As the San Francisco Opera gears up for its three complete Wagner Ring Cycles, two of the cast members discuss storytelling, the challenge of singing in a 17-hour epic, and some of the large themes contained within it. Greer Grimsley, who sings Wotan, and mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton have voices that were ‘built for Wagner.’

There’s more information at the San Francisco Opera website.

“Most operas are written before the TV culture that we have. It was a different idea about investing time and listening to stories,” Greer Grimsley says. “It’s an investment for everyone: audience member, orchestra member, performers, stage crew. It is a long-distance event, you can’t slice it any other way. But if you want to see the whole thing, you have to invest the time to do it.” Audiences will have three opportunities to see the four operas: Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung. Grimsley also points out that the huge success of the Lord of the Rings movies (and books before them) show that audiences can not only follow the intricate relationships, but become emotionally invested in the characters. Jamie Barton, who in addition to playing Wotan’s wife Fricka also sings Waltraute and Second Norn, says there are different roles that singers can grow into as their voices and assurance develops. “You can start at the lower level and gradually get to where you’re going. My first actual onstage Ring Cycle was in Munich, and I was Second Norn. Perfect place for me to kind of feel it out with the orchestra for the first time.” She also sang these three roles at Houston Grand Opera. “Singing Wagner, if you’re built for it, you’re built for it.  You have to have a specialized kind of voice to be able to do Wagner for the most part. But if you’re set up well for it, if you are built to sing this, then it… for me… is easier singing this than it is singing Bel Canto or Verdi.”