Last week I attended a lecture by Seattle Opera's technical director Robert Schaub and found out some interesting information about this production. Schaub said that the original design work began in 1995 - about six years before the the production was presented for the first time in 2001. In comparison, Schaub told us that it usually takes two years to develop an opera from scratch.
The Thomas Lynch design called for hyper-realistic scenery, and Schaub said that it's a lot more difficult than you can imagine to make trees, dirt, water, and stone to look like the real thing. His crew did a lot of experimentation to figure it out. Some of the panels and armature are 25 feet deep, 32 feet wide, and 32 feet tall. The sections with Fafner's Cave and the switchbacks up the hillside weigh 19,000 lbs each. They glued Dacron onto the armature and, for the cave/cliff, glued foam onto that and then carved away. For another comparison, the cost of creating scenery for a typical opera is 10 square feet per hour, but for the Ring is was 1 square foot per hour.
For the 2009 Ring, Seattle Opera bought new computers, gears, motors, and drives. They redid the "skin" of the dragon in silk, because the previous skin (although preserved perfectly) was done in a material (I didn't write it down - but it was probably latex) that is used for Halloween masks, and it basically melted in the shop environment after it was exposed.
Schaub said that Seattle's Ring involves six to eight stage managers and 50 stage hands. The scenery is packed in 60 trailers and each trailer is 53 feet long. A typical opera uses just a handful of trailers for scenery.