BWW Reviews: THE SKYLIGHT RING Reinvents Wagner's Mythic Opera with Intimate Style

BWW Reviews: THE SKYLIGHT RING Reinvents Wagner's Mythic Opera with Intimate Style

Forget what might be known or understood regarding Richard Wagner's epic The Ring Cycle- a legendary series of four complete operas he composed over 26 years ( 1848-1874) that requires more than 18 hours to perform. Instead enjoy The Skylight Ring, Skylight Music Theatre's cheeky, slightly irreverent yet oh so entertaining two hour and four actor version on the Studio Stage at the Broadway Theatre Center.

Applaud the condensed opera format adapted by Daniel J. Brylow (book and lyrics) combined with music arrangements by Artistic and Music Director Viswa Subbaraman, two talented men tackling the daunting opera project with astounding results. Due credit for this shortened and inspired Ring Cycle rests in the actors--Robert Frankenberry, Colleen Brooks, Tim Rebers and Erin Sura along with Scenic Designer Adam Stoner, Costume Designer Susanne Maroske and Lighting Designer Phil Cruise Warren. Directed by an astute Brylow, these actors and technicians transform multiple characters in various scenes over several decades to weave a captivating tale based on Wagner's interpretation of Scandinavian myths and legends similar to J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings."

Brylow's adaptation begins with Wagner's corrupted dwarf, Alberich, who narrates the story from the beginning while playing the piano, in such clarity that little explanation will be needed,, although the audience guide provided by the Skylight do that superbly. Merely sit back and be entranced by the contemporary dialogue and ultimately Wagner's brilliant operatic compositions trimmed to 14 powerful performances opera lovers will appreciate..

Inhabiting the role of Alberich, Frankenberry personifies the dwarf's obsession with power instead of love and incidentally accompanies the opera singlehandedly on a grand piano--the entire performance acting, singing and storytelling---a tiny theatrical miracle in itself. Combine Frankenberry with the impressive talents of Brooks, Rebers and Sura, and the cast shines equally in spectacular operatic solo moments, and in personifying these Gods, Goddesses, and mere mortals The Skylight Ring resembles a modern day soap opera steeped in classic mythology distilled to contemporary culture, and often touched with cheeky humor.

The tale begins when Alderich steals a enchanted ring, which sets in motion the forces of the Gods in the world where Wotan the King of the Gods, (Rebers) searches for meaning, power and a legacy to rule his empire. He eventually uses one of his numerous daughters from an affair with a fortuneteller, Brunhilde (Sura) to accomplish his treacherous goals. When Brunhilde disobeys her father's order, she's imprisoned in a ring of fire on a high mountain top within a deep forest, and a dragon must be slayed to rescue her. When she falls in love with the warrior who passes through the ring of fire, Siegfried (Brooks) and Wotan's grandson, the child of a brother/sister liaison, the magic of the stolen ring and Wotan's sword, Nortung ,ultimately brings power only through destruction. This highly condensed story, a marvelous tale, unfolds on an intimate stage to enthrall opera aficionados and novices alike.

Milwaukee can be thrilled to experience this entertaining and innovative opera form that retains the passion and pathos to the original Wagner Ring Cycle in a mere two hours. Sung completely in English, these voices sparkle on a stage where concentric growth rings mimic the interior of a tree, which elegantly symbolizes the story's Scandinavian roots and Wotan's earthly empire. Could a show from a recent season of any HBO series be more compelling?

The Skylight impresses in theatrical innovation once upon a time again in The Skylight Ring, an up close and personal opera expression. A sincere thank you to Subbaraman for giving the city a contemporary production on Wagner's grand opera to appreciate and contemplate, tease the senses to attend a full length version when another opportunity comes along.. Glorious reasons to savor the opera art form while anticipating the Skylight's upcoming season finale, Sondheim's award-winning, wonderful Into the Woods.

The Skylight Music Theatre presents The Skylight Ring in the Studio Theatre at the Broadway Theatre Center through June 7. For special programming, information on their 2015-2016 season subscriptions, tickets to the June 20 Skylight Night (414.299.4972) or tickets please call: 414.291.7800 or

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From This Author Peggy Sue Dunigan

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