January 27, 2020

What Does It Take to Produce a RING?

Ring time is quickly approaching! While you get ready to experience the ultimate in music, theater, and spectacle at Lyric, a team of professional artists and technicians are preparing to bring you this monumental cultural event. Presenting Wagner’s four-opera cycle is the greatest challenge any opera company can undertake because of the sheer scale of the entire Ring operation onstage, backstage, and in the orchestra pit. The personnel and resources necessary to put a Ring onstage hugely exceeds what it takes to present a single opera – and our technical team shared some of the details behind the stage magic!

Burkhard Fritz in Siegfried (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)

The reality is that more than 300 artists are involved in the full cycle – soloists, orchestra, chorus, actors, and skilled technicians, plus the creative team who dreamed it all up and designed the sets and costumes. The Ring requires an orchestra of nearly 100 players (including four harps and four Wagner tubas). While the Lyric Opera Chorus is usually made up of 44 singers, in Götterdämmerung – the only Ring opera in which the chorus appears – there are 92. There are eight stage managers for the Ring, the stage crew expands to as many as 50, and the wig/makeup crew to 40.

Our technical director estimates that more than 8,000 yards of fabric are hung in the air for the Ring, including painted drops, black masking, and projection screens. There are around 50,000 pounds of scenery for this Ring – that’s 25 tons – and the Valhalla walls that fly in weigh five tons each!

Burkhard Fritz/Siegfried and Christine Goerke/Brunnhilde in Siegfried (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)

Electrically speaking, it’s very challenging, with lighting effects, fog effects, smoke effects, and set pieces that have lighting effects inside them. (All of those pieces have to be built by our crew!)  The fire sticks, which are so important in the “magic fire” finale of Die Walküre, are each wirelessly controlled. So is the bicycle that the clever demigod Loge rides onstage making his entrance in Das Rheingold.

The design brief given to the creative team was that all four shows had to work together – that’s crucial to the smooth running of any Ring when the four operas are played in sequence. For each of the four operas, the physical production took about 10 months to build, and each one also was given a week of technical rehearsals. The amount of space needed backstage to house the Ring is huge, and when the performances are over and it’s ready for storage, no fewer than 25 trailers will be required to transport it.

Be prepared to be amazed by the Ring, and to watch as all the elements unite for what we know will be a moving and astonishing journey at Lyric!

The RING Cycle

An extraordinary story told over the journey of four operas. Together, they comprise Wagner's magnificent Ring cycle, one of the greatest musical achievements in Western culture and an immersive operatic adventure that every opera lover should experience.

Photos: Todd Rosenberg, Cory Weaver