On Wagner’s DER RING DES NIBELUNGEN
The beginning is the end, and the end is only ever another beginning. This idea is manifest in the opening scene of RHEINGOLD and the final scene of GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG: The gods, their faces hooded, are sitting on the stage, swaddled in burial shrouds, and silence prevails for a full one and a half minutes, until the id takes up. The music builds, a melange of steps, harmonies, melody and rhythm – European music at the moment of its creation, as it were, at the start of the RING. The gods rose and began to play their game as if intent on savouring new experience after new experience. And at the end of GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG, with everything charred and in ruins, there they are, seated, ready to play the game again - maybe over and over again. [Götz Friedrich, 1985]
With his tetralogy of the Nibelungen saga Richard Wagner was embarking on a project that was to dwarf (The Wagnerian: No pun intended?) all previous operatic ventures. With the RING DES NIBELUNGEN Wagner had planned a weltgedicht, a »world poem«, containing the beginning and demise of the world, a tale of gods and greed, power and hegemony, theft and downfall and the perversion of law. The story revolves around the hero, whose role is to liberate the people from a repression caused by the power exerted by money. Wagner’s own life and the political upheavals of his day are reflected in the RING. Like so many of his contemporaries – and long before the premiere of his mammoth opus - Richard Wagner, too, was adopting a somewhat critical stance on capitalism, as evinced by his 1848 essay, Die Revolution.
Here, time turns into space« [PARSIFAL, Act I]
Götz Friedrich’s response to the deep-seated ambivalence of the bourgeoisie is an interpretation in which time and space cannot exist without the other, in which the two dimensions interweave and lose themselves in each other. Friedrich’s legendary time tunnel stands as one of the greatest conceptualisations in the history of Wagner productions. His sets are no rigidly modernist structures; they symbolise the destructibility of living space and mankind’s propensity to destroy itself while retaining its human face amidst the destruction going on all around. Opera, evolving over time, plays out on Friedrich’s stage. We witness the staging of a human drama that embraces great historical upheavals without seeking refuge in simplistic, ultra-topical productions. In bringing this off, he gives scenic form to the human myth and uses the stage as an intellectual setting in which to conjure up historical images and grapple with one’s own modern age.
With its »signposts to feeling«, as Wagner called them, the orchestra assumes a connecting role between the various elements, a role that spans no less than four full-length works and preserves a cohesive whole marked by a beginning and an end. The four operas of the RING DES NIBELUNGEN represent the culmination of what Wagner was able to create for his orchestra in terms of acoustic sensitivity, psychology and magical dream worlds. Individuals, nature, gods, the actions and events of the world, everything is distilled into one all-encompassing sound. With his version of the Ring cycle back in 2007 Donald Runnicles won over not only audiences but also the orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, which promptly appointed him as its new General Music Director.
DER RING DES NIBELUNGEN remains a challenge in the 21st century, for singers and musicians, for conductors and directors, for audiences and viewers alike. For him, music is what we cannot find words to express. Few other composers have been able to overwhelm audiences as utterly and effectively as he. Few have come up with such a vivid and moving vocabulary to convey the intellectual and earthy realms inhabited by Man.
With the final chord of GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG a violent storm dies away, a storm that has swept through the auditorium and stirred up – if not thoroughly shaken - the audience’s mind and senses. No musical work conceived for the stage brings the audience back as close to the starting point as does Wagner’s RING, and no work imprints itself as deeply on the mind of the listener. The beginning is the end, and the end is only ever another beginning, now as before, and again and again.
THE RING OF THE NIBELUNG
Conductor Donald Runnicles | Stage Director Götz Friedrich
Cast: Mark Delavan, Markus Brück, Thomas Blondelle, Burkhard Ulrich, Gordon Hawkins, Peter Maus, Reinhard Hagen, Ante Jerkunica, Daniela Sindram, Meagan Miller, Ewa Wolak, Martina Welschenbach, Ulrike Helzel, Julia Benzinger; Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin
Cast: Robert Dean Smith, Reinhard Hagen, Greer Grimsley, Petra Maria Schnitzer, Daniela Sindram, Jennifer Wilson, Meagan Miller, Rebecca Teem, Martina Welschenbach, Ulrike Helzel, Liane Keegan, Julia Benzinger, Clémentine Margaine, Ewa Wolak; Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin
Cast: Torsten Kerl, Burkhard Ulrich, Mark Delavan, Gordon Hawkins, Ante Jerkunica, Ewa Wolak, Janice Baird, Hila Fahima; Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin
TWILIGHT OF THE GODS
Cast: Stephen Gould, Markus Brück, Gordon Hawkins, Matti Salminen, Janice Baird, Heidi Melton, Karen Cargill, Liane Keegan, Ulrike Helzel, Meagan Miller, Martina Welschenbach, Ulrike Helzel, Clémentine Margaine; Chorus and Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin
Cycle I: 10., 11., 14., 18. September 2011
Cycle II: 20., 21., 22., 24. September 2011
Further performances by Richard Wagner:
Conductor Donald Runnicles | Stage-Director: Kasper Holten
Cast: Albert Dohmen, Marco Jentzsch, Ricarda Merbeth, Gordon Hawkins, Petra Lang, Bastiaan Everink et al.; Chorus and Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin
15. [Premiere], 19., 22., 25., 28. April; 1. May 2012
RIENZI, THE LAST OF THE TRIBUNES
Conductor Sebastian Lang-Lessing | Stage Director Philipp Stölzl
Cast: Torsten Kerl, Manuela Uhl, Daniela Sindram et al.; Chorus and Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin
20., 26., 30. April 2012
TANNHÄUSER AND THE SINGER'S CONTEST AT WARTBURG
Conductor Donald Runnicles | Stage Director Kirsten Harms
Cast: Reinhard Hagen / Kristinn Sigmundsson, Robert Gambill / Peter Seiffert, Markus Brück, Manuela Uhl / Petra Maria Schnitzer et al.; Chorus and Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin
30. Oktober; 13. November; 18., 21. Dezember 2011
TRISTAN AND ISLODE
Conductor Donald Runnicles | Stage Director Graham Vick
Cast: Peter Seiffert, Liang Li, Petra Maria Schnitzer, Boaz Daniel et al.; Chorus and Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin
19., 25. February 2012