The 'Ring' takes centre-stage at Bayreuth

19th July 2006, Comments 0 comments

19 July 2006, BAYREUTH, GERMANY - A much-anticipated new staging by Germany's foremost theatrical playwright/director of Richard Wagner's four-opera epic masterpiece "Der Ring der Nibelungen" highlights the 95th Bayreuth Opera Festival, which gets underway July 25.

19 July 2006

BAYREUTH, GERMANY - A much-anticipated new staging by Germany's foremost theatrical playwright/director of Richard Wagner's four-opera epic masterpiece "Der Ring der Nibelungen" highlights the 95th Bayreuth Opera Festival, which gets underway July 25.

Tankred Dorst, considered a playwright of mythic proportions in Germany for his treatment of Arthurian and Germanic themes on the stage, is said to have come up with a radically new production of "Das Rheingold," "Die Walkuere," "Siegfried" and "Gotterdaemmerung."

For Dorst, who at age 80 is the acknowledged dean of dramatists in Germany, Wagner's "Ring" cycle represents his operatic debut. But few doubt that Dorst, whose 10-hour marathon "Merlin" stage play cycle 25 years ago based on King Arthur myths has been compared with Goethe's "Faust," will have come up with a landmark production at Bayreuth.

Dorst was already being hailed by critics as the lord of the "Ring" after a photo-op during the first rehearsal earlier this summer.

No details of the production have been leaked to the public aside from Dorst's own cryptic comment that it will have a modern-day setting "meshing modernity with tradition."

All the more impressive is the fact that Dorst was a last-minute replacement. This year's "Ring" was to have been staged by Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier.

After Trier's abrupt departure in 2004, Dorst was asked at intermission time during a performance of "Parsifal" if he had any plans for the next two years.

At Bayreuth, where it was first performed by Richard Wagner himself in 1876, the 15-hour tetralogy is treated as one opera, and Dorst's new staging will be the focal point of the Bayreuth Festival in an opera house built to Wagner's specifications for the premiere of "The Ring" 130 years ago.

It is the only new production at this year's fest, which opens on July 25 with a Claus Guth's staging of "The Flying Dutchman" (Der Fliegende Hollaender).

"Parsifal" and "Tristan and Isolde" fill out the bill for the festival, tickets for which were sold out eight years in advance.

Those lucky enough to have booked tickets will see the curtain rise on Dorst's historic production July 26 under the baton of Christian Thielemann, running consecutive days through July 31.

Making their Bayreuth debuts are Falk Struckmann as Wotan and Linda Watson as Brunnhilde. Stephen Gould is singing Siegfried for the first time in his career.

The "Tristan" being performed this year is the tried-and-true production by renowned German stage director Christoph Marthaler conducted by Peter Schneider.

The "Parsifal" on view will be the highly controversial post- modernist staging by enfant terrible Christoph Schlingensief that shocked Bayreuth head Wolfgang Wagner earlier when it premiered two summers ago.

An off-the-hill innovation this year will be an open-air "Ring in the Evening" series of chamber ensemble performances featuring 12 musicians and eight singers. That series is the highlight of the ubiquitous round of concerts, readings, lectures and exhibits that always accompany the main event at the big house on the Green Hill.

Despite the innovations, it is the Dorst staging that will no doubt be remembered from this year's festival. It comes exactly 30 years after Richard Wagner's grandson Wolfgang stunned the operatic world by unveiling a centenary "Ring" cycle production by Patrice Chereau and conducted by Pierre Boulez.

The Chereau/Boulez staging remains the standard by which all "Ring" productions are measured, thanks in large part to the advent of video and DVD which have brought it to living rooms around the world.

It was the Chereau/Boulez "Ring" that ignited the annual frenzy of ticket orders. Prior to the mid-1970s it was possible to get tickets on the day of performance.

Those days are long gone, of course, and now about half a million ticket-seekers vie annually for the 50,000 available tickets, ranging in price from $15 to $200.

There are even tickets for under $10 for seats so badly situated that the opera-goer cannot see the stage at all. But there is an eight-year waiting period for even those tickets.

The 95th Bayreuth Festival ends August 28.

DPA

Subject: German news

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