MUSIC: Gods and Gold

If devotion to the works of Richard Wagner is a worldwide cult, then a performance of The Ring of the Nibelung is that religion's ultimate rite: a fervent emotional and aesthetic observance. Any opera house that is able to produce the Ring cycle -- four long, mythic music dramas, based on old Norse and German sagas -- is assured of a sellout. Audiences travel across continents to submit themselves to the Ring's thrilling embrace. Among Wagner's many other theatrical gifts was his ability to build a climax at the end of every act, so that the audience is continually swept into...

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