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Wagner Festival - Norfolk

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday 9 July 2014 | 6:06:00 pm

Epic Operas Come To Norfolk as Dynamic Company Makes Theatre Royal Debut


The scale, dynamic vision and sheer grandeur of two of Wagner’s epic works are set to provide a summer treat in rural Norfolk as one of Europe’s most highly-regarded opera companies leave their German base for some major UK dates.

Theater Freiburg will swap the German city where they have been presenting opera for over 100 years for a temporary summer home at Norwich Theatre Royal to present both Parsifal and Tannhäuser.

Peter Wilson, chief executive of Norwich Theatre Royal, said: “I am absolutely thrilled that Theater Freiburg have agreed to come here for what will be an undoubted cultural success.”

The short season will open with Wagner’s final opera Parsifal on Wednesday July 23 with a second performance on Friday July 25.

It tells the epic story of a fool who lives an isolated life before becoming the saviour of the world. Opening in a large marble hall, the opera uses some striking symbolism mixing the ancient story with strong undercurrents of life under a dictator to bring the story to life.

Parsifal’s director Frank Hilbrich is no stranger to Theater Freiburg having directed a number of productions for them in the past including all four operas of the Ring Cycle. He is also a highly respected lecturer as well as a guest artist at a large number of festivals, theatres and opera performances.

Taking on the role of Parsifal will be Roberto Gionfriddo, who has performed at some of Europe’s finest opera houses including the Theater Lübeck and Stadttheater St Gallen before joining Theater Freiburg in 2007 where he has played a wide range of roles including Walther von der Vogelweider in Tannhäuser, the title role in Orpheus In The Underworld, and the Witch in Hansel And Gretel.

Meanwhile the part of Kundry will be played by mezzo-soprano Sigrun Schell who joined the Theater Freiburg ensemble in 1998 and has since taken on a number of exciting and challenging parts including the title role in Salome, Brünnhilde in Die Walküre and Mother in the world premiere of Oscar, created by Fabrice Bollon.

These performances will also feature the stunning singing voices of the 50-strong Children’s Choir of the Theater Freiburg, whose performances wowed German critics and audiences helping it gain a 15-minute standing ovation on its debut performance at Freiburg itself.

The company will also be presenting Wagner’s Tannhaüser on Sunday 27 July and Monday July 28, a heart-rending story of love, passion and spirituality which follows the young singer’s pursuit of his love, strong beliefs and his bid to win a vocal competition.

Directing the epic opera is Eva-Maria Höckmayr, who is best known for helping to rebuild the Salzburg Festival while maintaining her career as a highly sought-after director in both theatre and opera for the likes of Theater Aachen, The National Theatre Weimar, Cologne Opera, and Frankfurt Opera. In 2010, she won the Götz Friedrich Prize and NRW Prize for Young Artists for her staging of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande at Theater Aachen, and a previous production of Verdi’s Otello for Theater Freiburg also won a number of nominations.

As with Parsifal, the production will also feature some highly regarded operatic performers, with the lead role being shared by Marius Vlad and Christian Voigt. Romanian-born Vlad has a strong musical pedigree having been a regular soloist with the Romanian Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as singing for the likes of the National Romanian Opera and Bucharest National Opera, as well as making his La Scala debut as Froh in Das Rheingold.

Meanwhile Voigt studied in Berlin gaining a strong reputation early in his career winning The Young Singer Of The Year award in 2009-10 from the Opernwelt magazine. As with many of his fellow performers, he is also much-loved by audiences and critics alike. He has been a member of Theater Freiburg since 2008 where previous roles have included Siegmund in Die Walküre, and Siegfried in both the opera of the same name and Götterdämmerung.

This production will also be under the musical baton of Theater Freiburg’s respected general musical director Fabrice Bollon.

Norwich Theatre Royal’s Peter Wilson said: ““It is right that we should host a major international opera company. It is right that, in the anniversary year of the Great War, a major German company should be presenting the works of Wagner in England. It is also important to recognise the German culture is an extremely important part of their nation’s psyche.”

Parsifal, Wednesday 23 July and Friday 25 July at 5pm. Sung in German with English surtitles. Please note the running time is approximately five hours including two intervals.

Tannhäuser, Sunday 27 July at 3pm and Monday 28 July at 5pm. Sung in German with English surtitles. Please note the running time is 4hrs 15 minutes including two intervals.

Tickets £6.50-£95

BOX OFFICE 01603 630000. For more info or to BOOK ONLINE