For the record, while I found elements of the entire cycle lacking, with Die Walkure in particular to be woefully misunderstood by director Robert Lepage, on the whole I seem to be one of the few people bloggers who found much to enjoy in the Met's Ring, as it was presented in the HD broadcasts over the last year and a half. Was it perfect? Of course not. What Ring cycle has been? Even the Chereau centennial has its flat spots, though from the productions I've seen in the house and on DVD, his and the Freyer Ring come closest to being as good as it gets (so far). The Met's new cycle is certainly far superior than that crap Gergiev and the Maarinsky took on tour around the world.
Below are links to my original posts on the screenings.
Two things come to mind in revisiting them. The first being that when properly executed, a Ring Cycle should create excitement with each successive opera. While the Met wasn't wholly successful in this regard because of Die Walkure, on the whole they pulled it off, delivering the best Siegfried I've ever seen (yes, in no small part due to the rags to riches tale of Jay Hunter Morris in the lead role), which really set the stage for Gotterdammerung. When Gott ended, I felt that overall, the cycle did get better, and more cohesive, with each opera.
The second thing, which oddly nobody seems to care about, at least amid all the other noise being shouted about Gelb, Lepage, and the Machine, is that this Ring Cycle delivered some amazing vocal performances, including two that will no doubt be regarded as legendary in the annals of Wagner performances from the Met: Eric Owens' Alberich and Jay Hunter Morris' Siegfried. The performances of these two singers were game-changers for their individual careers and set a new standard for future interpretations. If that weren't enough (though it is) there was also Gerhard Siegel's Mime, Stephanie Blythe's Fricka, Hans-Peter Konig's Hagen and Hunding, Jonas Kaufmann's drooling Siegmund, Deborah Voigt's Brunnhilde, Bryn Terfel's Wanderer and a slew of exceptionally well-sung performances in smaller roles including those of Heidi Melton and Franz-Josef Selig. That's a lot of great singing.
And one more thing- Lepage's Ring, for all it flaws (and there are many) is better than Schenk's tired museum piece. It's biggest failure is that it took too few risks. In fact, take the Machine out of it, and it took none. The big question is, does that failure rest at Peter Gelb's feet? That's a fair question, but not an easy one.
Now, as far Gelb's behavior and the whole Opera News/WXQR/whining-about-the-press and-bloggers debacle goes, Gelb's response was a bizarre case of shooting one's own foot in public. It made him look thin-skinned, and more importantly, like a weak, insecure manager, as did his earlier op-ed in the NY Times defending the Ring. A man in Gelb's position should remain as above the fray as possible, and if he couldn't resist the urge to strike back he should have handed the job to one of his minions. But he really should have just shut up and let the show speak for itself. Now he has people doubting his sanity and clamoring for his head. His decision to have Lepage direct the company's premiere of Messiaen's St. Francis, which should have been embraced by anyone familiar with the opera and has seen Lepage's brilliant production of Berlioz's La Damnation de Faust, has been met with scorn. The Met's Board is now faced with making a decision to now consider if he is fit to lead, which when everything else is taken into consideration, is a ridiculous situation because Gelb's tenure has so far been a success. As to why he decided to undermine himself in this potentially fatal way, who knows- maybe he can ask John Edwards for a referral to a good therapist who specializes in hubris and self-sabotage.
But who cares if Opera News reviews the performances at the Met? Opera News is the People magazine of the opera world- its lightweight, often banal coverage is part of the very reason bloggers exist in the first place. Who takes it seriously? Certainly not most of the people writing about what just happened. But this is America, and two things we do take seriously are censoring the press and abuses of power- and that's why this is a big deal. The whole episode now seems like its own opera, does it not?
If you're coming late to this story, NPR's Deceptive Cadence blog has a concise summary of the whole she-bang here. Also check out Anne Midgette, Brian and Lisa's blogs.