Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The end is near, courtesy of the Met

The saga has been playing out for than a year. Events are leading inexorably downhill. The world is about to go up in flames.

While that might apply to the European debt crisis and its chances of taking down the global economy, I'll leave that judgment to others. The conflagration that's undoubtedly at hand will break out in movie theaters Saturday.

The Metropolitan Opera has reached the big finish "The Ring of the Nibelung," Richard Wagner's four-part tale of gods and greed. The fourth and last installment, "The Twilight of the Gods," will beam out from New York into hundreds of theaters -- including Stonecrest and Concord Mills -- Feb. 11 at noon. An encore showing will come at a date to be announced.

It's the finale of a sequence that began in September, 2010, when the Met unveiled its new staging of the cycle's first installment. Now, the warrior sweethearts Siegfried and Brunnhilde will pick up where they left off in the third opera's love-duet conclusion. They're blissfully unaware that the gold ring he puts on her finger is cursed. But they'll soon find out the hard way, and Wagner's music will take them and the audiences on an epic journey of grandeur, gloom and apocalypse.

The cast will again include Jay Hunter Morris, the tenor plucked from relative obscurity earlier this season to play Siegfried. His route from his hometown of Paris, Texas, to the Met supplies the feelgood story to counterbalance Wagner's catastrophe. But he isn't the first singer to go from small-time Texas to the Wagnerian big-time.

One of the top Wagner singers of the 1960s and '70s was Thomas Stewart, a baritone from San Saba, Texas -- which is only a tenth the size of Paris. He became a regular at the ultimate Wagner shrine: Germany's Bayreuth Festival, founded by the composer himself. He gives Morris something to aspire to.