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DRAWING BOARD

A set with an unfamiliar 'Ring'

August 05, 2007|Mark Swed

At the end of a sumptuous new three-volume survey of German painter and stage director Achim Freyer's career are five small, indistinct sketches from the Los Angeles Opera's forthcoming production of Wagner's massive "Ring" cycle. The vague swashes of color reveal next to nothing about the full production, which Freyer will design and direct. "Das Rheingold," the first of the four "Ring" operas, is still nearly two years off. But the hundreds of other spectacular photos in "Achim Freyer -- Theater," to be published later this month in Germany, speak worlds -- wild, wonderful, exceedingly weird worlds.

Freyer's productions are paintings and installations come to life. Strange puppets fly, as do members of Freyer's company of dancer-performers. Gaudy debris is everywhere and a visual delight. "The Magic Flute" becomes a clown-scape. Gandhi, in Philip Glass' "Satyagraha," is madcap-magician. Freyer infuriated some L.A. Opera supporters by making Bach's Mass in B Minor an abstraction, but he won most back with his exuberantly off-the-wall take on Berlioz's "Damnation of Faust."

An art star of sorts in Europe, he remains virtually unknown in America outside of L.A. He doesn't yet rate an English-language Wikipedia article. If you want to scan through a career where images jump off the page and dance in your imagination, your best bet for picking up "Achim Freyer -- Theater" is Amazon.de.

-- Mark Swed

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