When I joined the Lyric Opera of Chicago, I had a lot to learn about being in an opera orchestra. Over the following years I logged in many performances of many operas: some old saws like La Boheme and Tosca, some less familiar and exciting operas like Samuel Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra and William Bolcom’s McTeague. But the event that really changed my life was our Ring cycle, which took place from 1993 - 1997 with Zubin Mehta conducting. After that four-year experience, I felt I had cemented my identity as an “opera musician.”
In an article about our production, Edward Rothstein wrote in the February 8, 1993 New York Times that “Having its own ‘Ring’ cycle is something every self-respecting American opera company now pines for,” and pointed to a company presenting its own Ring as “a sign of accomplishment, seriousness, and range.” I think each individual musician involved in that production would have said the same of themselves.
August Everding’s production was visually stunning. The Rhinemaidens appeared to be swimming, as if the whole stage area were an underwater scene, and gravity did not exist (thanks to wonderful acrobatics from Cirque du Soliel and bungees). The Walkyries bounded onto hidden trampolines on stage so they could “fly.” The cast was wonderful. There was magic onstage – and magic in the pit also. Zubin Mehta was an imposing presence, and he inspired much awe – and a little fear.
It was a great way for this opera neophyte to learn the ways of Wagner and the big leagues. I think we all grew up a little as a result. If Ardis were still on this earth, I would thank her again for the experience of my first Ring. It will forever be special to me.