I live and die by the colour coded pronouncements of my Google Calendar, so it's only fair that I take it at its word when it tells me that I have been in Seattle for just over a month. Still, I find this hard to believe. It seems like no time at all since we were newly arrived and grappling with confusing weather – I swear every block had its own microclimate – and a labyrinth of traffic cones and closed lanes. Well, the traffic trauma hasn't changed much (I have no idea how anybody here ever arrives anywhere on time) but the famous rain gave way early on to the sweet relief of constant sunshine. I can't tell you how happy this made me: after six months of perpetual, multi-continent winter, I was beginning to think I'd never be warm again.
But, as usual, it wasn't the Vitamin D infusion or the iconic tall structure which brought us to this city, but our prickly old friend and autocratic travel planner, Wagner. It's Ring time in Seattle. There's a massive billboard on the opera ouse – Greer Grimsley is visible for miles around – and a van buzzing about town emblazoned with the slogan "Follow me to Valhalla". (Spoiler: it's more likely to lead you to a boxy rehearsal venue, but let's not spoil the magic.) Some of the singers have been here since May – the Rheinmaidens, for instance, whose underwater acrobatics require some serious precision training – and others arrived a little later.To steal a phrase from my Siegmund: it's Wagner summer camp. Almost everybody knows everybody, whether from previous Seattle Rings or elsewhere on the Wagnerian circuit. Opera is a small world and Wagner is even smaller.
Everybody, Siegmund included, had told me how mindbogglingly pretty this Ring was, and they were right. At this point I've only seen Das Rheingold and Die Walküre in full, and the dragon-slaying chunk of Siegfried, and every time I just wanted to climb into the set and live in that world. Hunding's hut would do nicely for a Hobbit or even Winnie the Pooh, the forests and valleys seem to extend far beyond the wings and fly tower, there's real fire and even a real dragon. A dragon!
The names on the cast list speak for themselves. I mean, you don't need me to tell you that Stephanie Blythe's fomidable Fricka is a force of nature or that Greer Grimsley might actually be Wotan. I might not be able to help telling you that this Ring has the best Siegmund on the planet, but I'll try to keep that effusion back till opening night. I could start listing everybody who's already impressed me, just in rehearsal, but it's probably easier just to link to the cast list – it's star studded.
I'm sure there is more to say, and I hope that I'll be a better blogger in the coming weeks and actually say some of it. Right now, however, the final dress rehearsal of Die Walküre is urgently calling: further proof that, despite my disbelief, time in Seattle is flying faster than Brünnhilde and her horse.