Wagner spectacle impresses audiences across Europe

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It was the season’s sexiest, most scintillating multimedia extravaganza. No, not Avatar, but Wagner’s Das Rheingold, the version that recently wrapped at Milan’s La Scala.
Far from being one of those monotonous operas where dumpling-like players are decked out in dowdy dresses, it was one of the hottest tickets on the continent at the end of May and shown in cinemas throughout Europe.
What made Rheingold so special was the expert melding of media disciplines and the sublime conducting of Daniel Barenboim.
The oohs and aahs began with the costumes from American designer Tim van Steenbergen, which were as sumptuous as one might expect from Italy’s fashion capital.
Then there were the enveloping video installations that ranged from colorful images of the Wild West to simulated Avatar -like projections of the players onstage.
In keeping with the story, molten gold seemed to drip from video screens as the floating costumes washed across the stage. The actors seemed to wade through puddles of water, with their shadows cast on screens. There was so much modern dance woven in that at times it seemed more like a ballet.
The action in Rheingold moves from the bottom of the Rhine to the underground kingdom of the Nibelungs to the palace of Valhalla, a place bathed in the colours of the rainbow.
Like most big names at La Scala, Barenboim stayed nearby at the Grand Hotel et de Milan, once used as a home by Guiseppe Verde.—Reuters