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George Heymont


11 Cultural Highs From San Francisco's 2011 Arts Calendar

Posted: 12/26/11 10:23 AM ET

The San Francisco Bay area has such a vibrant arts community that prioritizing events can become a mind-numbing exercise. What follows is a slideshow of the 11 most thrilling events I attended in 2011.

Behind the Scenes at SF Opera's Ring Cycle
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Without doubt, the greatest artistic achievement San Franciscans witnessed in 2011 was the staging of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen in a new production conceived and directed by Francesca Zambello, whose lever use of film made the audience feel as if it was watching an IMAX movie. Not only was this a classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, Zambello's "American RING" took a great work of 19th century art and elevated it to a great work of 21st century art.

Standouts included Nina Stemme as Brunnhilde and Jay Hunter Morris as Siegfried. Thanks to recent advances in computer technology, Zambello's phenomenal integration of film, animation, and pyrotechnics allowed her to supplement Wagner's musical leitmotifs with her own set of visual light motifs. With Donald Runnicles on the podium, this RING offered Bay area audiences a triumphant 19 hours of operatic splendor.

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