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Broad Gives $6 Million to Help Stage `Ring' Cycle

The donation will allow L.A. Opera to revive a plan for performing the Wagnerian epic that was stalled by an economic downturn after 9/11.

September 07, 2006|Chris Pasles | Times Staff Writer

Businessman and philanthropist Eli Broad, who has lavishly supported art museums, universities and the revitalization of downtown Los Angeles, will give $6 million to the Los Angeles Opera for its long-awaited first production of Richard Wagner's "Ring" cycle.

The money will come from the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Foundation, general director Placido Domingo announced at a news conference Wednesday, and will seed a production of the complicated and demanding four-opera "Ring of the Nibelung."

"I believe the 'Ring' is a great opportunity for Los Angeles and will make our opera company be held in even higher esteem worldwide than it already is," Broad said in an interview.

In a separate interview, Domingo said: "I am thrilled they have made this possible. It has been one of my dreams to have a 'Ring' in Los Angeles, and they're going to make it happen, being the first ones to bring substantial amounts of money toward the production.

"It's a colossal work, and doing it proves the company has come of age artistically, technically and also financially."

Broad sees the production as a cultural draw that will enhance the $1.8-billion Frank Gehry-designed Grand Avenue development project downtown.

"Los Angeles should be viewed as one of the four great cultural capitals of the world, the others being London, New York and Paris," he said. "We don't get the cultural tourism that those other cities get. But this should change that. That's part of the thinking of the foundation."

Dates and details of the production -- the city's first "Ring" cycle staged by a major local company -- will be announced Sept. 28, Domingo said.

As part of its inauguration of the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, the Orange County Performing Arts Center will present the Kirov Opera's "Ring" cycle Oct. 6-11. Domingo will sing the role of Siegmund.

The L.A. Opera first announced plans for a "Ring" in 2000. It was to be staged at the Shrine Auditorium, beginning in 2003 with "The Rhine Gold." The final three installments, "The Valkyrie," "Siegfried" and "Twilight of the Gods," were to follow in the 2003-04 season.

At the time, Domingo called it a " 'Ring' cycle for the new millennium," and said that the Wagner epic would be staged by German director Peter Mussbach working with Industrial Light & Magic, George Lucas' special-effects firm.

"We have to create something new with this 'Ring' because everything has been seen," Domingo said in 2000. "I went to Industrial Light & Magic to make something that will be unique; in the land of Hollywood, it has to be. I can assure you that if Wagner was alive today, he would find exactly what he wanted" in today's technological capabilities.

The project was projected to cost a minimum of $30 million, although some estimates went as high as $60 million. The company was to be responsible for raising half the amount. A co-producer outside the U.S. -- which L.A. Opera declined to identify -- was to provide the rest.

But the post-Sept. 11 economic slowdown derailed the plan, and Domingo said at the time that the best idea was to do the whole cycle in 2006 to save money. That never happened, but in announcing the new 2006-07 season in January, officials said that plans were back on track and the 'Ring' would be spread over two seasons, 2008-09 and 2009-10.

A 15-hour work inspired by a medieval German epic, the "Ring" tetralogy usually is presented over four days. The work occupied Wagner for nearly 30 years before its 1876 premiere at Bayreuth, Germany. It makes enormous staging demands, including swimming Rhine maidens, dwarfs and giants (as well as gods and humans), a rainbow bridge and a climax in which the Rhine overflows its banks.

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chris.pasles@latimes.com

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