The ultimate moment of 19th-century music drama, Richard Wagner’s Ring cycle spins a grand tale of lust and intrigue among all-too-human Teutonic gods and mortals. It took Wagner more than 20 years to compose this most ambitious and intricate saga, each of whose four installments lasts almost five hours. In Das Rheingold the stage is set as the Rhinemaidens’ gold becomes the object of desire for the underground-dwelling Nibelungs, the giant earthlings, and the gods in Valhalla. From there, the plot twists and turns and Wagner’s famous leitmotivs offer premonitions of tragic encounters to come. For me, the Ring fascinates despite its long-windedness and overblown pretentions. A measure of its enduring spell is the number of interpretations that have been imposed on it over the years, from George Bernard Shaw’s parable of capitalist decadence to Bayreuth’s triumph of the Aryan race–not to mention the devastatingly wicked parodies from Bugs Bunny and opera satirist Anna Russell. What sot of revisionism will be accorded to Lyric opera’s brand-new production is hard to gauge, but the production’s stage director, Met veteran August Everding, is rather tradition-bound so expect to see dungeons and dragons. For once, Wotan the paterfamilias of the gods is portrayed by a singer who looks heroic: baritone James Morris; Ekkehard Wlaschiha is the devious Alberich; Tatiana Troyanos has the part of Fricka, the hot-tempered Frau Wotan. Zubin Mehta, an above-par Wagnerian, conducts. Friday, Monday, and Wednesday, 7:30 PM, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker; 332-2244, extension 500.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Tony Romano.