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LA Opera’s “Das Rheingold”: 2 hours, 45 minutes, no intermission

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Culture Monster is ever so excited that the Los Angeles Opera production of Richard Wagner’s ‘Das Rheingold’ -- the first opera in Wagner’s epic 15-hour, four-opera cycle ‘The Ring of the Nibelungs’ -- is opening Saturday night at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The production kicks off a two-year ‘Ring'-o-rama for the opera company: All four operas, directed by Achim Freyer, will be presented singly in 2009 and 2010, and performances of the four operas in sequence will be given between May 29 and June 26, 2010.

But even the Monster could not help but be alarmed upon receiving e-mail notice from the L.A. Opera that the running time of ‘Das Rheingold’ is 2 hours, 45 minutes -- and that it will be performed without intermission.

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And much of the action takes place in and around the Rhine River -- well, that’s a lot of water imagery, given the circumstances. Do we need to spell it out? Applause isn’t the only thing you’ll have to hold until the end.

Don’t blame it on the L.A. Opera, or director Freyer; blame it on Wagner (that’s the culprit at left): L.A Opera spokesman Gary Murphy tells us that ‘Das Rheingold’ is always performed in four scenes with no intermission because that’s the way Wagner wrote it. E-mails are sent to ticket buyers warning them of the fact.

But not to worry, Murphy adds: Allowances will be made to let patrons back into the house if they need to flee for the restroom, and seats will be held at the rear for those returning individuals.

And since the Oscars are coming up, it should be noted that ‘Das Rheingold’ is actually two minutes shorter than ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,’ albeit without Brad Pitt.

Because there will be a lot of Wagner in L.A. in 2009 and 2010, Murphy points out that locals may want to take advantage of a companion book called ‘Wagner Without Fear,’ by William Berger, which provides a guide through the ‘Ring’s’ world of giants, gods, water spirits and dwarfs (the Nibelungs). No word as to whether the guide addresses the challenges of potential ‘Ring’ audiences with Nibelung-size bladders.

-- Diane Haithman


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