Russian conductor takes Bayreuth by storm

28th July 2013, Comments 0 comments

Russian conductor Kirill Petrenko received standing ovations at the end of the second instalment of Frank Castorf's new production of Richard Wagner's "Ring" cycle at the world-famous Bayreuth Festival on Saturday.

The 41-year-old maestro is making his debut in the legendary Festspielhaus theatre on the town's fabled Green Hill this season.

And he seems already to have won the hearts of the ultra-critical Wagnerians after just two nights, with his alert, transparent and sensitive reading of the composer's monumental score.

While the first part of the four-opera cycle, "Rhinegold", was loudly booed and whistled at the premiere on Friday, the second part, "The Valkyrie", was more generously received.

Castorf has dispensed with everything mythical in Wagner's sprawling mix of Nordic and mediaeval legend where limitless power is bestowed on the wearer of the Nibelung's cursed golden ring from which the cycle takes its name.

Instead, the self-declared enfant terrible of German theatre sees the root of the world's evil in oil.

"Rhinegold" was set in a sleazy motel somewhere along America's iconic Route 66.

Castorf sets "The Valkyrie" in Baku, Azerbaidjan at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries at the time of the first oil boom.

And the visually stunning set of a gigantic wooden-framed oil rig, historically true to detail, is by Serbo-Croatian designer Aleksandar Denic.

Among the cast of singers, who all received tumultuous applause and foot-trampling from the audience, South-African Johan Botha and German-Italian soprano Anja Kampe stole the show as the incestuous twins Siegmund and Sieglinde.

German bass Franz-Josef Selig was also outstanding as Siegline's violent, abusive husband Hunding.

German bass-baritone Wolfgang Koch and German mezzo Claudia Mahnke were less convincing as warring husband and wife Wotan and Fricka.

The next instalment of Frank Castorf's "Ring" is on Monday with the premiere of "Siegfried".


© 2013 AFP

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