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Achim Freyer presents sort-of-new 'Ring' cycle in Germany

Achim Freyer presents sort-of-new 'Ring' cycle in Germany
A scene from Achim Freyer's production of the "Ring" cycle at the National Theater Mannheim in Germany. (National Theater Mannheim)

German director Achim Freyer divided Los Angeles audiences three years ago when L.A. Opera began rolling out his avant-garde staging of Wagner's "The Ring of the Nibelung" at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

While many admired Freyer's challenging, pictorial interpretation of the four-opera cycle, there was also a fair amount of booing and critical backlash against his visual aesthetic.

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This season, Freyer has returned to "Ring" territory by directing a production in Mannheim, Germany. The staging is sort of new: Freyer has brought back many of the same costumes and much of the same clown-like makeup design seen in L.A. But the sets are remarkably different, as are the lighting and overall feel of the production.

The National Theater Mannheim is presenting Freyer's complete "Ring" cycle through early July. The company, which began presenting the individual operas two years ago, has posted images from the "Ring" on its website. It has also created a highly compressed video trailer for the cycle.

At one point, L.A. Opera was considering a "Ring" co-production with the Mannheim company, according to Christopher Koelsch, president of L.A. Opera. But "there was no way to do it technically," he said in an interview this week. "Their stage is much smaller than ours."

Koelsch said that L.A. Opera isn't involved with Freyer's "Ring" at Mannheim.

Freyer's new "Ring" also has a new cast, with Jürgen Müller as Siegfried and Judith Németh as Brünnhilde. The lead singers in L.A. -- John Treleaven and Linda Watson -- weren't fans of Freyer's vision and spoke about their problems with the production.

L.A. Opera plans on reviving its "Ring" cycle at some point in the future, Koelsch said. But he said no dates have been confirmed.

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