James Conlon On the Wagner Marathon From Los Angeles Opera on July 25

By Greg Waxberg
(Credit: Bonnie Perkinson)

Never mind one week—how about one day?

Listeners looking for a one-day immersion in Wagner’s “Der Ring des Nibelungen” are in for a treat when Los Angeles Opera streams all four music dramas on Saturday, July 25 beginning at 8 a.m. PDT/11 a.m. EDT. The webcast will be available at LAOpera.org/LAOatHome.

The stream continues musical offerings the company has made available to the public while theaters are closed.

Conducted by Los Angeles Opera Music Director James Conlon, the Achim Freyer production being broadcast was the first “Ring” staged by the company, unveiled in 2008-09 and presented over two seasons (three full cycles were given in the summer of 2010). The cast includes Vitalij Kowaljow (Wotan), Linda Watson (Brünnhilde), John Treleaven (Siegfried), and Richard Paul Fink (Alberich).

To accompany this Wagner marathon, Los Angeles Opera is releasing podcasts about each opera, based on Conlon’s pre-performance talks. On Saturday, the conductor will also be available to the public.

“It is very exciting to re-experience the emotions associated with what was the first—and is still the only—‘Ring’ produced in L.A.,” Conlon told OperaWire. “The illusion of back-to-back performances on the same day through streamed performances is a special way for the public to experience the ‘Ring,’ and that is very exciting.”

Even during the difficult times of this pandemic when he cannot be on a podium, Conlon is dedicated to being present for his audiences, stating, “I consider it part of my obligation as Music Director to continue to serve our public in any way possible.” And there is a specific reason he wants to keep that direct connection open during this online “Ring” festival.

“In a streamed presentation of something as monumental as the ‘Ring,’ it should be borne in mind that, as the artists, singers, conductor, and orchestra are heard but not seen, the whole experience can seem disembodied. That is why I like being present on the airwaves even if it is primarily symbolic—I hope it would add an additional immediacy to the experience.”

Notably, Conlon’s pre-performance talks that supply the content for these “Ring” podcasts are a staple of the company’s audience outreach; he gives them prior to every performance he conducts and has done so for years. He estimates that, since 2009, more than half of the audience (over 1,000 people) has attended each talk.

“Music and theater do not require preparation,” he said, “but the extra dimensions do interest people.”

With that in mind, Conlon puts himself in the place of “those who have not had a musical education, but who are intelligent and inquisitive” and tailors his informal talks to audience members who might be seeing and hearing a piece for the first time.

His overall message during this pandemic is simple, especially given the availability of recordings and the Internet: keep music in your life for the strength it provides.

“Those who can play an instrument should play, those who can sing should sing, and music lovers who can’t attend live performances should listen.”


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