just over two years ago.
The only recent theatrical happening to touch its sheer magnitude is last year's Glasgow production of The Maliaharata. but staging four operas. with full orchestra. is an even bigger undertaking. The Ring in question is that ofthe Nibelung; Wagner drew his text from Norse legend about the struggle for power between the Nibelung dwarfs. the Giants and the Gods. ln R/tt'ingold. the dwarf Alberich renounces love so he can steal the gold guarded by the Rhinemaidens and forge a ring from it (the production will use a specially tuned anvil made by the College of
Carol Main selects key moments in the lite otthe world‘s greatest opera sequence.
I 1848—1874: Richard
Wagner w rites and
composes the four operas which make up the cycle: has R/tt’ingo/d. I)it’
Walk tire. Siegfried. and
( } ()ltt'rsdamerun g .
IAugust 1876: The first performance. and the opening ofthe
Festspielhaus. Bayreuth. Wagner‘s specially built theatre. where festivals of his operas — and only his-- still take place. Richter conducted. and in the audience were Liszt. Grieg. Bruckner. Mahler. Tchaikovsky. Saint-Saens and Nietzsche. Lilli Lehmann. later to become one of the greatest Wagnerian sopranos. sang the first Rhinemaiden.
I May 1882: The first complete cycle in London at Her Majesty"s'l"heatre. sung in German and conducted by Anton
I Mar1889: The first 4 complete New York cycle atthe Metropolitan.again i
i I June 1892: The first
FORCINC A NEW RING
The inevitable burning question posed by Scottish Opera‘s new production of Das R/teingold. the prologue to Wagner's Ring tetralogy. is whether it represents the start of a new Ring cycle'.’ During a search through the pages of the Oxford Dictionary ofMus‘ic' the other day. trying to track down some obscure composer. the page heading Scottish Opera suddenly leapt out — curiosity revealed that the company's 1971 cycle. which had started with [)ie Walkiire five years previously in 1966. was the first British performance outside London for about 40 years. A new Ring would certainly be the first in Scotland since 1971 . although Welsh National Opera performed it in Cardiff. Covent Garden. Birmingham and Bristol
Technology) to make him all-powerful. but the emotional range is much wider than that.
‘The Ring has a way ofbringing out the boy in the man and the man in the boy.‘ explains Musical Director John Mauceri. ‘It‘sa fable. a fairytale. but it also deals with love. sex. power. greed — it carries a whole lifetime of experience in its musical framework.‘ Both Mauceri and producer Richard Jones. whose most recent work with Scottish ()pera was last season's (.‘os‘ifan (title. believe that ‘Wagner‘s intention is to edify. to make us behave better and to demonstrate what happens when we
cycle at (‘ovent Garden. but given in the wrong order. with Siegfried first. so that the German tenor Max Alvary could make his London debut in his favourite role — and this in
misbehave. It's great fun — there‘s a dragon. a rainbow bridge. the magic helmet — but at the same time it's deeply disturbing.‘
‘1951 was a turning point for productions ofthe Ring’. he explains. ‘because Bayreuth was re-opened after the war and Wagner‘s grandson. Wieland Wagner. began a series of productions which were symbolic. This became standard by the (ills. 705 and even early 80s. but there is nothing symbolic about this production. It‘s not a 19th century factory. it‘s not on another planet and it doesn‘t take place round Wagner's kitchen table.‘ Without giving too much away. he reveals that ‘it takes place in a fantasy period oftime. but looks contemporary in design. What you will see is a mythical Ring. not a symbolic Ring. The presentation of the myth. but not the interpretation ofthe myth. You can interpret it however you like — whether it’s about the way we live. or the burning of rain forests in Brazil.‘
all. Everything on stage has been justified because of the constraints. and if there had been 550.000. we wouldn‘t have done it differently.‘ Scottish Opera‘s Managing Director Richard Mantle agrees. ‘When tnost companies think of doing the Ring they think of huge cheques.’ he explains. ‘This is a low production budget. but it's not on the cheap and doesn't look cheap. It forces the imagination to the front and puts more responsibility on the performers. not like high tech productions which can so often devalue the essence of the action.‘
Those performers. with Willard White as Wotan. Felicity Palmer as Fricka. Nicholas Powell as Alberich and Bonaventure Bottone singing i Loge. promise to be outstanding. ‘Most of them are doing the roles for the first time' says Mantle. ‘which is a great coup for us'. while Mauceri feels that ‘it's as fine a cast for Rlieingold as I‘ve ever seen in my life.‘ Sung in German and lasting 2 hours and 35 minutes without interval. audiences need to do a bit
The director feels that working to a 0f hmncwork 0“ th‘ STUFF. but budget ofonlv 130.000 ‘is good for u.‘ Muuccri is confident that ‘Ihcrc
' ’ ~ ,, should be no problem in knowing 1' what's happening at any time.‘
So — what about a complete Ring? Die Walk tire is already planned to open the 1991 summer season. and both Musical and :‘vfanaging Directors lend to speak in terms of the whole cycle rather than simply l)a.s' R/tt'ingo/d. but the final decision will ultimately depend on the response to this production. ‘ll is a 1 piece which can stand on its own right' says Mantle. ‘but ifit‘s successful then we’ll get on with it’. Mauceri. too. feels it partly depends on audience reaction. ‘(‘learly. Richard Jones and I have the whole Ring in mind - that's our hope. In a way. R/teingold is an audition piece. Just like throwing our hat into the ring— ifyou’ll excuse the pun.‘ (Carol Main)
L i ’i 5.; _ John Mauceri (L) and Richard Jones, “missing 038 Hl'telngold
l)enhof()peraCompany. set tip by Iirnst Denhof. German born but resident in Edinburgh. to give linglish text performances ofthe Ring in British provincial centres. lidinburgh in l‘)1()was followed by tours to Leeds. Manchester and Glasgow in 191 l . with Hull and Liverpool added to the touring circuit in 1912. Financial difficulties the next year meant the end of the company's short but significant life. I 1951: The re-opening of Bayreuth after the war.
THIS ISSUE under Wagner‘s
Wagner.who established F
a modern tradition of
ofthe cycle. EN 44
translation by Andrew l’ortcr.
I 1982: ('hereau production frotn Bayreuth under Boulez televised and broadcast on BBCZ. bringing the Ring to much wider audience. 3 lJanuary 1989: Seottish ; ()pera open new production of [)(M lt’ln’ingold in (ilasgow. the possible prelude to a new cycle.
I December1971: Scottish ()pera give first performance of the Ring in Scotland since the demise ofthe Denhof Opera Company.
I July/Aug 1973: [inglish National Opera perform complete cycle in new
spite of Mahler beingthe conductor!
I 1908: The first complete cycle in English at (‘ovent Garden. with Richter conduchng.
I 1910: The formation of
Next issue: The Big Band Special!
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