If an opera house had to choose the most challenging production to stage, it’s easily Richard Wagner’s “Der Ring des Nibelungen” — “The Ring Cycle.” Four separate operas with a combined running time of 17 hours cover topics as epic as the scope of the series itself: Norse mythology.

The Metropolitan Opera has decided to revive the legendary series over the course of two seasons. The first installment of the series, “Das Rheingold,” is opening the Met’s 2010-11 season.

Over the course of the series, men, gods and mythical creatures battle over a ring, which gives the bearer power over the entire world. Sound familiar? J.R.R. Tolkien took inspiration from the same mythology for “The Lord of the Rings,” which, says Peter Gelb, general manager of the Met, has an appeal to any age group.


“It’s full of these larger-than-life characters and giants and gods, but they have very human emotions and problems,” says Gelb. “Like any theater that has stood the test of time, it is universally appealing mostly because of its content, and now with our modern presentation.”

One of the largest draws to this production, which quickly sold out most tickets for the first installment, is its already famous staging, which has turned heads throughout the theater community.

“I don’t think anybody who’s been to an opera house will have seen anything like it before,” says Gelb. “It’s a gigantic structure that looks like 24 see-saws that are lined up parallel to each other and are threaded together by a steel axis. The 24 planks can go in any position, which enables the set to form the scenic architecture of any scene, whether it’s an outdoor forest or a hut or a rainbow bridge or the rippling waters of the Rhine.”

The groundbreaking design, conceptualized by director Robert Lepage, will be used for all four parts of “The Ring Cycle” — two of which will bookend this season, and the final two in the 2011-12 season, culminating in all four productions performed in succession over four nights.

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