You've probably never wondered what the classical composer Richard Wagner has in common with the Grateful Dead. I never did, myself. But in 2018, when I saw San Francisco Opera's production of the Ring cycle—Wagner's 17-hour epic opera of gods, nymphs, giants and valkyries—I couldn't help but notice the crowd in the $10 standing-room-only peanut gallery at the War Memorial Opera House. These were people decked in flamboyant outfits, who'd camped out in line for cheap tickets, who sometimes slept on the floor during intermissions and who, I learned, regularly traveled around the world to see as many stagings of The Ring as possible.
In other words: They were Deadheads. But for opera.
After being transformed by The Ring, especially director Francesca Zambello's dynamic, modern staging of it, I understood where they were coming from. Like a dewy-eyed Deadhead waxing rhapsodic about Jerry Garcia, I turned into a proselytizing Ring zealot, urging anyone within earshot to give this slow-moving, 17-hour, 162-year-old opera a chance.
Which is why I'm here to tell you: The Ring is coming back. For free. All through the month of March, San Francisco Opera is streaming its 2018 production of The Ring, in its entirety—one of each four parts each weekend, online. For those that couldn't score a miracle ticket in 2018, it's the perfect opportunity to see this thrilling staging.
In addition, SF Opera is hosting The Ring Festival, a series of talks and interviews from actors, authors and those behind the scenes all about The Ring's themes and impact. Those streams are just $15 each, and also run through the month.