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Fulham Opera tackles Wagner's Ring

A small London company scales opera's highest mountain

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An early Monty Python sketch depicted, I recall, the Batley Townswomen's Guild's re-enactment of the Battle of Pearl Harbor. The incongruity of that idea isn't a million miles away from the concept of London's "smallest professional opera company" (as they call themselves) staging two complete cycles of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen in a West London church.

Wotan of the West - from Fulham Opera's Ring cycle

Yet Fulham Opera is doing exactly that, and it opens tonight, Sunday 9 February, with Das Rheingold.

The company, which was only launched in 2009, has already presented the individual Ring operas on a one-a-year basis, but this is the first time they have attempted all four together in a single run. It's an epic undertaking in more ways than one.

Artistic Director Ben Woodward says: "The Ring Cycle is the ultimate challenge for any opera company. Presenting the piece in an intimate setting, primarily with piano accompaniment, enables us to reveal the universality at the very heart of the story."

Replacing Wagner's massive orchestra with a single piano could prove wearing on the listener's ear, hence the addition of french horns, flute and harp to the texture. In every other respect, though, this is a fully-staged production. Wagner's mythical action has been updated to the very near future, during which the Gods move from Dallas, to Hollywood, to a secluded Amish community before finally arriving at the Gibich's seat of power, Washington.

The two cycles of the Ring, given by a company of seasoned and emerging Wagner performers, will be spread over three weeks, concluding on 2 March with the second performance of the mighty Götterdämmerung. And all shoehorned into the confines of St John's Church.

Ambitious is hardly the word for it. How long before OperaUpClose, another contender for that ‘smallest company' label, gives us Parsifal in a pub?

- Full details and booking arrangements for the Fulham Opera Ring cycle can be found here.