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‘Invisible Siegfrieds’ join the L.A. Ring Festival parade

A Pacific Palisades community commissioned Austrian composer Georg Nussbaumer to create something special for the fest. He came up with a four-day march down Sunset Boulevard.

April 15, 2010|By Simone Kussatz, Special to the Los Angeles Times

When Los Angeles Opera announced a citywide Ring Festival LA to celebrate the four- opera cycle of Wagner's "Der Ring des Nibelungen," it was only natural that Villa Aurora, a center of German American culture in Pacific Palisades, would want to get involved.

So the people at the Villa, once the residence of exiled German-Jewish writer Lion Feuchtwanger, invited Viennese composer Georg Nussbaumer to create something for Los Angeles. And with Nussbaumer, you expect something out of the ordinary. He once turned Wagner's "Parsifal" into a big multi-floor installation called "parsifalsurvivaltrail" at a museum in Linz, Austria. His take on "Tristan und Isolde" in Mannheim, Germany, had his audience in a public pool swimming to the music in an event he called "Schwimmen und Schweigen" (Swimming and Silence).

For L.A.'s Ring Festival, Nussbaumer created what he calls "Invisible Siegfrieds Marching Sunset Boulevard." It will be happening in four parts on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

Led by alto Christina Ascher, volunteers wearing camouflage helmets will march down Sunset Boulevard, from downtown to the Pacific Ocean, over the course of four days, with the walks taking from 21/2 hours to nearly five hours. Each day's walk will last about as long as each of Wagner's Ring operas. (For the uninitiated, they are "Das Rheingold," "Die Walküre," "Siegfried" and "Götterdämmerung.")

Nussbaumer, a former artist-in-residence at Villa Aurora, explained why the marchers would be wearing helmets and were dubbed "Invisible Siegfrieds," named after the youthful hero of the tetralogy.

"The camouflage helmet is a prop in the ‘Ring,'" he said. "It enables one to appear in a different form — Alberich and Fafner turn into a toad and dragon, Siegfried into Gunther. My Siegfrieds are not invisible in reality. It's about the imagination — like children when they close their eyes and claim to be gone."

Ascher will be at the front of the march in a cart and covered with blankets as the procession's Brünnhilde, the leader of the Valkyries. At the end of the mostly silent four-day march, Nussbaumer said, she will start singing through a megaphone "like the Statue of Liberty into the surf."

At that point things will climax with what Nussbaumer is calling "Horn! Drop! Drink!" Between 7:29 and 7:44 p.m., while Brünnhilde is singing, the "Invisible Siegfrieds" will make a steady sound such as "whistling, roaring, thundering, droning, hissing, growling, reverberating, hammering, rattling, ringing, jangling, scratching, crackling, splashing, rumbling," according to http://www.invisiblesiegfrieds.org.

Then everyone will be silent, and at 7:45 p.m. the "Invisible Siegfrieds" will start dropping objects of any kind. ("Any object! From the dropping a grain of salt … to the hurling of a boulder from a crane, from a helicopter. Suggestion in case of doubt: a potato.")

Then people will be invited to drink.

Nussbaumer's idea is that people around the world could participate in "Horn! Drop! Drink!" Information and instructions for taking part is on the website.

It's no coincidence that the event concludes on the birthday of Adolf Hitler, the best known and most notorious Wagner lover of all. Nussbaumer said he consciously chose the date to defy Hitler by transforming this historical day into something "new, bright, excessive, peaceable and lively."

calendar@latimes.com

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