Just back from a performance of The Rinse Cycle, and very enjoyable it was,
too. A production of the chamber-opera company Unexpected Opera
(www.unexpectedopera.com) it's about a small group of people who work at a
patisserie deciding, for reasons unknown, to entertain their patrons by
giving an illustrated guide to the Ring. The title comes from a slight
misunderstanding on the part of their set designer, who starts the evening
very proud that he's been able to obtain three industrial-size washing
machines, rapidly becomes somewhat disillusioned, and then rallies as his
machines prove to be invaluable, supplying as they do everything from the
swirling waters of the Rhine to the magic fire, with Fafner's mouth and
Siegfried's forge in between.
The private lives and relationships of the patisserie performers rather
cleverly parallel those of the characters they play, and fictional fact and
mythical fiction collide and interact to lovely - and sometimes very funny -
A cast of five play the performers who in turn play most of the leading
roles in the cycle. The MD plays the piano and helps out on a couple of
occasions when an extra (non-singing) male role has to be filled. The
musical extracts (in Andrew Porter's English and some of them quite long)
are interspersed with byplay, commentary and questions ("But when do we get
to the Hobbits?") from the stereotypically dim (but nice) posh member of the
cast who also happens to be the only tenor.
There are two complete casts who alternate. Tonight, standards were high
and in some cases very high, with standout performances from Simon Thorpe
(Ronnie/Wotan/Hunding/Hagen/etc, including a non-singing Mime) and Mari Wyn
Williams (Hilda/Brünnhilde/various others). Thorpe has sung Telramund and
Kothner (and Scarpia and Escamillo) with Welsh National Opera.
All in all a splendid evening. It plays at the Charing Cross Theatre until
12th March and I recommend it highly for Wagnerians who aren't too serious
about things and who don't mind joining in the encore: a highly spirited
massed singalong of the Ride of the Valkyries.