, particularly the opera’s final chapter, "Gotterdammerung," in which Valhalla (the home of the gods) is destroyed, along with many of its characters.
The musical came out of a commission by Speight Jenkins, the general manager of the Seattle Opera that has been doing The Ring for years. The result is a musical set in Texas -- with Valhalla being the estate of the head rancher (Woton equivalent) -- and only involving five singers playing all of the roles. This economy provides many laughs, and the actors have a chance to shine playing several roles. The fourth actor, for instance, played Woton but also Gunther, Hagen, Texas Ranger, and Giant. Shine they did and featured some of the best acting and singing I have heard at The Musical Theatre Guild presentations.
The cast included Melissa Fain, Pamela Hamill, Shauna Markey, Gordon Goodman and Stuart Ambrose. Everyone in the cast has truly exceptional voices and displayed a keen sense of comedy; they were totally committed to the story and the music. Ken Sawyer directed with great skill and imagination. Ed Martel was the musical director. Leslie Stevens provided the minimal yet entertaining choreography.
Too bad I didn’t like the piece better but it was presented in a first class manner with great direction and a terrific cast. Ironically, the audience received Das Barbecu much like The Ring was received downtown, with great reservation.
Das Barbecu was presented on June 14th at the Alex Theatre.