‘The Ring’ kicks off opera productions

Photo by DENNIS DEMCHECK -- An audience watches Opera Louisiane's Young People's opera production of 'Hansel and Gretel' last year.
Photo by DENNIS DEMCHECK -- An audience watches Opera Louisiane's Young People's opera production of 'Hansel and Gretel' last year.

It’s not an opera based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s stories, but Hobbit fans surely will love it.

Richard Wagner was good at mythic storytelling, and his Ring Cycle revolves around a ring of power, which carries a curse.

It also features a powerful sword, a knight hero and a quest. And woven into it is a wise old man who carries a magical staff.

Add a few librettos to the mix, and the experience can be powerful. At least, that will be Opera Louisiane’s hope when it opens its 2013-14 season with Wagner’s The Ring on Friday and Sunday, Sept. 27 and 29, in the Manship Theatre.

“Michael has crafted this two-hour reduction of the Ring Cycle,” said Leanne Clement, Opera Louisiane’s executive director.

She refers to the company’s musical director, Michael Borowitz, whose shortened version may have local opera fans sighing in relief. Wagner’s cycle is made of up four full-length operas — The Rhine Gold, The Valkyrie, Siegfried and Twilight of the Gods. Performing all four would take 16 hours.

“When you experience Wagner’s Ring Cycle in this two-hour reduction, you get the gist of the entire story,” Clement said.

“And you care about the story and the characters,” Borowitz added. “The Lord of the Rings mythology resonates with all of us.”

And it all happens in the Manship Theatre, which, with its three tiers, resembles a small opera house.

“It’s really the perfect setting for this,” Borowitz said. “We’re going to make use of the space. We’ll have musicians in the audience, and we’re working with Jason Griffith, a photographer, on the set.”

“We’re also excited, because Michael is taking a bigger leadership role in the company this season,” Clement added. “He’s always been in the pit with all of us, but he’s going to take more leadership in the creative process.”

The Ring will be followed by the company’s annual Young People’s Opera Program performance on Sunday, Nov. 10, which this year features Gioachino Rossini’s telling of Cinderella’s story in La Cenerentola at First Baptist Church of Baton Rouge.

Next up will be CHORUS! on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, also at First Baptist Church. The program features Opera Louisiane’s Community Chorus in a concert of popular Broadway numbers, directed by Borowitz.

“Last year, they performed a program of popular songs from both opera and Broadway, but we’re giving our audiences a lot of opera during the year,” Borowitz said. “So, we’re going to be concentrating more on songs from the Great American Songbook for this program.”

Finally the company will return to the Manship Theatre for its season finale, a fully staged production of Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus on Friday and Sunday, May 2 and 4. This light-hearted comedy tells the story of a friendly rivalry and mistaken identity, and stages a great party. It also features the company’s community chorus.

“This isn’t a grand opera, but it’s our full opera,” Clement said. “It’s going to be a full season for us.”

Season tickets will go on sale Thursday, Aug. 1. Individual ticket sales begin Sunday, Sept. 1.

For tickets or more information, call (225) 377-2029 or visit operalouisiane.com.