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Reflections on My First Ring Cycle

By Iain Paterson (Wotan)

It’s great to be back in Houston for Siegfried.  This is my first Ring cycle as Wotan, and it is the realization of a dream for me.  When I was a student in Glasgow, Scotland, the librarian was a good friend of mine, a lovely lady called Liz, and she used to secret away the new recordings that she thought I would like, and the Solti Ring had just been released on CD.  I was 18 or 19 years old.  And I remember going home and listening to it from start to finish and just being blown away by this music. I always hoped that I would get a chance to sing some part of it. But my voice went up and down like a yo-yo; I sang as a bass for 10 years, then as a baritone for three years in my early 30s. So it wasn’t really an achievable goal until the last few years. It’s the ultimate challenge for a singer—and for an actor as well. I can’t think of anything better.

My character, Wotan, is a young and very arrogant god in Das Rheingold. In Die Walküre he’s very much a god at the peak of his power, and toward the end of Siegfried we see a fading god, past his prime and resigned by that point to the fate of the world. In many ways the first dozen performances of any role are formative; you’ve got to try things out.  But I’ve been fortunate enough to meet quite a few Wotans, but they all say the same thing—that every time you do it you learn something new, and every time you perform it, you want to bring out something new.  There’s so much in the character.

There’s so much going on vocally in the part that you’ve got to keep healthy.  You’ve got to stay positive. And you’ve got to be prepared to work.  It’s not an easy night, and you’re going to earn your fee.  But it’s hugely rewarding. How often do you get to hang around with a great big spear telling people what to do?

What’s great about this production is that they have the new, with the technology, but they also have the old— the scrim cloth projection technique is one of the oldest theater techniques known.  And they let us tell the story within that, which is great.

More than any company anywhere that I’ve been before, it feels like a family here. There’s this sense that everybody has confidence in everybody else, and people are good at what they do, and they just get on with it.  And that’s very reassuring as a performer.  I can’t think of another time in 22 years of singing where I’ve had a better experience working with a company.  And when you find a company like that, you want to come back.