Das Rheingold Is a Golden Start for HGO

Houston Grand Opera gets off to a great start with the beginning of its epic march through Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung.

The imaginative Cirque du Soleil-like production is by the Spanish New Age collective La Fura dels Baus, under the direction of Carlus Padrissa, with set design by Roland Olbeter, lighting by Peter van Praet, and the most hideous costumes by Chu Uroz, a mess of grade-B Flash Gordon. I don't know who had the idea of putting the gods on cranes, nimbly controlled by visual stagehands, but the singers look uncomfortable lurching about in their mechanical cages like stock boys at Costco, and their high-flying antics make the giants, Fasolt and Fafner, look puny, even in their towering Transformers suits of armor. A wonderful visual coup is Valhalla, the abode of the gods. A misty projection reveals an artist's metal armature of a man. In close-up, the entire structure is composed of interlocking human figures, a 3-D tromp l'oeil effect out of M.C. Escher. It's as if Wotan has willed Valhalla into being by his very thought. The last image is those gymnasts, suspended in space, forming a living mesh by interlocking hands and feet. When the gods have reached the castle, the human column encases them within a protective embrace. Wonderfully evocative.

Under the sympathetic baton of Summers, who has a definite affinity for Wagner, exploiting all the score's pomp, mystery and otherworldly excitement, the ensemble cast is above reproach, probably the best all-round Rheingold I've ever heard. Exceptionally thrilling are Margita's impish Loge; Barton's imperious Fricka; Purves's cursing Alberich; and Awady's chasm-deep, doom-laden-voiced Erda, although she makes an unintentional comic entrance as she arises from under a pile of gigantic Styrofoam jigsaw pieces. The rest of the cast is merely exceptional.

Local gymnasts in body suits took turns portraying gold and a blue bridge.
Lynn Lane
Local gymnasts in body suits took turns portraying gold and a blue bridge.

Location Info


Wortham Theater Center

500 Texas Ave.
Houston, TX 77002

Category: Performing Arts Venues

Region: Downtown/ Midtown


Das Rheingold

April 17, 23 and 26. Houston Grand Opera, 501 Texas. Purchase tickets online at or call 713-228- 6737.

Wagner's magical, mythical Ring gets off to a splendid start in HGO's Rheingold. If the visuals tend to overwhelm, they at least serve the Master of Bayreuth's intentions without sending him spinning, as do most contemporary accounts. He would need hear only one measure of that radiantly idiosyncratic music to recognize where he was. He, too, like the audience at last night's premiere, would cheer lustily. Hotly impatient, we have to wait another year to witness the tempestuous warrior maiden Brünnhilde and her battle-lusty sisters ride forth from Valhalla in Die Walküre, but in that time maybe the costume shop can make necessary alterations.

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