The Ring cycle is about to begin at Covent Garden, and yesterday a friend kindly invited me to the dress rehearsal of Das Rheingold. Operas that feel pertinent to the world at large are rare animals in this stressed-out era, but the timeless issues that percolate through Wagner's two-hours-40-mins-no-break prelude couldn't be more relevant if they tried, despite concerning gods, giants, Nibelungs, Rhinemaidens, shape-shifting and a cursed ring, and Keith Warner's production makes much of this. So here are ten things our Brexity politicians (some of whom are known to adore Wagner) can learn from it.
|Bloodied, worried and clinging to power: Bryn Terfel as Wotan in 2012|
Photo: Clive Barda/ROH
2. Do not break your promises. It's called cheating. Giants don't appreciate it, especially when they've given you a massive contribution to your world in good faith, building you a nice new palace and all.
3. So (see 2), don't go into an agreement with the express intention of reneging on the deal afterwards.
4. We are who we are through treaties and agreements. (This line is in the libretto and appears in large letters on the subtitle screen.) Don't ever forget it. Everything in our lives is underpinned by legal documents, treaties and agreements - from certificates for birth, marriage and even death to, er, who runs the railways. Lose the treaties and agreements and nothing works any more.
5. When diplomacy isn't working, because you're not a very good diplomat (see 1-4), you need to think creatively. Say a Nibelung has the ring of power and is causing havoc and sadism in the underworld: how are you going to outwit him? You might need help. Be careful who you choose for this exercise: make sure it is the cleverest person in your gang (not the bloody joker) and one whom everyone knows not to mess with, because it would be playing with fire.
6. Never under-write the roles of your under-goddesses. You may find that your very best contributor to your project only has a bit-part. If all you do with her is put her up for kidnap by the giants, you are guilty of sexist negligence. Think of everything she could do if given the chance.
7. What the heck are you doing putting your wife's sister up for ransom anyway? Especially when none of you can survive without the food she grows. Think things through properly before making rash moves.
8. Beware of the dragon. It's a humdinger. You need a real Heldentenor to deal with it, and you don't currently have one. So don't provoke it.
9. Love is more important than power. If you stop caring about people for the sake of building up your own wealth, it's going to end badly. Never forget: today's dragon is tomorrow's kidnapped toad.
10. A giant will not balk at killing his brother for the ring of power. And the one doing the murdering will probably be the one in the top hat.
Beg, borrow or steal a ticket.
The first cycle opens on Monday 24 September and for Das Rheingold the cast includes John Lundgren as Wotan, Johannes Martin Kränzle as Alberich, Sarah Connolly as Fricka, Alan Oke as Loge, Lise Davidsen as Freya, Günther Groissböck as Fasolt and Brindley Sherrratt as Fafner. Tony Pappano conducts. http://www.roh.org.uk/about/the-ring