No link? Wagner’s ‘Ring’ around longer than Tolkien’s

Photo by JASON GRIFFITH -- Local photographer Jason Griffith's photos will be projected as the backdrop onto the Manshiop Theatre stage for Opéra  Louisiane's production of 'The Ring.'
Photo by JASON GRIFFITH -- Local photographer Jason Griffith's photos will be projected as the backdrop onto the Manshiop Theatre stage for Opéra Louisiane's production of 'The Ring.'

J.R.R. Tolkien always denied any connection with Richard Wagner.

The Hobbit was his creation and his alone. Wagner’s character was the Nibelung dwarf Alberich, who created a magic ring from gold stolen from the Rhine maidens in the River Rhine.

And this ring grants the power to rule the world. But this is where comparisons ended for Tolkien.

“Both rings were round, and there the resemblance ceases,” he once said.

Tolkien introduced the world to his epic three-book series surrounding a powerful, golden ring in 1956. Wagner’s series of four operas called “Der Ring des Nibelungen,” or “The Ring of Nibelung,” premiered in the 1876 Bayreuth Festival, in Bayreuth, Germany. These days, it’s known simply as “The Ring Cycle.”

But all of the familiar music is still included, as are all the major scenes. And the story is intact.

“It took me about five months to do this arrangement,” Borowitz says. “When I think about this project, I am humbled by it.”

Borowitz began by looking at the stories of the four operas, beginning with “Das Rheingold” or “The Rhine Gold.” The story continues with “Die Walküre” or “The Valkyrie,” then “Siegfried” and finally, “Götterdämmerung” or “Twilight of the Gods.”

“I made sure that I didn’t cut anything that would interfere with the flow of the story,” Borowitz says. “And then I made sure I kept what was the most recognizable and most beautiful parts of the music. After that, I just whittled it down, and in the end, entire acts and characters were gone, but the core of the story is there.”

Borowitz also cut Wagner’s call for 140 orchestra members to 29.

‘When we had our first orchestra rehearsal, it still played beautifully,” he says. “I am humbled by it all.”

Performers will be playing out Borowitz’s arrangement on a backdrop of local photographer Jason Griffith’s work on the Manship Theatre stage.

“Jason is very passionate about opera and talks about how he can’t believe he went so long without knowing about it,” says Leanne Clement, the company’s director. “Besides being an incredible photographer, Jason is an artist when it comes to editing his photos to grab just the right emotion.”

“Jason is working very closely with Mickey Hebert and C.R. Caillouet of A-Bear Productions,” Clement continues. “Mickey and C.R. have written a computer program to take Jason’s images, split them in two, and send them through the two high lumen projectors to create one image on screen. It’s pretty cool stuff.”

But it all begins with the story, which Wagner based on German and Scandinavian folk tales. It is epic, spanning three generations of protagonists, along with gods, heroes and mythical creatures in their struggle to possess this powerful ring.

And while Borowitz whittled away, he realized there were some things that needed to be brought back to the story.