April 25, 2004


The Lord of the 'Rings' at the Met (DAVID POGUE, April 25, 2004, NY Times)

AS he strolls backstage, joking with the stagehands, you wouldn't peg the 57-year-old Joe Clark as the technical director of the Metropolitan Opera. With his neatly trimmed mustache, mild manner, dress shirt and tie, he looks more like a visiting college professor than the man ultimately responsible for the sets, lights, sound, special effects, props, costumes and titles, and even the auditorium seats, at the most famous American opera house.

He's got just five minutes before the final dress rehearsal for the Met's production of "Die Walküre," the second installment of its complete staging of Wagner's 17-hour, four-opera "Ring" cycle. This will be the only chance Mr. Clark's 100-man stage crew will have to run the show without breaks before opening night. Yet Mr. Clark professes to be unconcerned.

"We've done this before," he says.

Playing down the stakes — and his own importance — is typical of the man who has been responsible for, in his words, "everything you see" at the Met for 24 years. It doesn't seem to faze Mr. Clark that this production of the "Ring" is one of the most eagerly anticipated events in the opera world, that it was sold out within weeks of its announcement (orchestra seats: $1,500 for the four operas) or that the 125 tons of moving sets could squash Plácido Domingo, one of the stars, in the space of a sixteenth note.

This presentation of the "Ring" is the Met's sixth in the Otto Schenk production from 1988, and Mr. Clark has overseen all six stagings. But even for an old hand, the Met poses formidable challenges. Its stage is five times as large as that of a Broadway theater, demanding much larger forces: a chorus of 110, for example, in "Götterdämmerung," the fourth "Ring" opera. The sets and props for the "Ring" fill 28 40-foot shipping containers. (Between "Ring" years, they join the Met's 775 other containers of scenery in a New Jersey storage yard.)

If you've never seen the Ring it's well worth the investment of time--though perhaps not $1500--just don't go when the Seventh Day Adventists are in town.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 25, 2004 9:39 AM

I wonder, will New York Times columnists be wringing their hands over the prospect of society women going into the streets and beating up Jews after 17 hours of Wagner?

Posted by: R.W. at April 25, 2004 9:28 PM

Our former next door neighbor Jon Fredric West, sang Siegfreid last Saturday and yesterday. John is 50, grew up in Dayton and went to Bowling Green State U. neaer Toledo. He has paid a lot of dues over the years and we are really thrilled that he got this crack at the Met. The NYTimes gave him a nice review last weekend.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at April 25, 2004 10:22 PM