06/30/2010 12:41 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Twilight of the Festival

The final notes of Götterdämmerung sounded on Saturday evening. Fittingly, the Wagner Society of Southern California presented the final Ring Festival LA symposium on Sunday at the Goethe Institute while Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica closed the Festival with collision/theory in a new multi-media performance of The Nibelungenlied. The Opera's performances were as beautiful and exciting as we had hoped during all the years of their preparation. People went repeatedly. Ticket sales, which had lagged before the performances began, burgeoned on the word of mouth from the audiences at the first of the three cycles. The Festival engaged the entire city and met our expectations by tearing down the walls that have separated the abundance of cultural and educational institutions in Los Angeles, and inviting everyone in the city to participate in experiencing the fascination of The Ring. The Festival's audiences for its entire 10-week run were consistently full or nearly full houses. Ring Festival LA presented close to 1,000 events and more than 300,000 people attended. LA Opera has moved to a new, central place in the cultural life of Los Angeles. Angelenos across the city engaged in discussions about Wagner, his music, his ideas, his personality, and the influences his work exerted. The New York Times summed it up last week with its story: "Los Angeles Opera Company's 'Ring' Festival." The Los Angeles Times weighed in this past Monday with "A rousing recovery elevates 'L.A. Ring.'"

For me, the most impressive thing about the Festival was the quality and intensity of the participation by all the partners. The partnering institutions, from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to The Verdi Chorus, put their hearts into creating new and impressive work that could not have happened without the Festival. Would there have been a performance of Das Barbecü in Glendale without the participation of the Musical Theatre Guild in the Festival? Would we have seen Das Liebesverbot if USC's Thornton School were not a partner? Or Die Feen if the Lyric Opera of Los Angeles were not a partner? The show (which is still up) of Achim Freyer's paintings at Ace Gallery near LACMA? The discussion by Antonio Damasio, Peter Sellars, and Bill Viola on Wagner's music and the brain at REDCAT? The lectures by Michael Berenbaum and Gottfried Wagner on Wagner's anti-semitism at the American Jewish University? The numerous brilliant talks by James Conlon on all aspects of Wagner's music? And the literally hundreds of other Festival events? No partner just checked a box or "mailed it in." They did their best work. It was a feast, and the city partook of it enthusiastically.

I went to many of the events. I could not do them all because we had offerings occurring simultaneously all over town, but I took in a good sampling of the Festival. It was always fun to see familiar faces in the audiences--people in Los Angeles who are deeply engaged in and knowledgeable about music in general and opera in particular. This city's greatest asset is not its institutions or its structures; it is its diverse and talented people.

The credit for this singular occurrence goes to all the innumerable people who created the lectures, shows, performances, etc. that constituted the Festival. It also goes to the great team at LA Opera who worked to catalyze, coordinate, and promote the Festival. The remarkable Stacy Brightman and her team at LA Opera were the people who made it happen. They are a dedicated and brilliant group of people. Also, I am grateful to Jean Oelrich at LA Opera, who had an enormous impact on this project from its earliest days to today. I am proud to be associated with all of them.