The excellent Wagner-dedicated website The Wagnerian has up a chapter excerpt from author David Littlejohn's 1992 book The Ultimate Art: Essays Around and About Opera titled "Whatever Became of the Breastplates?" that comments in brief on stagings of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen from Wagner's own staging at Bayreuth in 1876 down to the present day (or rather, the present day as of 1992). For Ring newcomers especially (but by no means exclusively) the chapter makes for most interesting reading and closes with the following thought, even more salient today than when it was written:
Chaos, as Wagner himself sometimes suggested, is likely to be the rule, rather than the exception, in our world (and in productions of Der Ring des Nibelungen that try to reflect or comment on that world) until another cruel divine order emerges to force things back into unity. Rings devoted to the evils and collapse of Eastern European communism are surely on the drafting boards already, now that Rings devoted to the evils and collapse of capitalism and fascism are becoming routine. Be grateful if you have the opportunity to see a contemporary Ring that is as compelling to look at as it is to listen to; thoughtfully (not narrowly or spitefully) of our time; on the whole generous to Wagner, rather than mean-minded and reductive; one that makes provocative sense, and still seems to grow out of the music, which is (fortunately) larger than all of these postmodern Konzepts put together.Read the full text here.