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Wagner's Cycle gets a fast spin

Pupils will enjoy a condensed version of the German opera, reports David McNab.

IT HAS been described as the greatest achievement in the history of Western culture: an epic production of 17 hours, spread over eight days.

But primary pupils in the Cambridge area will find a few cuts have been made to their version of Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle - it lasts just over an hour.

Give us a Ring promises to bring together dwarves and giants and combine video and cartoon in a production which will trail the showing of the real thing at Cambridge Arts Theatre this summer.

Theatre managers, who are conscious that the four lengthy sittings over eight days will be beyond the concentration span of even the most alert pupil, are planning to treat local schools to a shorter cycle.

They are celebrating a coup in attracting Longborough Festival Opera's Ring Cycle, whose version is nearer 12 hours than the original 17, and are working on a school adaptation lasting just over an hour.

For some children it will be their first experience of theatre and Roberta Hamond, theatre education and community manager, said: "It will be very visual with dragons and goblins. It is also very topical given current interest in the Lord of the Rings."

There will be a 30-minute video, a short introduction to the stage lighting and special effects used in the production, and a half-hour live musical session with the maiden Bruennhilde and a dwarf.

Each showing at the theatre, where tickets will cost pound;3, is expected to attract 400 to 500 pupils. There are also plans for 30-minute workshops which will travel to East Anglian schools.

It is one of the most ambitious adaptations for schools to date of a complex piece of work, but not the first attempt at a truncated version. San Francisco Opera stagehands mounted a production called Sing Faster which condensed the epic into 55 minutes.

The Ring Cycle, which is sung in German, is deeply rooted in ancient mythologies and folklore and features Rhinemaidens, Walkures and giant dragons.

The Ring Cycle has never before been attempted in Cambridge. The Arts Theatre is expecting an unprecedented demand for tickets which do not go on sale until the spring. Prices are expected to range from pound;10 to pound;120 for the four operas.

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