They’ll be back

You can’t have a show to die for.

Without an audience to die for.

When it’s good – when it’s really good – the audience will always be there.

Always.

And they’ll be back the next time.

And the next.

Who are these 2,200 people settling into their seats in Seattle Opera’s magnificent Marion Oliver McCaw Hall? And how did they decide – out of all the ways they could have spent their Sunday night – to come here for 5 1/2 hours?

Why are they here? What did they come for? What about the experience is worth up to $300 a ticket to them?

Therein lies the real art form.

All hail THE AUDIENCE.

Without them – there are no performing arts.

A sold out house moments before the start of the final night of Wagner's RING at Seattle Opera.  This audience wants only the best.
A sold out house moments before the start of the final night of Wagner’s RING at Seattle Opera. This audience wants only the best.

Final weekend of Seattle Opera’s epic and resounding RING

It’s the last weekend of the last of three performances of the full four part RING at Seattle Opera.

Rumor has it this is also the last year the current “Green” RING version will be done. Long reigning General Director Speight Jenkins is retiring next year, and so when the next RING comes around in 2017, it will be time for someone else to put their stamp on this monumental work.

I’m not much of an opera goer. But this seems pretty incredible. Everything about the event is first rate. This is the big stage for performing arts. The biggest. The guy sitting next to me last night said that this SIEGRFRIED was better than the seven he has seen at New York’s Met. Not bad Seattle. Our sister to the north has established herself on the global opera circuit.

What does the enduring popularity and reach of Seattle Opera’s RING show? If it’s good, people will pay any price and come from anywhere on earth to see it. This is art that people need, that they remember and talk about for a lifetime. The intensity of the experience for the audience is reflected in the nightly 20 minute standing ovation. It’s like a rock concert.

How do we create theatre that is this vital and special to the audience? How do we create something so necessary and beloved, that people cannot imagine doing without it?

The 50 foot high banner that lets you know:  "It is ON!"
The 50 foot high banner that lets you know: “It is ON!”

A world stage - the Marion Oliver McCaw Hall at Seattle Center.
A world stage – the Marion Oliver McCaw Hall at Seattle Center.

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A night to remember.
A night to remember.
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All RING, all the time | Wagner’s Götterdämmerung at Seattle Opera

Part 4 of Wagner’s RING at Seattle Opera.

Wagner’s Götterdämmerung; Alwyn Mellor (Brünnhilde) and Stefan Vinke (Siegfried). © Alan Alabastro photo
Wagner’s Götterdämmerung; Alwyn Mellor (Brünnhilde) and Stefan Vinke (Siegfried). © Alan Alabastro photo

Wagner’s Götterdämmerung; Daniel Sumegi (Hagen) and Wendy Bryn Harmer (Gutrune). © Alan Alabastro photo
Wagner’s Götterdämmerung; Daniel Sumegi (Hagen) and Wendy Bryn Harmer (Gutrune). © Alan Alabastro photo

Wagner’s Götterdämmerung; Stefan Vinke (Siegfried), Daniel Sumegi (Hagen), and Markus Brück (Gunther). © Alan Alabastro photo
Wagner’s Götterdämmerung; Stefan Vinke (Siegfried), Daniel Sumegi (Hagen), and Markus Brück (Gunther). © Alan Alabastro photo

Wagner’s Götterdämmerung; Alwyn Mellor (Brünnhilde) and Stephanie Blythe (Waltraute). © Alan Alabastro photo
Wagner’s Götterdämmerung; Alwyn Mellor (Brünnhilde) and Stephanie Blythe (Waltraute). © Alan Alabastro photo

Wagner’s Götterdämmerung; Luretta Bybee (1st Norn), Margaret Jane Wray (3rd Norn), Stephanie Blythe (2nd Norn). © Elise Bakketun photo
Wagner’s Götterdämmerung; Luretta Bybee (1st Norn), Margaret Jane Wray (3rd Norn), Stephanie Blythe (2nd Norn). © Elise Bakketun photo

Wagner’s Götterdämmerung; Daniel Sumegi (Hagen) and the Vassals. © Elise Bakketun photo
Wagner’s Götterdämmerung; Daniel Sumegi (Hagen) and the Vassals. © Elise Bakketun photo

Wagner’s Götterdämmerung; Richard Paul Fink (Alberich) and Daniel Sumegi (Hagen). © Alan Alabastro photo
Wagner’s Götterdämmerung; Richard Paul Fink (Alberich) and Daniel Sumegi (Hagen). © Alan Alabastro photo

Wagner’s Götterdämmerung; Jennifer Zetlan (Woglinde), Cecelia Hall (Wellgunde), Renée Tatum (Flosshilde), and Stefan Vinke (Siegfried). © Elise Bakketun photo
Wagner’s Götterdämmerung; Jennifer Zetlan (Woglinde), Cecelia Hall (Wellgunde), Renée Tatum (Flosshilde), and Stefan Vinke (Siegfried). © Elise Bakketun photo

All RING, all the time | Wagner’s Siegfried at Seattle Opera

Part 3 of Wagner’s RING at Seattle Opera.

Wagner’s Siegfried; Stefan Vinke (Siegfried) and Fafner. © Alan Alabastro photo
Wagner’s Siegfried; Stefan Vinke (Siegfried) and Fafner. © Alan Alabastro photo

Wagner’s Siegfried; Stefan Vinke (Siegfried) and Fafner. © Alan Alabastro photo
Wagner’s Siegfried; Stefan Vinke (Siegfried) and Fafner. © Alan Alabastro photo

Wagner’s Siegfried; Dennis Peterson (Mime). © Elise Bakketun photo
Wagner’s Siegfried; Dennis Peterson (Mime). © Elise Bakketun photo

Wagner’s Siegfried; Dennis Peterson (Mime). © Elise Bakketun photo
Wagner’s Siegfried; Dennis Peterson (Mime). © Elise Bakketun photo

Wagner’s Siegfried; Dennis Peterson (Mime), Stefan Vinke (Siegfried).  © Elise Bakketun photo
Wagner’s Siegfried; Dennis Peterson (Mime), Stefan Vinke (Siegfried). © Elise Bakketun photo

Wagner’s Siegfried; Dennis Peterson (Mime), Stefan Vinke (Siegfried).  © Elise Bakketun photo
Wagner’s Siegfried; Dennis Peterson (Mime), Stefan Vinke (Siegfried). © Elise Bakketun photo

Wagner’s Siegfried; Stefan Vinke (Siegfried). © Elise Bakketun photo
Wagner’s Siegfried; Stefan Vinke (Siegfried). © Elise Bakketun photo

Wagner’s Siegfried; Alwyn Mellor (Brünnhilde), Stefan Vinke (Siegfried). © Elise Bakketun photo
Wagner’s Siegfried; Alwyn Mellor (Brünnhilde), Stefan Vinke (Siegfried). © Elise Bakketun photo

All RING, all the time | Wagner’s Die Walküre at Seattle Opera

Part 2 of Wagner’s RING at Seattle Opera.

Wagner’s Die Walküre, Greer Grimsley (Wotan). © Alan Alabastro photo
Wagner’s Die Walküre, Greer Grimsley (Wotan). © Alan Alabastro photo

Wagner’s Die Walküre, Greer Grimsley (Wotan). © Alan Alabastro photo
Wagner’s Die Walküre, Greer Grimsley (Wotan). © Alan Alabastro photo

Wagner’s Die Walküre, Stuart Skelton (Siegmund), Margaret Jane Wray (Sieglinde). © Elise Bakketun photo
Wagner’s Die Walküre, Stuart Skelton (Siegmund), Margaret Jane Wray (Sieglinde). © Elise Bakketun photo

Wagner’s Die Walküre, Alwyn Mellor (Brünnhilde), Greer Grimsley (Wotan). © Elise Bakketun photo
Wagner’s Die Walküre, Alwyn Mellor (Brünnhilde), Greer Grimsley (Wotan). © Elise Bakketun photo

Wagner’s Die Walküre, Stephanie Blythe (Fricka), Greer Grimsley (Wotan). © Elise Bakketun photo
Wagner’s Die Walküre, Stephanie Blythe (Fricka), Greer Grimsley (Wotan). © Elise Bakketun photo

Wagner’s Die Walküre, Stephanie Blythe (Fricka), Greer Grimsley (Wotan). © Elise Bakketun photo
Wagner’s Die Walküre, Stephanie Blythe (Fricka), Greer Grimsley (Wotan). © Elise Bakketun photo

Wagner’s Die Walküre, Stuart Skelton (Siegmund), Greer Grimsley (Wotan). © Elise Bakketun photo
Wagner’s Die Walküre, Stuart Skelton (Siegmund), Greer Grimsley (Wotan). © Elise Bakketun photo

Wagner’s Die Walküre, Luretta Bybee (Schwertleite), Sarah Heltzel (Siegrune), Jessica Klein (Helmwige), Margaret Jane Wray (Sieglinde), Alwyn Mellor (Brünnhilde). © Elise Bakketun photo
Wagner’s Die Walküre, Luretta Bybee (Schwertleite), Sarah Heltzel (Siegrune), Jessica Klein (Helmwige), Margaret Jane Wray (Sieglinde), Alwyn Mellor (Brünnhilde). © Elise Bakketun photo

All RING, all the time | Wagner’s Das Rheingold at Seattle Opera

Part 1 of Wagner’s RING at Seattle Opera.

Wagner’s Das Rheingold, Richard Paul Fink as Alberich.  © Alan Alabastro photo
Wagner’s Das Rheingold, Richard Paul Fink as Alberich. © Alan Alabastro photo

Wagner’s Das Rheingold, Greer Grimsley as Wotan.  © Alan Alabastro photo
Wagner’s Das Rheingold, Greer Grimsley as Wotan. © Alan Alabastro photo

Wagner’s Das Rheingold, Andrea Silvestrelli (Fasolt), Ric Furman (Froh), Daniel Sumegi (Fafner), Greer Grimsley (Wotan), and Markus Brück (Donner).  © Alan Alabastro photo
Wagner’s Das Rheingold, Andrea Silvestrelli (Fasolt), Ric Furman (Froh), Daniel Sumegi (Fafner), Greer Grimsley (Wotan), and Markus Brück (Donner). © Alan Alabastro photo

Wagner’s Das Rheingold, Mark Schowalter as Loge.  © Alan Alabastro photo
Wagner’s Das Rheingold, Mark Schowalter as Loge. © Alan Alabastro photo

Wagner’s Das Rheingold, Wendy Bryn Harmer as Freia and Andrea Silvestrelli as Fasolt. © Alan Alabastro photo
Wagner’s Das Rheingold, Wendy Bryn Harmer as Freia and Andrea Silvestrelli as Fasolt. © Alan Alabastro photo

Wagner’s Das Rheingold, Greer Grimsley as Wotan and Lucille Beer as Erda.  © Alan Alabastro photo
Wagner’s Das Rheingold, Greer Grimsley as Wotan and Lucille Beer as Erda. © Alan Alabastro photo

Wagner’s Das Rheingold, Jennifer Zetlan (Woglinde), Cecelia Hall (Wellgunde), and Renée Tatum (Flosshilde), Richard Paul Fink (Alberich). © Elise Bakketun photo
Wagner’s Das Rheingold, Jennifer Zetlan (Woglinde), Cecelia Hall (Wellgunde), and Renée Tatum (Flosshilde), Richard Paul Fink (Alberich). © Elise Bakketun photo

Wagner’s Das Rheingold, Jennifer Zetlan (Woglinde), Cecelia Hall (Wellgunde), and Renée Tatum (Flosshilde), Richard Paul Fink (Alberich). © Elise Bakketun photo
Wagner’s Das Rheingold, Jennifer Zetlan (Woglinde), Cecelia Hall (Wellgunde), and Renée Tatum (Flosshilde), Richard Paul Fink (Alberich). © Elise Bakketun photo

Seattle Opera’s RING is off and singing

On a perfect summer weekend in Seattle, the real action was indoors.

Seattle Opera kicked off the first of three complete performances of Wagner’s RING cycle on Sunday night with DAS RHEINGOLD, followed Monday night by DIE WALKURE.

Seattle Center was filled to overflowing with evening wear, opera fans, and valkyries.

Seattle Times review of DIE WALKURE

The Stranger RING Diary

All ring, all the time at Seattle Opera this month.
All ring, all the time at Seattle Opera this month.

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Seattle prepares for operatic August | Wagner’s RING at Seattle Opera draws thousands of fans from all over the world for sold out, four night epic

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.

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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.

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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