Enjoy a lecture on Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle at St. Andrews Village August 7

Posted:  Thursday, July 28, 2016 - 9:00am

Richard Wagner envisioned his 15-hour (more or less) four-opera cycle “The Ring of the Nibelung,” as a total work of art — not simply an opera or drama, but a new synthesis of music, visual art and literature.

It took roughly 26 years to create but not only revolutionized opera, it continues to influence the way music is used in films such as the Lord of the Ring trilogy or the Star Wars saga.

Mark Mandarano, founder and artistic director of the Sinfonietta of Riverdale in New York City, and assistant professor and director of instrumental activities at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, will give a lecture on Wagner’s Ring Cycle at St. Andrews Village on Sunday, Aug. 7 at 2 p.m.

Prof. Mandarano, who recently taught a semester-long course on Wagner’s Ring Cycle, called Wagner’s great work an inexhaustible source of material. One aspect he will focus on is Wagner’s ground-breaking use of leitmotifs or musical themes to hold the immense opera together.

Lieitmotifs help the audience follow story lines by signaling the appearance of characters or objects, such as the magical ring. They also provide psychological insight by changing to reflect how characters are feeling or how they have been transformed by events.

To play the music he wrote — sometimes sublime and at other times famously thunderous — Wagner called for an especially large orchestra with a greatly enlarged brass section. He invented new instruments such as the Wagner tuba specifically for the production and also specified 18 anvils.

The plot is based on Norse and German mythology. There are dwarfs, an evil ring, heroes with swords, women with spears, giants with bad tempers and, of course, many gods.

Besides being revolutionary as a piece of art, the Ring Cycle can also be understood as a sort of allegory about revolution in the real world. Wagner, who was at one point banished from Germany for his politics, believed the aristocratic form of government was in its twilight and was no longer necessary.

It is not by coincidence that the opera ends with the destruction of the gods and the creation of a new world of much greater freedom for humans.

Prof. Mandarano has also worked with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Houston Symphony, and was the principal guest conductor of the Moscow Chamber Orchestra. He has conducted performances at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center.

For more information on the lecture or on St. Andrews Village or to RSVP, please call Bob Drury at 633-0920. This lecture is free and open to the public but space is limited so please RSVP if you plan to attend.