Mastodon Lyric Opera Live Press Conference: Plus Details Of New Ring Cycle Production - The Wagnerian

Lyric Opera Live Press Conference: Plus Details Of New Ring Cycle Production

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday, 17 January 2014 | 6:08:00 pm

Available on demand. Full details below - as known.

Lyric Opera of Chicago announces initial principal casting and creative team for

Richard Wagner's RING cycle

Christine Goerke: Brünnhilde
Eric Owens: Wotan

Sir Andrew Davis: conductor
David Pountney: director
Johan Engels: set designer
Marie-Jeanne Lecca: costume designer
Fabrice Kebour: lighting designer
Michael Black: chorus master

Lyric Opera's new RING production to be presented one opera
at a time, beginning in 2016-17 for four consecutive seasons,
followed by three complete cycles in April 2020

Anthony Freud, general director of Lyric Opera of Chicago, announced today that the company will present a new production of Richard Wagner's monumental four-opera masterpiece, Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung) starting in 2016-17.

Freud was joined for the announcement by American soprano Christine Goerke, a major international artist who will portray the leading role of Brünnhilde.

Freud presented the formidable creative team: the company's music director, Sir Andrew Davis, who will conduct; director David Pountney; and designers Johan Engels (sets), Marie-Jeanne Lecca (costumes), and Fabrice Kebour (lighting). All were present for today's announcement at the Civic Opera House, home to Lyric Opera of Chicago, as was chorus master Michael Black, who will prepare the Lyric Opera Chorus forGötterdämmerung. The press conference was also live-streamed.

As in its two previous presentations at Lyric, the Ring will be staged as follows: Das Rheingold (2016-17 season), Die Walküre (2017-18), and Siegfried (2018-19). The company will conclude its 2019-20 season with individual performances of Götterdämmerung, prior to presenting three complete Ring cycles in April 2020.

Pountney, Engels, Lecca, and Kebour - the latter two in company debuts - will be at Lyric during 2014-15 to remount their much-praised production of Mieczysław Weinberg's The Passenger in that work's Midwestern premiere.

"Wagner's Ring is unquestionably one of the most iconic and fascinating stage works ever created," declared Freud. "It represents the high-water mark of our art form - unique in its scale, complexity, fascination, and indeed, in its ability to 'hook' an audience. Experiencing a Ring cycle is one of the most life-transforming artistic experiences the world has to offer. I am thrilled by the team we have assembled to create that experience at Lyric.

"For any company with the resources to present it, the Ring offers arguably the most formidable challenge in the entire repertoire," Freud added. "The four operas demand from performers and production team alike profound interpretive intelligence and extraordinary technical prowess."

Returning to the complete Ring for the first time since his success at Lyric with the work nearly a decade ago is Sir Andrew Davis, the company's internationally renowned music director. "Sir Andrew is known worldwide for his virtuosity in a wide range of repertoire," noted Freud. "Wagner is one of his great passions. His commitment to Wagner's music, and his extraordinary ability to convey its architecture, emotion, and luminosity, are evident from his performances of the major Wagner operas at Lyric - most recently Meistersinger and Parsifal - which we have been proud to present. From the first conversation I had with Andrew upon my appointment as general director, it was clear that one of his greatest artistic priorities over the next ten years was to revisit the Ring."

Sir Andrew Davis has scored some of his greatest successes at Lyric in Wagner's operas. Since the 2000-01 season, when he debuted in Wagner at Lyric with The Flying Dutchman, he has led the company's productions of Parsifal (2001-02), Die Walküre (2002-03),Siegfried (2002-04), Das Rheingold and Götterdämmerung (2004-05), Tristan und Isolde (2008-09), Lohengrin (2010-11), Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (2012-13), and this season's Parsifal. He led his first complete Ring cycles during the company's 50th-anniversary season (2004-05). His achievements in Wagner also include a new production of Lohengrin that marked his Bayreuth Festival debut. Sir Andrew returns to the Lyric podium later this season for the company premiere of Dvořák's Rusalka and the first Lyric performances in 24 years of Mozart's La clemenza di Tito. Immediately prior to beginning rehearsals for Rusalka, he led concerts at the Toronto Symphony Opera and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, as well as Massenet's Cendrillon at Barcelona's Gran Teatre del Liceu. Sir Andrew returns to the BBC Symphony Orchestra in April for The Dream of Gerontius and The Apostles, major works by Sir Edward Elgar, a composer with whose music Sir Andrew is closely associated.

David Pountney, who previously directed Philip Glass's Satyagraha (1987-88) and Kurt Weill's Street Scene (2001-02) at Lyric Opera, is "a director whose work Sir Andrew and I have admired for more than three decades," Freud continued. "David is an artist of immense integrity, with whom I have collaborated on a regular basis over nearly 20 years, first at Welsh National Opera and then at Houston Grand Opera. He has had a long and distinguished career in an enormously wide repertoire, directing productions ranging from the intimate to the spectacular."

David Pountney is internationally acknowledged as a director of extraordinary intellect and imagination. Among Pountney's credits in Wagner are Die Walküre at English National Opera, Tristan und Isolde at Cologne Opera, and The Flying Dutchman at Welsh National Opera, where he is currently executive and artistic director. His productions worldwide have encompassed a staggering stylistic range, from Purcell (The Fairy Queen, English National Opera) to world premieres of works by Philip Glass and Peter Maxwell Davies. Pountney has made an enormously significant contribution to Czech opera, with productions of Janáček works seen at Welsh National Opera, Scottish Opera, San Francisco Opera, the Vienna Staatsoper, and Munich's Bayerische Staatsoper. He has also earned much acclaim for other Slavic repertoire, most recently Borodin's Prince Igor (Opernhaus Zürich). His work has been seen in many other major houses, including the Metropolitan Opera (Glass's The Voyage, world premiere), the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Barcelona's Gran Teatre del Liceu, the Opéra National de Paris, and the Salzburg Festival. During his tenure as Intendant of Austria's Bregenz Festival, Pountney's trailblazing productions included the 2010 world premiere of The Passenger (subsequently presented in Warsaw, London, Madrid, and Karlsruhe, Germany), Martinu's The Greek Passion (reprised at Covent Garden), and Szymanowski's King Roger (also seen at Barcelona's Gran Teatre del Liceu).

"Wagner spent some 20 years creating the Ring, so it is a lifetime statement by one of the most significant cultural figures in history," said Pountney. "It is not surprising therefore that it encompasses a huge variety of concerns, and changes and develops its own ideas in the course of the cycle. It is partly a satirical political cartoon, partly an Ibsenesque story of love and family, partly a symbolic drama about the beginning and end of the world, and not least a terrific yarn. It takes the driving forces of most human drama - love and greed - and handles them with enormous intensity and sophistication.

"Above all," added Pountney, "it is a supreme creative act of imagination, and what drives us most as interpreters is the desire to inspire rather than limit the inspiration it offers to the imagination of the audience. Offering a single concept for the whole Ringactually limits its vision and breadth. As I pointed out, the length of time Wagner took in writing it means that it shifts its balance of emphasis within the work, and what we want to offer are four very different operas that nonetheless interlock at the end to form a satisfying whole. At the same time, the storytelling of the Ring should invite us into that wonderfully naive world of 'Once upon a time…' where we know it cannot be true but nonetheless will ourselves to believe. The magic of storytelling is where it all begins!"

Pountney, who will be directing his first complete Ring cycle at Lyric, will create the production with designers he has worked with extensively in the past. "Johan, Marie-Jeanne, Fabrice, and I have honed our collaboration (and our disagreements - essential parts of all team work!) over several important large-scale projects, so we feel we have done our training for this Olympic task."

In announcing key cast members, Freud stated that in Lyric's Ring "one of the most remarkable dramatic sopranos of our time, Christine Goerke, will be our Brünnhilde and the magnificent bass-baritone Eric Owens will sing his first Wotan. Each of these artists has enjoyed wonderful successes at Lyric - Christine as Strauss's Elektra and Eric as both Gen. Leslie Groves in Doctor Atomic and in the title role of Hercules. For the Ring they are truly the 'dream team' - two extraordinary singing actors with unique qualities that make them predestined for the Wagner repertoire. As we know, Die Walküre is one of the great examples of a 'double act' in opera, with its exploration of Wotan and Brünnhilde's profoundly moving father-daughter relationship."

The success of any Ring has much to do with the singers playing these two characters. Each appears in three of the four operas (Wotan is absent from Götterdämmerung and Brünnhilde does not appear in Das Rheingold). Both roles demand the ultimate in vocal beauty and power, as well as immense charisma and spectacular acting ability.

Christine Goerke's stature as one of today's foremost dramatic sopranos was confirmed with recent performances as Elektra - role debut in Madrid (2011), Lyric debut (2012), return to Covent Garden (2013) - and her enormous success as the Dyer's Wife in the Metropolitan Opera's 2013 revival of Die Frau ohne Schatten. She has been announced as Brünnhilde for Ring cycles at Houston Grand Opera and the Metropolitan Opera, and for Die Walküre at Canadian Opera Company. Last season Goerke sang her first Dyer's Wife with Dutch Radio, portrayed Ortrud in Lohengrin at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, and sang her first Walküre Brünnhilde with the New Zealand Symphony. In April she will bring her Elektra to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. A varied repertoire of leading roles has brought Goerke to La Scala, the Opéra National de Paris, the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, San Francisco Opera, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, and Japan's Saito Kinen Festival. A favorite of preeminent conductors, she has appeared with the major orchestras of Chicago, New York, Boston, Cleveland, and Los Angeles, among many other prestigious ensembles.

It was shortly before Goerke opened Lyric's 2012-13 season in her debut as Elektra that Freud proposed the Ring to her. Remembering it now, she recalled that "I thanked him about 150 times for having faith in me," Goerke said. "I'm beyond excited to do it. Aside from the fact that there's such a familial feeling at Lyric, it's the sight of that house, the space of that house - it's so grand, it suits the music so well, and it suits the scenes so well." Portraying Brünnhilde in a complete Ring has been a goal for Goerke since her days in the Met's young-artist program when she sang her first Wagner role, the Third Norn in Götterdämmerung. "This is an amazing character," she said, "and Wagner writes everything into the music underneath the text. He sets the text in such a way that it's so expressive already, all we have to do is sing what he wrote."

Eric Owens's association with the Wagner repertoire includes the Dutchman (Sydney Symphony Orchestra), Hunding (Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra), and his triumphant Alberich in Robert Lepage's new Ring at the Metropolitan Opera (HD, CD, DVD). The 2013-14 season will bring his Alberich to the Vienna Staatsoper. Owens is returning to Lyric this season for his role debut as Vodník (the Water Goblin) in the company's first Rusalka. He was previously heard in Chicago in two other company premieres - Handel's Hercules (title role) and John Adams's Doctor Atomic (as Gen. Leslie Groves, a role he created in San Francisco and reprised in Amsterdam and at the Met). He has created other challenging contemporary repertoire, including the title character/Elliot Goldenthal's Grendel (world premiere at Los Angeles Opera, subsequently Lincoln Center) and the Storyteller/John Adams's A Flowering Tree (Peter Sellars's New Crowned Hope Festival in Vienna). Other operatic highlights include his debuts at San Francisco Opera (Otello) and Covent Garden (Norma); Rigoletto and Il trovatore (Los Angeles); Die Zauberflöte (Paris); Ariodante and L'incoronazione di Poppea (London); and The Rape of Lucretia (Glimmerglass Opera).

"It's a dream come true to do this role, and to do it at Lyric Opera," said Owens in a prepared statement of Wagner's Wotan. "The fact that Christine will be Brünnhilde is wonderful - we've known each other for 20 years. Being able to explore the Ring with someone with whom you're so comfortable makes the whole process easier. I'm excited about working with Sir Andrew and David. I had turned down several offers to do this role because they were all situations where I'd do all three Wotans at once, which was not the right thing. To do one opera per season and then to do the full cycle was the perfect fit, and in a company where I've performed so many times with people I adore, and with the whole atmosphere of the company being so nurturing. When you're stepping out into the unknown and exploring a role that is so iconic, I think this is just a perfect situation."

The eminent South African designer Johan Engels made his Lyric Opera debut with the sets and costumes for this season's new production of Parsifal. Engels's current season also include the American premiere of Weinberg's The Passenger (originally designed for the Bregenz Festival's premiere of the work, subsequently seen in London and Warsaw), Les Troyens at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, and Thaïs at Los Angeles Opera. Other operatic highlights include productions for London's Royal Opera House (Artaxerxes), the Opéra de Marseille (Ring cycle), the Opéra de Lyon, Opernhaus Zürich, Los Angeles Opera, the Salzburg Festival, Welsh National Opera, and Opera North. In Vienna he has designed for the Volksoper (Hamlet, Die Zauberflöte), Staatsoper (Osud, Le Villi, and many ballet productions), and Theater an der Wien (Mathis der Maler). In British theater he has designed for the Donmar Warehouse (including Electra, which transferred to Broadway), Royal Shakespeare Company, Almeida Theatre, and Chichester Festival. Engels's work in dance has also included productions for the Zürich Ballet and London City Ballet. His designs for films include An African Dream, The Native Who Caused All the Trouble, and Othello.

Romanian-born, London-based Marie-Jeanne Lecca is established internationally as one of the most remarkable costume designers working in opera and theater today. Her designs for The Passenger have been seen at the Bregenz Festival in Austria, English National Opera in London, and the Teatr Wielki in Warsaw. She has collaborated with many of today's most celebrated directors, particularly David Pountney (more than 35 productions), Keith Warner (more than 15 productions), Francesca Zambello, Gale Edwards, Graham Vick, and Stefan Janski. Her productions encompass repertoire of staggering variety, from Handel (Agrippina, Zürich), Verdi (Un ballo in maschera, Zürich; Macbeth, San Francisco), Wagner (Tristan und Isolde, Cologne; Ring cycle, Covent Garden), and Puccini (Il trittico, Lyon) to French works (Carmen, Moscow, Wiesbaden, Turin, Seattle, St. Paul; La juive, Zürich), 20th-century German repertoire (Die Frau ohne Schatten, Zürich; Moses und Aron, Munich; Wozzeck, Copenhagen; Die Soldaten, Lincoln Center Festival), Slavic works (Prince Igor, Zürich; The Adventures of Mr. Brouček, English National Opera; King Roger, Bregenz), and American musical theater (Pacific Overtures, English National Opera).

French lighting designer Fabrice Kebour began his career in New York in 1987, and has since designed more than 200 productions. From 1991 to 1995 he worked internationally as associate lighting designer for Cameron Mackintosh's productions of Les Misérables and Miss Saigon. Over the past 20 years his designs have been seen in France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Japan, the Middle East, and England, as well as in America and Canada. Among his productions have been The Italian Straw Hat (Comédie Française), Macbeth and Turandot (both at La Scala), La forza del destino (Vienna Staatsoper, Brussels's Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie), Faust (Opéra National de Paris), Die tote Stadt (Cologne Opera), and King Roger (Bregenz Festival, where his designs for The Passenger premiered). In 2006 he designed the opening and closing ceremonies of the 15th Asian Games in Doha, and in 2011 he was selected for the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space exhibit "Light Speaks," a retrospective of world-renowned lighting designers. Kebour has received three nominations for best lighting design in France's prestigious Molière theatrical awards.

During the 1970s Lyric presented the individual Ring operas, but never a full cycle. That did not occur until after the 1995-96 season, in a new production directed by August Everding and conducted by Zubin Mehta. (The individual operas had been presented one per season beginning in 1992-93.) All three cycles in 1996 were completely sold out. Everding's production was again seen in three complete cycles in the spring of 2005. Conducted by Sir Andrew Davis (leading his first Ring), it served as a fitting climax for Lyric's 50th-anniversary season.

The new Lyric Opera production of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen is generously made possible in part by Mr. & Mrs. Dietrich M. Gross.

Tickets for Lyric's full Ring cycle will go on sale in 2018, with pricing, further casting, and sponsorship to be announced at a later date. Tickets for Das Rheingold will go on sale in 2016.

Performance schedule for new Ring cycle, season by season

2016-17: Das Rheingold
Opening night of the season; performances begin October 1, 2016

2017-18: Die Walküre
Third opera of the season; performances begin in early November 2017

2018-19: Siegfried
Third opera of the season; performances begin in early November 2018

2019-20: Götterdämmerung
Eighth opera of the season; performances begin in late March 2020

2020: Three complete cycles, Der Ring des Nibelungen
Following the regular 2019-20 opera season; first cycle begins in April 2020