The Ring Cycle (as it is commonly called) is a monolithic presence in music history. It is often said to be the embodiment of the concept of Gesamtkunstwerk, or "complete art work," a term Wagner adopted to describe a work of art that incorporates all areas of artistic expression: dance, drama, music, visual arts, etc. Certainly The Ring qualifies: the combined operas are 15 hours of continuous music, with words written by Wagner himself.
The emotional and dramatic power of the music lies in one of Wagner's greatest innovations, the leitmotif. The leitmotifs are musical themes with specific dramatic associations. For instance, every time someone is singing about Valhalla, the home of the gods, the Valhalla leitmotif plays, conjuring up the grandeur of their palace. The concept of leitmotifs has expanded far beyond the opera house. For example, film score composer John Williams wrote a leitmotif for Darth Vader that instantly conjures up his evil visage. Wagner uses leitmotifs to great effect by allowing the orchestra to comment on the action on stage, almost as another character in this epic drama; as a result, his music adored by both opera and orchestral music fans alike. Featuring: Simon O'Neill, John Tomlinson, René Pap and Waltraud Meier.