The Ring and I: The Passion, The Myth, The Mania

WNYC Special Explores the Impact and Influence of Wagner's Ring Cycle on the Eve of the Metropolitan Opera's Presentation

Friday, April 06, 2012

It might seem hyperbole to claim, as many Wagnerites do, that The Ring Cycle is "The Greatest Work of Art Ever." But the grandeur and power of this monumental work have permeated our culture from Star Wars to Bugs Bunny to J.R.R. Tolkien.

WNYC staff's favorite Ring recordings

WNYC's "The Ring and I: The Passion, The Myth, The Mania" asks what many of the uninitiated must wonder: "What's the big deal?" This journey, intended for both devoted fans and newcomers alike, visits with a diverse cast of characters who weigh in with their answers to this complex question, including:

  • Howard Shore, Oscar-winning composer of The Lord of the Rings, who discusses Wagner's critical development of leitmotifs, which radically transformed how music could become an integral part of telling a story
  • Playwright Tony Kushner, who reflects upon his memories of listening to The Ring with his father, one of the rare bonding experiences the two shared
  • Joe Clark, technical director for the Metropolitan Opera, who thinks that the ultimate litmus test for any opera house is whether it can stage The Ring
  • "Not even Peter Jackson would be able to keep pace with Wagner's hurtling, hovering, ever-evolving musical images, although someday an opera house is certain to ask him to try."—Alex Ross, The New Yorker
  • Jungian psychologist Laurie Layton Schapira, who sees each of the Ring's characters as different aspects of one's entire personality and the story as our own inner drama
  • Seattle Opera director Speight Jenkins, who claims that Wagner was the first composer who attempted—and succeeded—to not merely entertain his audience, but actually change the way they thought
  • Guitarist Gary Lucas, who hears strains of Wagner in Led Zeppelin
  • "It has great sex, fantastic music, a great storm, a big eruptive fire at the end...Who needs reality TV, when you have this?"—Fred Plotkin, Food & Opera Writer
  • Will Berger, author of Wagner without Fear, forgoes Madonna and Eminem, contending that "Wagner is the most controversial artist who ever lived."
  • John Rockwell, cultural correspondent for The New York Times, suggests that "The Ring holds such sway for the same reason Springsteen and Pink do: They're all examples of no-holds-barred music-making."

"The Ring and I: The Passion, The Myth, The Mania" was produced by Jad Abumrad and Aaron Cohen for WNYC, New York Public Radio. Elena Park was Executive Producer.

Music Credits
"Der Ring Des Nibelungen" The Metropolitan Orchestra conducted by James Levine (Deutsche Grammophon)

"Der Ring des Nibelungen" (Ring Cycle), The Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Georg Solti (Decca/London)

"Wagner without Words" Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Lorin Maazel (Telarc)

"Ride of the Valkyries," played by Gary Lucas on electric guitar from his album "Street of the Lost Brothers" (Tzadik)

Produced: March, 2004

More in:

Comments [14]

Tom Pommerel from Australia

I have only just stumbled on your program.
Tears, regret, pride, humility & affirmation followed without announcement.
My most heart-felt thanks for your tribute to this genius composer

Mar. 02 2014 01:42 AM
Markku Kastinen from Finland

It is so nice to note that we do not share appreciation to Richard Wagner only but also the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and to the music maker Howard Shore. I don't speculate if Wagner or J.R.R would turn around in the heights they must now be but Howard Shore did a job worthy of both of the two genii.

Jan. 30 2013 01:09 AM
Rich Fackenthal

Meine Leitmotive? Ja, there's an app for that!

All of the Leitmotifs of Wagner's Ring in your pocket! I wrote a nifty iPhone app with a listing of all the leitmotifs and a piano rendition of each. Great way to learn 'em all. Search for Wagner Ring in the iPhone app store.

Sep. 30 2012 12:55 AM
B.C. from Alameda, Ca.

I love all that I learn, and better yet, think of and indpire to dream of while listening to yor shows/ pod casts;
I will definitely become a supporter. Success!!!, Now I know why I love the Music of Micheal Nyman, Phillip Glass, Cage, Laurie Anderson, Reich, John Williams, and Gladiator's, Amelie's, Pirates of the Carribean 's, composers. Leitmotifs!

Thank you Chad & Robert; I Love you guys!

May. 16 2012 03:28 AM
WNYC Programming

Robert White,

You're right! The Ring and I was originally produced in March 2004 and we do have that listed at the end of the credits above.

Apr. 26 2012 11:46 AM
Robert White from Cliffside Park, New Jersey

It would be nice if this program were listed with a production date. I am almost certain this was produce at least 5 if not 10 years ago. Taking nothing away from being a good program on the Ring, still good broadcast journalism would date the program.

Apr. 10 2012 04:27 PM
Jacqueline, WNYC Programming

"Conway from East Rutherford, NJ" and any others interested in downloading "The Ring and I" program, you can do so on this page - there is a "download" option just under the audio player.

Apr. 09 2012 03:12 PM
Dorothy from Manhattan

Opera? I can take it or leave it -- but I do enjoy Butterfly. ;-)
I've never heard Wagner "in person" and I've heard very little of his music via radio or cd. But:

I loved this program!

Quick! Clone Jad Abumrad (who, btw, is always terrific).

Apr. 08 2012 10:05 PM
Linda Saisselin from New York City

Thanks you so much for creating one of the finest hours of radio I have ever heard.I listened to the first broadcast of the program and then invited my husband to listen to the re-broadcast on Sunday night.We both loved it...and we have not, up until now, been opera lovers. We are proud members of WNYC ,and this program alone was worth our contribution.Public Radio rocks!

Apr. 08 2012 10:05 PM

Thank You ALL for giving us an amazingly and increbible hour of comment on a THE Most Powerful Masterpiece of Music. A Great production guys!
Music does know everything.

Apr. 07 2012 05:19 PM
Conway from East Rutherford, NJ

Dear Mssrs. Abumrad and Cohen ~ I can't begin to tell you how much I enjoyed this "Wagnerian" broadcast! Is this broadcast available for purchase on CD? I'd very much like to buy it.
Many thanks ~ Conway...

Apr. 06 2012 11:07 PM
Maxine Bartow from Nyack, NY

Just to congratulate you on the program about the Ring Cycle. It is one of the best things I have ever ever heard!

Apr. 06 2012 09:01 PM
Christopher FERREE from Upper Manhattan

Thank you, all of those who participated in the production of this programme. This is exactly the reason why one should listen to Public Radio.

Apr. 06 2012 08:56 PM
Dmitry Kurischenko from

Все сказанное до меня мне нравится и я согласен с авторами на этом сайте;от себя скажу еще Вагнер имеет влияние и его прослушивать надо в разные периоды жизни начиная с пубертатного периода,отрочества, юношества,в зрелом возрасте
это как 1 год весна, лето, зима и ..

Mar. 03 2012 05:07 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.



Supported by