When a new “Ring” is performed in Bayreuth, the opera world rattles. No matter how hard all the other theaters try, the productions in the Festspielhaus are electrifying. And sometimes even blood flows. On stage anyway. But also in the audience. Peter Huth, who has been attending the festival for many years, will report on the "Ring" week in a live ticker - from Saturday, July 30, 2022, the day before the premiere of "Rheingold", until August 6, the day after the “twilight of the gods”, the day of reckoning.
How was it again with Siegmund and Sieglinde? Why did Wotan break up with his favorite daughter Brünnhilde? Here is the summary of the content of the "Valkyrie", which will be performed today at 4 p.m. - after the previous evening, the 1st part of the ring. The piece had its premiere on June 26, 1870 in Munich - and is still probably Wagner's most popular work today, also because of the two hits "Winterstürme wichen den Wonnemond" and the "Valkyrie Ride".
In order to secure his rule, Wotan creates faithful blood relatives through structural cohabitation. He impregnates the earth mother Erda, who gives birth to his favorite daughter Brünnhilde, and eight other women whose daughters form the Valkyries, who collect heroes who have fallen on the battlefields of the world and turn them into Wotan's private zombie army. From another relationship with a mortal, the twins Siegmund and Sieglinde emerge. These should establish the heroic family of the Wälsungen and Wotan win the ring. He can't do that himself, since he also has a contractually secured business relationship with the draped Fafnar.
Siegmund and Sieglinde were separated when they were children, and the girl was later forced to marry a bully named Hunding. On a stormy night, the injured Siegfried staggers into Hunding's house of all places (!), recognizes his sister, they both fall in love on the spot and sing a very long but very beautiful song about the merry moon.
The horned Hunding complains to Wotan's wife Fricka, the guardian of marital fidelity. She instructs her husband to support Hunding in his revenge fight against his own son Siegmund - after all, that's what the law wants. This runs counter to Wotan's fatherly pride, but above all to his plans to regain the ring massively. He had even placed an almighty sword (Notung) in Hunding's hut to give Siegmund an advantage. The hero of Brünnhilde, the Obervalkyrie, should also be supported. But Fricka prevails and thus proves to be the true ruler of the gods. Wotan, disillusioned at the end, orders Brünnhilde to stay out. But she is very taken with the siblings and fights against her father's orders at Siegmund's side. Wotan comes and smashes Notung with his spear (the symbol of his power), Hunding kills Siegmund. Brünnhilde rides away with the pregnant Sieglinde.
She hopes for help in times of need from her sisters, but at the family reunion (there it is: the “Valkyrie Ride”!) they side with her father. The god appears and wants to humiliate his favorite daughter in a nasty way: she should lose her divine status and eke out a living as a housewife at the stove of the next guy who comes along. After some back and forth and good arguments from the Valkyrie, the Allfather softens his judgment. He lays Brünnhilde on a high rock (the Valkyrie Rock) in deep sleep and has his partner in crime Loge kindle a mighty fire. Only the best of all heroes should be able to find her there, courageously step through the fire and woo the lady. This is the fate of the Valkyrie.
In his, let's say: moody, criticism of "Cicero", Axel Brüggemann makes me drop a penny: Yesterday I discussed with partner M. for quite a while why the new Götterburg Wahlhall, built by the SUV giants, was not to be seen was. It was, as an architectural model - it's the glowing white pyramid (which looks a bit like an Ikea lamp that could be called "Logen" or something like that) around which the gods flock at the end. Also in the text quite a lot of cool details that prove that Brüggemann was either sitting much further up, has much better eyes - or opera glasses.
Karl Marx was also invited to the opening of the 1976 festival (along with 147 German aristocrats and 64 Austro-Hungarian princes), writes Oliver Müller in his book “Wagner and the Germans”. But the bearded man couldn't find a hotel. He also had a boil on his buttocks and could not sit for long. Anyone who has ever been to the festival knows that this is a very valid reason not to come. The more than 2000 seats are even harder than the operas are long.
Now let's see how the esteemed colleagues in the other editorial offices reacted to the "Rheingold". Overall, the reviews are friendly, some are really positive, but the most euphoric is and remains yours truly. Was that due to the intoxicating late hour of writing the text, was it an emotion still under the impression of what had been seen? No - I would write it that way even in today's rather gray daylight.
The only correct slating comes from Christian Detig, who reports for rbb. "Black brings the ring into this world and suddenly everything that is compelling, everything that is inevitable is missing," he says. Hagen's early appearance also has little appeal for him, it's too obvious to him: "That's how it is when you've seen the series before."
But Markus Thiel from the "Münchner Merkur" likes these hints: "Seldom have there been so many cross-references and forebodings at the start of the "Ring des Nibelungen" as on Sunday evening at this premiere of the Bayreuth Festival." An observation that I share: "One thinks involuntarily to the Bayreuth predecessor "Ring": In the weakest moments, black looks like defused Castorf."
“Director Valentin Schwarz consistently avoids anything fairytale-like: Donner, the weather god, doesn't swing the hammer but the golf club and promptly gets lumbago. It's all entertaining, but not terribly funny. And above all, not very profitable," Bernhard Neuhoff complains about BR-Klassik - and actually hits the worst gag of the evening. Overall, however, he comes to the conclusion: "That's why the beginning is promising: During the audition, you see two embryos in the womb in a film projection. One hits his twin brother's eye with his small skull. Cain and Abel, Romulus and Remus: The family constellation determines our destiny. Especially since, as is well known, the private is political anyway.”
Reimund Meisenberger, cultural editor at a group of Bavarian regional newspapers, came up with a very original idea: he reports on the Ring week in a live ticker. Please think of a wink smiley and a wink smiley here. He too had to process the whole thing and asked (as I did) for a few hours' delay before the review. After all, he sees a danger in contrast to what's happening on stage and music: "Not that all of this isn't interesting - that's it. And there is a lot to think about. It just doesn't really fit the ring and the emotional content of this music."
"Children, gather new things" is a great title of the text by Peter Jungblut at BR24. I am a bit jealous. On the one hand, he cleverly alludes to the old Wagner quote "Children, create something new" - which is the heraldic motto of the Bayreuth director's theater supporters - and of course to the production in which the children are always just objects that are pushed and pulled back and forth will. Jungblut writes: "Consequently, Schwarz tells the story in reverse gear and illuminates the childhood of two people who actually only fight a life-and-death duel with one another much later in the Twilight of the Gods: Hagen, Siegfried's murderer, is also kidnapped as a child and trained for violence like Brünnhilde, who actually feels called to save the world and has to witness so much brutality.”
The "Zeit" and the "Süddeutsche" (in which each opera is said to be reviewed by a different critic) have not yet finished their own reviews and are printing dpa for the time being. Conclusion here: "In the «Rheingold», however, his extremely ambitious and exciting concept is unfortunately not yet fully realized."
I have to go into town quickly, somehow I lost a cufflink. The press review follows a little later, some colleagues have already delivered. But first, here is the text of my WELT partner Manuel Brug. We come to very similar conclusions. That calms me down a lot.
A wonderful good morning from Franconia. Today I took the liberty of sleeping in, because yesterday it was a bit later - you can see it from the time of the night review. I woke up with a blissful grin: about Schwarzen's "Rheingold" of course, but also about how quickly Bayreuth sucks one in - all of us.
For the debriefing, I and a dear friend first went to the hill gastronomy. Things have changed there, and for the better. The staff were extremely friendly and let us sit and chat for a long time, then politely asked if we would like some more food and drink - otherwise they would call it a day. With pleasure.
The next stop was a kebab shop with these typical white outdoor elastic chairs, about which there is also a film, at the train station. Looked like Frank Castorf staged the store. We drank bottled beer. My friend dressed rather robustly, I in a tuxedo. I got a lot of scolding in the WELT reader comments for my dress code here, and was even called a “reactionary”! It must be said that customs have indeed changed. We tuxedo men were clearly outnumbered. Absolutely. One could almost say that more gentlemen came in dresses than in formal evening wear. Maybe I'll treat myself to at least one for the "Lohengrin". Is more airy.
Anyway, we were sitting there, the doner kebab man at his mountain of meat, next to us a clique of suburban youths, smoking heavily, when a troupe of - yes - tuxedo wearers, slightly disoriented, passed by coming back from the city, probably looking for a late drink. Then a wonderful Bayreuth moment. In passing, just in a few sentences, but with a matter of course and seriousness, but also full of noble belligerence, they called out their view of the production to me, I gave them mine.
A well-founded lightning conversation in the street noise and in the kebab air. Did I already mention how much I love Bayreuth?
"And I thought I knew the piece," said my friend P., who is beyond any doubt about Wagner, after one of the many curtains of the black "Rheingold". And indeed: what the 33-year-old Austrian made from the exhibition of the ring was really new, irritating, exciting. Director's Theater, Bayreuth workshop par excellence.
It begins with a primordial soup scene. Two meandering strands of flesh on a format-filling projection: is it DNA, is it an undefinable thing? No, soon it will become umbilical cords, two fetuses dance, cuddle, ensnare each other. Whenever the projection on stages fills the room, one could assume a theatrical gag, but then one prenatal catches the eye of the other. Blood spurts, but it's not terrible, more like a fleeting touch. Nevertheless, one will lose his eye: that is Wotan, the light elf, the other is Alberich, the dark one. are they siblings We do not know yet.
That's foreplay. The curtain rises to reveal an outdoor pool. Three nannies, they are the Rhine daughters, take care of eight good girls and a stubborn, mute, withdrawn boy. You are the gold that will be at stake in the coming evenings and actually always.
Valentin Schwarz wanted to stage the ring like a "Netflix" series - and then didn't - and then did it anyway. It can be assumed that the focus of the interpretation is on a family history, on heirs and on securing the bloodlines. That would be a story that Reed Hastings streaming empire has filmed several times before - but never so beautifully. And so brutal.
Because the children, for whom gods and dwarves and giants and their protectors fight, are defenseless and helpless. They are pulled back and forth by the grown-ups, big ones (the real giants), overmothers, sometimes at home with this one, sometimes with that one.
The boy, a free, wild child (just as Wotan would wish to be, and will achieve in Siegfried three operas later) seems to have no attachment as long as he can do as he pleases, smear paint in a glass laboratory cage and tearing up the pictures of his sisters (?) – a group of eight well-behaved girls with blond braids.
They are all just pretty pawns of Rhinemaidens, gods, dwarves, pushed here and there and sold off - but Black is clever enough not to tell a superficial story of abuse here, instead leaving plenty of room for what may come. Because the children are the power. They are the Rheingold, the Treasure and the Tarnhelm and also the Ring.
That is new. The ring has been many things (power plant, oil, gas or simply a piece of gold) in all the productions. But a child, and a child is the future, he's never been. As I said: Children are the power. And the longing. Because the Valhalla of the black gods has already been built: a gloomy bungalow shack for nihilistic world leaders, for whom tennis clothes and hinted at golf already seem to be enough physical self-insurance. These leaders do not strive for change, at most for tolerable improvement. The move to Valhalla is nothing more than a little more light in the luxury building. How much brighter did the laboratory-style sisters' dungeon ("Stranger Things" anyone?) in Niebelheim seem?
Black goes all in. He hints, pretends, anticipates many things, some of which are not even in the libretto. That may resolve itself in the coming evenings. No: it must! The little boy, free and wild, as only man can be, whom Wotan will first create - he could be Hagen, Alberich's son, whom the Allfather longs for, whose vision he recognizes here. The Rhinegolden girl who leads the primal mother Erda off the stage by the hand could be Brünnhilde. Or will.
The future belongs to the children, they determine the future of all the divine. They are the treasure of the eternal primordial stream.
That's fascinating. And confusing - because a lot of what the libretto prescribes is sloppy: Valhalla as a stronghold of power and marital peace, as a vision worth striving for. The compensation of Freia in Rhine gold equivalent. The absence of the enslaved Nibelungs.
Other seems too much: the guns. Everyone knows that if everyone carries a gun, it's just theater.
But we are only at the beginning. Where, with Castorf, one could indulge in the intoxication of the images and not even have to look for a key, here the desire to give everything a meaning is awakened.
It's going to be exciting in Bayreuth. It makes you want more. Like a good Netflix series.
Now it happened much earlier than expected: Please forget everything I have written so far. Above all, the nonsense that I read into the pictures from the program booklet. The premiere of the "Rheingold" was a really, really, really good evening of opera, fast, clever, interesting - and, as it is the task of the evening before, it raises so many puzzles and questions that you want to decipher in the next few days. No: must. Seeks.
Please allow me some time for the first analysis. It was just too big to break down in a nutshell. I'm already regretting the hour I practically carved my own Wotan spear by promising you an act-by-act review. My first mistakes will not be the last. But there are traces. I'll register a copyright on the headline "Children are the power". Siegmund and Sieglinde, Hagen and Brünnhilde, all the descendants of the Light and Dark Elves Wotan and Alberich have already made their appearance.
Valentin Schwarz does what he promised: He tells the family story and explores it deeply - like no one before him has done. Not in terms of staging, but in terms of the idea. Later more. Probably a lot more.
Here, quickly, to the music: Cornelius Meister, the stand-in, masters (yes, yes) the “Rheingold” superbly. Alberich Olafur Sigurdason and Erda Okka von der Damerau received the most applause. Rightly so. In general: an insane amount of applause for conductor and singers. And real a lot of boos for the staging. Best prerequisite for a classic. First a beer. Serious.
See you on the other side
Instead of the usual theater gong, which is supposed to order the lively audience to sit down, there is a wind group in Bayreuth. Their trombones on the balcony of the Festspielhaus announce 15 minutes before each act that it's time to put down the Prosecco and the strawberries and hurry into the hall.
That looks really good! The first photos from the production can now be seen in the program booklet and they promise a lot of intensive directorial work. Schwarz had announced that he would illuminate the figures and their motifs more deeply. So also to tell the origin stories of the characters, as it would be called in Netflix jargon. So what do you see? The Valkyries as children, protected by Wotan, a little Hagen. That tells more than Wagner. In addition - presumably - the Giebichungen-Hof, a fair of (failed) vanities, symbolized by cosmetic surgery associations. And Alberich is armed - with a pistol. As I said: That just makes you want to go to the evening. It won't be boring. I'm curious how the audience sees it.
If you can't see, you should hear: BR-Klassik will broadcast the entire Schwarz-Ring cycle. Not live, but time-delayed. So: "Rheingold" today at 8:04 p.m., "Walküre" tomorrow at the same time, as well as "Siegfried" on Wednesday and "Götterdämmerung" on Friday.
You can also watch them from 4 p.m. in the live stream on BR-Klassik Concert. If you don't have time on Friday, you can tune in to the recording the next day at 8:15 p.m., which will be broadcast on 3SAT.
"Rheingold" is the story about the "Ring of the Nibelung" and the end of the gods. The basic conflicts are shown, the character constellations developed and the motives explained.
The Nibelung Alberich wants to catch (at least) a Rhine daughter, but they don't want to know anything about him. Desperate, he robs them of the treasure they had been entrusted with (the Rhine gold), because he thinks he can later use the nice money to buy (physical) love. He only succeeds in stealing after renouncing (romantic) love. The Rhinemaidens are scared to death - because all balance has been destroyed by the robbery.
Alberich has his brother Mime forge a camouflage helmet and a ring from the gold. The helmet transforms him into whoever he wants to be, the ring gives him infinite power. Happiness doesn't last long. The gods Wotan and Loge steal from him (using a trick also known from "Aladin and the Magic Lamp") the treasure, the helmet and finally the ring, which Wotan rips from Alberich's finger. Whereupon Alberich curses the ring and all its bearers. Maybe a bit hasty, but that remains to be seen.
The gods want to use the treasure to pay the brothers Fafner and Fasolt, two giants who built a castle (Valhalla) for the gods. It should become a symbol of power (that's what Wotan thinks) and a cozy family home (the calculation of Wotan's wife Fricka, who is tired of the constant infidelities). Originally, the pay for the construction work was to be the goddess Freia, gardener of the immortality-bearing golden apples. Freia is also Wotan's sister-in-law. Both of which make it impossible to abandon her to the giants (despite the fact that poor Fasolt is madly in love with her) - so Loge, the god of cunning and lies (many say the only Ring character with any sense) does so Rheingold as a new means of payment. When the building is inspected, the giants confidently demand not only the treasure but also a helmet and a ring. Wotan – as the guardian of all contracts and here in the double function of judge and party – has to consent.
But as soon as the treasure has been handed over, Fafner kills Fasolt (curse victim number 1) in a dispute over Mammon and turns into a dragon, which, invincible and powerful, retreats into a cave to guard its treasure there. The gods march into Valhalla Castle over a rainbow bridge. The "Rheingold" has been stolen, the old order massively disrupted, but the peace is only superficial and fragile. The gods are still in the best of moods – except for Loge, who is expecting trouble. But what is just as well for him, as Alberich's cousin, he has shares in both families.
The voltage increases. In just over four hours, the curtain will rise and we'll get a first look at Schwarzen's vision of the ring. You always have a bit of a rumbling stomach. Because sooo much can go wrong - especially when the direction compulsively tries to incorporate current references into the production. My current top ten of the most cruel director's antics imaginable (DGRM) here as a little treat for Sunday afternoon coffee.
(And it's also clear, by the way, that we won't see any of that tonight or in the coming days.)
- Alberich with a straw-colored Donald Trump wig
- Fafner is hoarding Angela Merkel's bright green dress from the premiere of Schatz und Ring
- Fire god Loge wears a T-shirt from the Munster bowling squad, who are suspected of having set fire to a bar in Mallorca.
- The Rhinemaidens are disguised as "Puffmutter Layla".
- While Wotan violates Brünnhilde, sanction lists are displayed
- The Walhall Castle is the Federal Chancellery
- The Nibelungen enslaved by Alberich wear FFP-2 masks
- Freia is disguised as Olena Selenska, instead of gold she is hidden behind small armor.
- Something with the "SS".
- The Rhine is a Nord Stream 1 pipeline (although…)
In addition to the line-up changes, this was the biggest shock, a few days before the start of the main rehearsals and just over three weeks was the premiere of "Rheingold": due to corona disease, master conductor Pietari Inkinen had to cancel. We were extremely excited about his interpretation of the ring.
As soon as the illness became known, Inkinen was immediately replaced at rehearsals by Cornelius Meister, a 42-year-old maestro who also likes to conduct from memory. The problem: Meister was supposed to direct the premiere of the new production of "Tristan und Isolde" on the opening day last Monday. But Ring and "Tristan" - that's just too much. He would have had to conduct practically the entire festival week. So he gave the great love opera to Markus Poschner and devoted himself entirely to the tetralogy.
Poschner shone with "Tristan", as did my old Wagner companion Annemarie (whose real name is Barbara Angerer-Winterstetter).
So everything seems to be working out for the better – also thanks to good preparation and a solid plan B policy by the festival management.
Stupid careless mistake in the last text. Thank goodness friend and reader Marcus Lobbes noticed. Will be fixed on site. The whole city is my office.
The ring that we are seeing this year should actually premiere in 2020, the reason for the postponement was - unsurprisingly - the corona pandemic. In 2020 the festival was canceled, in 2021 Bayreuth was a shaky affair - too uncertain for the mammoth Ring project. But Corona threw and threw long shadows over the Bayreuth sweltering heat this year.
Günther Groissbock canceled a year ago. He was supposed to sing Wotan, but had doubts about bringing the required quality after the long Corona break. Very chivalrous. John Lundgren, who was supposed to play Alberich, was announced as a replacement. But he also canceled almost two months ago – for “personal reasons”, whatever that means. Now there are two Wotans: Eglis Silins sings in "Rheingold", Tomasz Konieczny in "Walküre" and "Siegried" (there, strictly speaking, as "Wanderer").
Konieczny is a kind of super joker on the Green Hill: he stood in for Groissböck in the last "Walküre" of the Castorf Ring in 2021.
Brünnhilde is played by Iréne Theorin, who has been singing in Bayreuth since 2000. However, in 2022 only in "Valkyrie" and "Götterdämmerung". Daniela Köhler sings this part in "Siegfried".
There are also two versions of Siegfried: Andreas Schager will be seen in “Siegfried” and Stephen Gould in “Götterdämmerung”. After all, Alberich is given by one consistent performer: it's Olafur Sigardarson. All this is not really ideal, but it can also have positive aspects: less imagination, more power. We will see. And listen.
All good manners degenerate, as is well known. And so, in the week of the premiere, you can already see a large number of gentlemen streaming into the hall in light-colored suits or even T-shirts. The dress code (although there isn't one officially) is clear: in the opening cycle, especially on July 25th, the first performance, the women wear festive robes and the men wear tuxedos. And that should remain so in the coming week.
In the subsequent cycles, the wardrobe should be fine, but no longer festive. So at least a dark suit with a tie and a nice evening dress.
My personal tip: it's best to buy one size larger. Bayreuth is hot in summer, the festival hall, not air-conditioned, becomes an incubator. You immediately sweat out the champagne during the break. You're happy if your shirt and smoking jacket are cut a little wider.
Although it is sometimes done, it is not really desirable to take off your jacket in the hall. The white of the shirts breaks the darkness and disrupts the immersion.
As usual, I march up the hill in the morning, I just really like being here. The Festspielhaus is still brooding in the sun, tourists take photos, chatting there ("Isn't that always the same?" - "No, it's always different!" - "Aha." - "Yes, I know, I'm a trained one Costume designer, but never practiced the profession.”) and take photos. The position markers for photographers and cameramen from last Monday's premiere are still stuck to the floor in front of the portal. There will be no red carpet today. The star is not the spectators (gendered!), but the staging.
In addition, I can check my workplace, reserve a locker (laptop is not allowed in the house), think out strategically favorable routes between the exit, the bar and the desk. And test the network. By the way, I only get my tickets two hours before the performance, so I don't know where I'll be sitting. It's not a big issue - the house is designed in such a way that you can see it from anywhere.
The longest applause at 90 minutes was at the very last screening of Patrice Chereau's “Götterdämmerung” – plus the unbelievable number of 101 curtains. At the premiere five years earlier, however, there had been an unprecedented storm of indignation. For traditional Wagnerians, the staging was outrageous - we'll get to that later. The anger in 1976 was so great that one lady tore the earring from another's lobe!
The festival newspaper "Richard's" opens with this cover. Looks more like Lord of the Rings and not Ring of the Nibelung. A pretty movie poster aesthetic. Featuring the most naturalistic kite ever. But that has nothing to do with the production by Valentin Schwarz, as you can hear.
As enthusiastic as the Wagnerians are, they are sparing with their applause. When it comes to the Ring, it's best to only really applaud (or boo) after the closing curtain of "Götterdämmerung" and thus appreciate the entire four-day production (or vent your anger). The applause after the acts and at the end of the individual evenings is more for the performances of the singers than for the overall work of art.
Exception: Anyone who, after the first act of "Parsifal" thinks they have to comment on what is being presented with physical violence, will be hissed at mercilessly. There has to be calm, but if you do it anyway, you could just as well be sitting in the audience with a batik T-shirt (depending on the production, that would be okay on stage).
Of course, applause after individual pieces such as "Walkürenritt", "Wonnemond" or "Feuermarsch" is also absolutely unthinkable.
Good morning from Franconia! The weather is still a bit grey, but in the breakfast room there are only smiling faces full of anticipation.
When Katharina Wagner introduced Valentin Schwarz as the director of the next "Ring des Nibelungen" at the 2019 press conference, we all assumed that the production would come to the stage a year later. Then the virus came, in 2020 the festival was canceled completely, only a crowd of defiant people (me too) made the pilgrimage to Bayreuth anyway. In 2021, the program and viewer numbers were significantly reduced. So Valentin Schwarz (with whose work one should be very satisfied on the hill, as a forest bird sang to me) had three years to mentally and conceptually prepare for what finally has its premiere tonight.
The "Rheingold" starts at 6 p.m., the evening before the "Ring des Nibelungen", so strictly speaking not a complete Ring opera. At almost 2.5 hours, the piece is also manageably short - hence the late start. There's no break for that.
Richard Wagner created the festival as a workshop: here the best of their trade and their time should draw lots, stage and perform his works. Each team of director and conductor can try for four to five years, improving and changing from year to year. It is therefore possible that the premiere cycle of an opera differs significantly from the last performance.
Only Wagner's ten major operas will be performed - from the "Flying Dutchman" to "Parsifal". "The Fairies" and "Rienzi" are not played in Bayreuth.
In 1876, at the first festival, Wagner was still staging himself. He paid his actors and employees little or nothing. In his opinion, taking part in the festival was honor and distinction enough. After all, board and lodging was free.
In principle, this has hardly changed to this day: None of the artists who spend the summer months when there are no performances in Franconia gets rich. The invitation to the Green Hill is considered an accolade.
Tomorrow: who makes music and who doesn't; why the conductor everyone has been waiting for is missing; why we don't see any more skins on the Green Hill, my personal nightmare staging (so what it would be like if Facebook staged the ring), first gossip from rehearsals; More details about the "Rheingold" and of course the first day of the new ring!
The rules of conversation in the "Lohmühle" (and in all Wagner hotels) are very simple: if you are spoken to at the next table so loudly that you can hear it at your own table, this is considered an invitation to join in the conversation. Because many guests are so advanced in age that they speak very loudly anyway, this is almost always the case. The topics are still not very sensitive: wasps, roast pork, where do they come from? Soon, however, it's getting down to business, across three tables.
Yes, so the Kosky production of "Meistersinger"! The first act was still good, but then, with these big Wagner heads. We don't know. - Yes, is his topic, he has to do it that way. - And the "Tannhäuser"? - Oh well. It takes some getting used to - I thought it was excellent. - Oh, then you certainly have too...
Then it all happens very quickly: who saw what when and how did you find it. The productions of the last few years are gone through, it goes beyond Bayreuth. Suddenly you realize that you found Bernd Eichinger's direction of "Parsifal" in the Lindenoper in Berlin to be excellent with a gentleman you had never seen before (until now you thought you were the only one and everyone else had it found terrible). That's palpation. And never show off.
Bayreuth, a protected space, a cocoon.
Let's make it as long as necessary and short as possible. That's the story of the Ring for those in a hurry.
Alberich snatches the “Rheingold” from the Rhine daughters by renouncing love and forges the Ring of the Nibelung from the jewelry. Wotan, the supreme god, steals the jewels from him, but loses them to the giant Fafner, who from then on guards the treasure as a dragon. Not without Alberich cursing the ring and all those who would wear it beforehand.
In order to create a hero who can regain the ring, Wotan founds his own family of heroes, the Wälsungen. However, through adultery. This upsets his wife Fricka and shakes Wotan's position of power. In addition, there is a break with his favorite daughter, the "Valkyrie" Brünnhilde. The Wälsungen prototypes Siegmund and Sieglinde do not survive long, but their son "Siegfried", the first free human being, who has been gene pool-optimized by incest, finally slays the dragon Fafner, gains treasure, a ring and a Tarnhelm.
But he has little interest in that, all the more in his half-aunt Brünnhilde. She slumbers in a circle of fire because she defied her father Wotan (see above). On the way to free her, Siegfried meets Wotan, smashes his spear, thereby triggering the Twilight of the Gods and walking through the fire. He falls in love with Brünnhilde, she with him. He gets her horse, she gets his ring.
On a hero's journey, Siegfried ends up at the Giebichungen court a short time later, where Alberich's son Hagen is responsible for the intrigues. With a magic potion he lets Siegfried a) forget Brünnhilde and b) win her (with a camouflage helmet) as a bride for Hagen's half-brother Gunter and c) make the hero himself fall in love with the stupid Gutrune. The surprised Valkyrie no longer understands the world and reports treason. Hagen offers to avenge her and finally, in a plot with Gunter and Brünnhilde, kills the hero with a spear in the back.
Everything has become too much for Wotan, in a deep depression he prepares the burning of Valhalla Castle and the collective suicide of the gods.
Siegfried's body is laid on the pyre. Hagen murders Gunter over the ring. At the last second, Brünnhilde sees through the game and rides into the fire herself on her horse Grane - love triumphs over the preservation of the known world.
It is soon in flames, the Rhine rises over its banks, Brünnhilde throws the ring to the Rhinemaidens to break the curse. Hagen jumps behind - and is pulled down. The ring's curse may be broken, but the rule of the gods is ended forever.
It was only a brief Bayreuth dream, that of beating HSV. The SpVgg lost 1:3 on a not so summery Saturday afternoon, now the HSV fans are flooding the city center. But there is no singing, it was too short for that. They meet the remnants of Christopher Street Day, which was a) very short and b) above all a costume party for happy young people. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. In any case: now it's about art. Tomorrow the festival will really start with the Ring premiere. I'll try to summarize the content in a concise yet complete way. See you later.
All eyes are on Valentin Schwarz, the director of the new ring. Wagner's "Holländer" was the first opera that the only 33-year-old Austrian (and thus, along with Patrice Chereau, the youngest director ever appointed Bayreuther Ring boss) saw. At that time he was only nine years old, a life-changing experience: He studied music theater direction in Vienna, staged "Turandot", "Hansel and Gretel", "Cosi fan tutte", "Carmen" and "The Bandits" - but never Wagner. The astonishment was correspondingly great when Katharina Wagner introduced him in 2019 as the maker of the ring that was planned for 2020. A novice on the hill? It's a good thing that Wagner's great-granddaughter had almost always had a good to brilliant hand when choosing her guest directors.
But what is Black planning? Not much was revealed – that would also be unusual. At the Bayreuther Ring, Schwarz told dpa in February, what fascinates him is that the work will be performed in its entirety in just one week. This would "give us the opportunity to show a family epic in a four-part series format and to follow these characters in their circumstances and omissions through the course of time." The word about the "Netflix ring" was quick in the world. Schwarz continues: "I want to tell a story about today's people, today's characters, today's problems - and not about gods, dwarves and dragons. He sees the "Rheingold" as a kind of "pilot film that raises a lot of questions, teases a lot and makes you excited about what's to come - even if you might not be able to classify everything right away."
Frank Castorf chose a similar approach – as far as modernity is concerned – in 2013 with his tour de force through the 20th century. And there, too, many things could not be classified immediately. To be honest, not until today (crocodile?).
Black - my guess - will be more accessible, straighter, easier to decipher. More cinematic. Maybe in the style of a mafia drama like "Sopronas"? As a story of rival dynasties (like "Game of Thrones", only without the drama)? Dark comic-of-age like "Stranger Things"? Political thrillers like "House of Cards"? Tomorrow night we'll know - the main thing is that it won't be woker kitsch stuff like "Bridgerton".
But last Sunday the all-clear. In an interview with "Spiegel", Schwarz made it clear that he had been misunderstood. For him, “Netflix” was not an aesthetic cipher, but a description of the addiction that can arise from the addictive experience of stories. And in Bayreuth people definitely binge.
Schwarz didn't want to tell his colleagues exactly what he was up to (I wouldn't have either). Just this much: he plans to tell the Ring in such a way that the characters are deeply explored, hidden motives are revealed. In the libretti of the Ring operas, however, these are mainly found in indirect narratives rather than scenic ones. These, in turn, are often staged somewhat tenaciously as pure vocal mono- or dialogues. Does Schwarz perhaps show something like mock flashbacks? That would be interesting - and again very close to the "Netflix" aesthetic.
An impressive dedication gallery of famous Bayreuth actors hangs in my hotel. Who has probably slept in my little bed? Judging by the size of the room, no one is a superstar (is that how it's gendered?), at most a daughter of the Rhine and/or a Valkyrie. If I don't write anymore tomorrow, it was a Wotan's daughter who kidnapped me to Valhalla. You notice: The Bayreuth happiness hormones make you silly. I vow to get better.
Speaking of the new world order: SpVgg Bayreuth leads 1-0 at half-time against HSV.
Arrived, unpacked, take a deep breath. Before we embark on the adventure tomorrow, what is the 16-hour narrative all about? The storyline comes later. First of all, this is about the material from which the ring is forged. So what does the author actually want to tell us?
Yes, it's a family story. Wotan's family of gods on the one hand, Alberich's Nibelungen on the other, a story of fathers, sons and grandchildren. And a busy wife. Of course, the difference between love and lust is also discussed. And it looks at whether money makes happiness, whether sibling love is okay, or maybe even the ultimate way to create a perfect gene pool. It is also about military obedience, trouble with craftsmen and their pay, conversation with birds, the frustration of adoptive fathers, fratricidal strife, adultery and infidelity, the metalworking revolution and crocodiles. Please forget the latter quickly, that was just one of Frank Castorf's ideas at the last Ring in Bayreuth. To date nobody has understood.
The core of the action, however, is the rule of law, or in this case the legal divinity. Because it is the story of the failing Allfather Wotan, who, with the best of intentions (he wanted to rule by law, not by force), imposed such a complex set of rules on himself that he increasingly realized that he was meeting the demands he made on the world and its beings has imposed, cannot fulfill - and never really (especially when it comes to the marriage oath) wanted to.
He recognizes that the time has come for a new, freer moral organization of the world. One that is determined by the people. With Wagner, they stand for wild purity, in contrast to divine order. One must not forget: Wagner was a revolutionary all his life. Church and state, i.e. the rule of institutions, he disliked – although he was very happy to take money from the king and local authorities to finance his luxurious life and, above all, his festival theater in Bayreuth. Wagner was a man of many faces. And also some grimaces. More on that later.
The decline of Wotan's legal system is symbolized by his spear - once carved by the young god from a branch of the world ash (which was irreparably damaged as a result) and provided with magical runes that make contracts and rules binding. Also for God the Father himself, no matter how hard he tried to evade his own laws. While in Die Walküre Wotan uses his spear to smash another weapon he created to manipulate world events, the sword Notung, in Die Götterdämmerung it is Siegfried, the first free human being to move beyond the divine rules, who with smashes Wotan's spear with the sword restored by man-made super technology - this is the Götterdämmerung.
At the end of the ring, the curse of the ring, triggered by the theft of the Rhine gold at the beginning of the tetralogy, is lifted and the gold is now back in the Rhine. But nothing is like before. The mystical age is finally over. Gods, dwarfs, giants, all these unearthly mythical creatures and their world perish. A new age begins - that of free people who have to make their own rules and laws.
This is the revolution in the ring, the core from which the opus is forged. Reports later tonight will report how Richard Wagner wraps it all up into one spectacular plot - very roughly. More precise synopses of the individual operas will then follow on the respective performance days: Morning for the "Rheingold", Monday for the "Valkyrie", Wednesday for the "Siegfried" and on Friday for the "Götterdämmerung".
Finally arrived in Bayreuth with only a minimal delay. The delay was due to the HSV fans, who had made the long journey south because they could expect an away win here in the first round of the DFB Cup against SpVgg Bayreuth (3rd division). The taxi driver reports that "thousands of northern lights" have been making the city center "unsafe" since morning. He himself prefers to watch a "groomed Götterdämmerung". Could he actually go to the stadium, at HSV it often comes down to the same thing. Then there is Christopher Street Day, also today. And right in the middle we Wagnerians. A city with three colorful stages. Alright.
In the meantime, I'm setting myself up in the "Lohmühle" in my 15 square meter chamber for the next week. And I'm looking forward to the first Franconian beer.
People are already singing enthusiastically on the train from Bamberg to Bayreuth. However, no Wagner, but football bawling - the second division HSV plays in the DFB Cup against Bayreuth. This is how the worlds meet in the regional train: Here the jersey wearers, there the suit people.
There is already a discussion in the comments on this live ticker – as usual, it is also about the meaningfulness of the festival. And the costs, of course those for “the taxpayer”.
Here are some numbers. The festival is an exception in the German theater business. They are financed 60 percent from their own resources, i.e. from tickets, broadcasting rights and merchandise. For comparison: In other German hotels, the rate is an average of 20 percent.
Where is the rest of the money coming from? One third is paid by the federal government, another by the Free State of Bavaria, the last third is shared by the city of Bayreuth, the district of Upper Franconia and the "Society of Friends of Bayreuth" - i.e. the hardcore fans. In absolute figures, this is usually less than ten million euros. However, the federal government will subsidize the necessary renovations to the Festspielhaus with a further around 170 million euros in the coming years.
And who is it all for? Around 58,000 people see the festival each year (only half last year due to Corona) on site on the Green Hill. You pay between five and 433 euros, depending on the seat and cycle. "Tristan" will be played twice this season, the Ring three times, "Tannhäuser" and "Holländer" four times and "Lohengrin" five times. In fact, the operas are seen and heard by thousands of people all over the world. There are radio broadcasts and a live stream. The data will be available later in this ticker.
Shortly before the transfer in Bamberg, a brief review. The festival has been running since the beginning of the week. The opening was already on Monday with Roland Schwab's new production of "Tristan and Isolde". A celebrated conducting by Markus Poschner, a dreamy-romantic stage design by Piero Vinciguerra and a somewhat static directing by Roland Schwab delighted the premiere guests. Here is the review by Manuel Brug. He also explains why in Bayreuth, in the first real post-corona year, there is a second new production in addition to a new ring, against all customary practice - it was a safeguard against a possible corona failure of the ring. Such a festival is still shaky even in the waning times of the pandemic. And some things were actually brought down by the virus. More on that later.
So: After the acclaimed "Tristan" and a little bourgeois outrage on social media about the performances ("So they have time for that", "Alles Schnorrer", "What do they look like?") on the (as usual with Merkel, Gottschalk, Söder and new in the Ricarda Lang program) red carpet on the day of the premiere was followed by a break of almost a week with a – successful – side program. But without opera. Not without drama, of course.
MeToo has reached Bayreuth. Several contributing women reported sexual assaults on the hill. Some violently, others verbally. The "North Bavarian Courier" reported first. Festival director Katharina Wagner confirmed incidents, also affecting her personally, which she was able to fend off. You have found "very, very clear" answers.
Anyone who knows Wagner knows that it is better not to mess with her. Basically, by the way.
Other women couldn't do it or didn't dare for fear of losing their jobs. The public prosecutor's office has started investigations and the festival has also announced the consequences. That's right, but of course it can't take away the shadow over this year's season. That too will have to be discussed.
For the time being, however, it's all about the art - namely in the staging of the new "Ring des Nibelungen" by Valentin Schwarz. Tomorrow evening at 6 p.m. it's time.
I am happy! It actually worked out with the tickets for the "Lohengrin" next Thursday, i.e. between "Siegfried" and "Götterdämmerung". Franziska Emmerich from the Bayreuth Festival is writing to me right now. In 2018, I was overwhelmed by the staging by Yuval Sharon and the design by Neo Rauch. I'm curious to see how the production has developed.
Anyone who quotes Loriot can hardly do anything wrong. Therefore he also has the first word here (and will also have the last). When asked what perfect happiness was for him, he answered: "Bayreuth (arrival)" - And when asked what the greatest misfortune was: "Bayreuth (departure)". I feel the same way - for many years. I became a Wagnerian through a shimmering summer love with a musical soul twin sister, whose name was not Sieglinde but Annemarie. Definitely in the text I wrote for WELT am Sonntag a few years ago.
Now I'm sitting in the ICE 703 towards Munich, I'm changing trains in Bamberg. If the train wants - and there is still no delay - I'll be in Bayreuth shortly before two, dragging my suitcase to the train station in the direction of the good old "Lohmühle", my favorite quarter. One day before "Rheingold" - because I need this lead time to carefully immerse myself in this own, magical, almost mystical world, in which everything revolves around Richard Wagner, his music, his texts and their implementation on stage. And everything!
I left my family at home this year. Four operas (maybe five, if it still works with a "Lohengrin" ticket) and a concert in six days - that's a full-time job, a deep dive into the greatest music drama in history and its creation. You can only achieve the highest level of enjoyment through full concentration and full attention.
I invite you to accompany me on this journey, whether you are already a Wagnerian, want to become one, or are a Wagner skeptic or even a hater. No previous knowledge is required: what is involved is explained, for those in a hurry and for those who want to delve deeper.
In the breaks after each act, I'll tell you what Valentin Schwarz is doing with the "Ring". If you're in Bayreuth: I'm the man in the tuxedo, laptop on my lap and a glass in my hand. Do not hesitate to contact me! Or write comments. I am happy! (Also about the note that the term "Chancellor" for Angela Merkel is to be used more for protocol purposes).
Because the discussion belongs to Bayreuth. A lot of what I write in the breaks and after the operas will be viewed very differently by other reviewers. Totally different. Diametrically opposite. And I'm sure I'll wake up with a headache about what I've written after thinking about it at night and dreaming about it.
That's the fun part.
My valued colleague Manuel Brug reports for the printed WELT, and I highly recommend his texts. He's the professional (especially when it comes to musical evaluation), I'm the ardent amateur.