05/22/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Inside LA Opera's $32-Million Ring Cycle Gamble

In Richard Wagner's "The Ring of the Nibelung," a pile of sacred gold and a ring that's fashioned from it are said to confer "measureless might." However, by the fourth scene of the 17-hour-plus opus, a drawback has emerged: A curse gets attached to the loot, and a colorful assortment of gods, dwarfs, giants and humans spend the rest of the proceedings either succumbing to the hex or trying to set things right.

Achim Freyer can relate. Los Angeles Opera has put him in charge of its own mighty hoard -- the $32 million budgeted for mounting L.A.'s first-ever production of the Ring, a four-part work that connoisseurs consider opera's Mount Everest. The nearly five-year endeavor is heading into its home stretch.