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Sing Faster - The Stagehands' Ring Cycle


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Product Details

  • Actors: Kenneth 'Spike' Kirkland
  • Directors: Jon Else
  • Producers: Richard Berge
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Docurama
  • DVD Release Date: June 29, 2004
  • Run Time: 60 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00022FW90
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #59,593 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Sing Faster - The Stagehands' Ring Cycle" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Filmmaker biography

Editorial Reviews

Winner of the prestigious Filmmaker's Trophy at Sundance, SING FASTER is a spirited and comical behind-the-scenes look at Richard Wagner's beloved Ring Cycle, one of the most ambitious and spectacular operas in history. In the tradition of Noises Off, thi

Customer Reviews

Very well made.
Barbara Chisler
If you've ever worked tech for a play, an opera, or a musical, this is the movie for you; you will recognize the truth of it and laugh.
Amazon Customer
The vast scale and complexity of this performance is made clear as we watch the construction and movement of the huge set structures.
Phred

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Hodges on June 12, 2006
Format: DVD
Watching this 1999 documentary over the weekend, I hadn't laughed so hard in months. Filmed during the San Francisco Opera's 1995 production of Wagner's Ring Cycle, "Sing Faster" offers a rare glimpse into the complexities, banalities, and realities of making an operatic extravaganza. The narration includes running commentary by the stagehands, who passionately summarize the plots, comment on the action and crack jokes about the length of the piece.

Meanwhile, as the show goes on upstairs, downstairs the technical crew are playing poker, or reading, or are engaged in any number of non-operatic pursuits while waiting for their cues. Marvelous camera-work often shows the production in full swing, but from the point of view of those backstage and engaged in tense problem-solving, such as figuring out how much fog to use, or how to choreograph a fight with a dragon for maximum impact.

But the offhand comments running through the hour-long piece are probably the most enjoyable. This is Wagner from the point of view of those who make the magic happen every night, but who remain virtually invisible while the show is going on. As hundreds of carpenters, electricians and others sweat to make each scene come to life, they offer terse, laconic analyses of the plot, plus an occasional bit of physical comedy.

The film ends with a romp through all four operas, filmed at hyper-speed, cleverly summing up the singing, conducting and visual effects in roughly two minutes. If anything, as the credits were rolling, I felt it was over too soon.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Kimsey on February 12, 2005
Format: DVD
Like the Nibelungs in Wagner's drama, the stagehands at the San Fran opera are mercilessly whipped by an obnoxious troll (in this case, it's some dumpy loudmouth with glasses). Despite the lack of respect that they receive, the stagehands are absolutely essential in bringing these masterpieces to the stage, and this ultra-cool film is a visual document of them in action.

The film has endearing footage of the stagehand's own interpretations of the drama, as well as behind the scenes looks at the performers. Watching the dragon from behind the curtain, as well as Brunnhilde doing some Spanish dancing to Wagnerian music are particularly cool and funny.

If you're into Wagner, or interested in the world of theater, then this film is an absolute delight!
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Linda Yoder on June 27, 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This gem is not just for opera nuts or Wagner lovers. In fact, even if you don't have special fondness for the Ring Cycle, you'll be enchanted by how it's told by the stage crew. This is not pure tech theater, either. It's a distillation of a monument in the making, complete with brilliantly photographed footage artfully placed over opera passages, including an extraordinary scene inside the dragon as it is being slain. Don't miss this one.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on April 17, 2006
Format: DVD
Sing Faster: The StageHands'Ring Cycle (1999): Starring The Production Staff, Singers, Chorus And Orchestra Of The San Francisco Opera, Ken Spike Kirkland as Principal Stagehand, Ann Panagulias, Sandra Walker and Mary Mills as Rhinemaidens, Written, Produced And Directed By Jon Else

Filmed in the summer of 1990 at the San Francisco Opera, I remember seeing this documentary on KCET/PBS channel 28. I was only 10-13. This documentary suffered low ratings because it was released at the time of the more successful Ken Burns documentary "The Civil War". But then, about 10 years later in 1999, director/producer Jon Else re-released it as a DVD. This is a behind-the-scenes look at the staging of Richard Wagner's greatest masterpiece based on the ancient Norse saga The Ring of the Nibelung, a series of four lengthy operas- Das Rhingold Die Walkure, Siegfried and Gotterdammerung, in a magnificent San Francisco Opera production, and one which I wished I could have been there to see.

The documentary is narrated by the Union production crew of Local 16, a cast of carpenters, grips, electricians, prop people, stage managers and assistant directors. The chief stagehand Ken "Spike" Kirkland (who had previously worked as a grip with the rap group Run DMC) summarizes the plot/story of the opera while wearing a B-52's shirt, lounging on a card table and discussing it with the other stagehands. For people who are not singers, teachers or even music majors, they certainly GET THE ESSENCE OF THE RING OPERAS! Its a fantasy soap opera-opera about man's lust for power, greed, corruption, a huge tragedy of the death of the gods and the new age of love and mankind. This is the documentary that hooked me into opera! It provides the viewers with an exciting, refreshing look at the making of an opera.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Jack M. Firestone on June 12, 2004
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is a histerical look at the 1995 San Francisco Ring production from the Stagehands point of view. Some of the funniest discourse on the Ring I have ever heard. You also see the commitment and hard work of these unsung IATSE heros.
The audio contains some great singing, but almost no look at the stage other than through the wings. (...)
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By coffee on January 30, 2007
Format: DVD
This film captures the drama, the physical thrill, of getting huge scenic elements up in the air, and down to the ground, and swung into and out of play, like nothing else. There's a lot of romance to the back-stage work of being a stagehand, and I don't mean just flirtations (and marriages) with singers and dancers. Every production, every night is a mission, and this film 'gets it' -- great shots of the ensemble movements of teams of carpenters, paused in suspense before a cue, ankle-shots of armies of sneakers squeaking into action. One bittersweet feature of "Sing Faster' is the technology-life it documents, where everything is moved by hand or hands pulling rope, before the innovation (or, ahem, infection) of automation tech, which is more and more dominating the backstage experience. Less team work, more million-dollar scissor lifts, and robotic lights). Does 'Sing Faster' document a way of life that is disappearing?

The electrics department gets less exposure than the carps (some hapless followspot guy gets repeatedly chewed out over the head-set). (The film-makers make great use of the chatter and groaning and cursing heard over the head-sets. Very funny). Women aren't much present on this crew, but yup, turn up when we get shots of the electric crew, dropping fresh colors into freznels.

Intercut through the action shots is a poker game, seemingly deep in the bowels of the theater, where the guys hold forth on what they've picked up of the plot. "And there's still fourteen hours to go." There's some refreshing puzzlement over the predicaments Wotan gets himself into, and the baffling family life of the gods. "She's his Aunt, right?
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