Many different inspirations went into the designs for WNO’s production of the Ring. Some of the inspirations used by the set, costume, lighting, and projection designers along with myself are right here in Washington and will be fun to share with you. Why not start with the first image? It’s the perfect, pure creation of the world suggested by Wagner in the opening chords of The Rhinegold.
We thought of the perfection of the natural world captured by the great German American painter Bierstadt.
There are four of his works in the National Gallery. Most importantly, there is Mount Corcoran, which was one of the opening inspirations for the natural world of the Rhine. And do not miss Frederic Church’s evocative Niagara (see below).
The Ring Cycle is coming this season to WNO April 30–May 22. Many of you have already booked tickets and special benefits, but “News from Nibelheim” is a new blog series created just for you!
I’m starting this blog for our Ring-goers to give you updates and thoughts on what’s going on as we make our way on the “Road to Valhalla.” My deep and passionate love for all things Ring will be coming your way in this regular communication. It’s my way of personally staying in touch with you by sharing backstage life. Some of the comments will be light and fun, and some will touch on the powerful content and ideas that the Ring conveys. There will be a variety of topics, fun stuff, and even special cocktail recipes to salute the many drinks consumed in Wagner’s operas!
Daryl portrays Queen Lili’uokalani, the last reigning monarch of Hawaii, in our American Opera Initiative world premiere of Better Gods.
Where were you born? Did you grow up in a musical household?
I was born in Philadelphia. I actually wasn’t introduced to opera until college. My dad has always had an incredibly extensive music collection though, and there was always music playing on the stereo when I was growing up. Mostly classic rock and jazz.
Is that where you consider “home” today?
I have been loosely based in New York City ever since I attended graduate school at Manhattan School of Music. I have been traveling so much that I don’t actually keep an apartment there- I just sublet a place whenever I’m back in the city.
By Kim. H. Kowalke, President and CEO of the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music
Shortly after Kurt Weill arrived in New York in 1935, George and Ira Gershwin invited him to the dress rehearsal of Porgy and Bess. “It’s a great country where such a work can be written — and performed,” Weill told a reporter, in obvious reference to his own situation as a refugee from Nazi Germany, where performances of his works, including The Threepenny Opera, had been banned. Weill opined that “if there will ever be anything like an American opera, it is bound to come out of Broadway. I’m all in favor of the Metropolitan—as a museum, but not to start a movement of an American musical theater.”
By Tazewell Thompson
Director, Lost in the Stars
When I first encountered the novel Cry, the Beloved Country in high school, the searing, emotional force of the book impacted me in very hard, personal, and meaningful ways. The world outside and within my schoolroom window was filled with rage and outrage. It was the height of the tumultuous civil rights movement. I identified very closely with the brutal mistreatment of South African blacks in the novel, as day after day I read about the beatings and horrific attacks, the bombings, the unjustified incarceration of my people, the humiliation of children being denied the schools of their choice, and the assassinations of the ordinary and the extraordinary martyrs. Today I revisit Alan Paton’s novel and the opera it inspired with not so much cleansed eyes and an open heart of forgiveness and understanding — although there is that — but with a deeper sense of how these works magnify how far we, as a race of ever hopeful people, have come. In the years since these works were written, we have seen the election of a black president, the Voting Rights Act, women’s liberation, the freeing of Nelson Mandela, the dissolution of apartheid, and the legalization of gay marriage. The book and the opera have become more significant to me as great testaments of the power of art and its ability to confront injustice.