What sells 34,000 tickets, generates $39 million in total economic activity, draws thousands of fans from all 50 states and 22 countries, requires a staff of 500 to execute, and takes over 15 hours to experience?
No, it’s not the Super Bowl, a Rolling Stones concert, or a NASCAR race.
Though it’s every bit as exciting, loud, and live.
It’s Seattle Opera’s epic, sold out production of Richard Wagner’s DER RING DES NIBELUNGEN, mounted once every four years and coming back for 2013 (coincidentally, the bicentenary of Wagner’s birth as well as Seattle Opera’s 50th anniversary) next month.
First produced by the company in 1975, the cycle is a Seattle tradition and has now sold out every time it has been mounted since 1995.
The current version, known as “Ring III” or “the Green Ring” for its intricate staging of natural beauty, has been in circulation since 2001 and will likely be retired after this year’s run.
As the Emerald City battens down the hatches during the final week before the August onslaught, here are some quick numbers to help appreciate the intergalactic scale of this event.
The Marion Oliver McCaw Hall at Seattle Center seats 2,843. If past attendance is any predictor, that’s how many people are going to be there each night for 12 nights this August, as the four part RING plays three different times in entirety.
82% of sales are made up by the full RING (i.e., seeing all four operas in the cycle). In other words, some 6,000 – 7,000 people will see the entire cycle.
Tickets range in price from $20 (standing room) to $325.
Opera fans from all continents (except Antarctica; come on, people – man up!) will be represented, with some coming from as far away as China, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, and South Africa.
According to Jonathan Dean, Seattle Opera’s Director of Public Programs and Media, the RING is quite simply “the hardest piece to do in all of opera”, and it’s a massive undertaking. The good news: normal, non-RING years feel relatively doable in comparison.
So are things kinda busy round the office right now in the lead up to the opening August 4 performance of DAS RHEINGOLD? Dean tersely summarizes the current climate as “All Ring. All the time.” There’s a 50 foot high RING banner hanging off the side of McCaw Hall that can be seen from across town if not quite the top of Mt. Rainier.
What happens after the curtain comes down August 25 on the final performance of GOETTERDAEMMERUNG, when the entire 500 person staff of Seattle Opera crowds on stage for a bow? A well deserved break, of course.
“Not much goes on around here in September,” Dean says.
If you go Full RING tickets are sold out, but some single tickets are still available.
As a last resort, at 9 AM on the first day of each of the three cycles (August 4, 12, and 20), $20 standing room tickets for those four performances go on sale. There are 18 standing room places available per show.
So there’s still hope.
Because it ain’t over until – you know.
Conductor: Asher Fisch
Director: Stephen Wadsworth
Set Designer: Thomas Lynch
Costume Designer: Martin Pakledinaz
Lighting Designer: Peter Kaczorowski
Fire Designer, Flight Technical Director: Charles Tim Buck
Hair and Makeup Designer: Joyce Degenfelder
English Captions: Jonathan Dean
Brünnhilde: Alwyn Mellor †
Siegfried: Stefan Vinke †
Wotan/The Wanderer: Greer Grimsley
Fricka/2nd Norn/Waltraute: Stephanie Blythe
Siegmund: Stuart Skelton
Sieglinde/3rd Norn: Margaret Jane Wray
Alberich: Richard Paul Fink
Mime: Dennis Petersen
Fafner/Hagen: Daniel Sumegi
Fasolt/Hunding: Andrea Silvestrelli
Loge: Mark Schowalter †
Donner/Gunther: Markus Brück †
Freia/Gerhilde/Gutrune: Wendy Bryn Harmer †
Erda: Lucille Beer †
Woglinde/Forest Bird: Jennifer Zetlan
Wellgunde/Rossweisse: Cecelia Hall †
Flosshilde/Grimgerde: Renee Tatum †
Froh: Ric Furman
Helmwige: Jessica Klein †
Waltraute in Die Walküre: Suzanne Hendrix †
Schwertleite/1st Norn: Luretta Bybee
Ortlinde: Tamara Mancini †
Siegrune: Sarah Heltzel
† Seattle Opera debut