Der Ring des Nibelungen at the Bayreuth Festival - all the productions

Richard Wagner's main work is the tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen. Wagner wrote the libretto and music between 1848 and 1874. The four operas that constitute the Ring cycle are: Das Rheingold (The Rhine Gold), Die Walküre (The Valkyrie), Siegfried and Götterdämmerung (The Twilight of the Gods).

1876 (3 cycles) - Richard Wagner

rhinemaidens

Stage director

Richard Wagner

Conductor

Hans Richter

Josephine Scheffsky as Siegline in Die Walküre 1876

Josephine Scheffsky as Siegline in Die Walküre 1876.

"Bayreuth’s special and much praised acoustic is actually only fully functional in Parsifal. It is certainly also one of the reasons why Wagner uses a style that is far closer to chamber music for this work. In the earlier pieces, composed for other stages, but also in the Ring, which elaborates far denser structures than Parsifal, and especially in Die Meistersinger too, one is aware that the Bayreuth acoustic is by no means ideal since it blurs the contrapuntal element of these works."
Hartmut Haenchen

 

 


1896-1914 (29 cycles) - Cosima Wagner

Stage director

Cosima Wagner (co-director from 1901: Siegfried Wagner)

Conductors

Felix Mottl (1896)
Hans Richter (1896, 1897, 1901, 1902, 1904, 1906, 1908)
Siegfried Wagner (1896, 1897, 1899, 1901, 1902, 1906)
Franz Beidler (1904)
Michael Balling (1909, 1911, 1912, 1914)

   

 

 


1924-1931 (14 cycles) - Siegfried Wagner

Stage director

Siegfried Wagner

Conductor

Michael Balling (1924, 1925)
Franz von Hoesslin (1927, 1928)
Siegfried Wagner (1928)
Karl Elmendorff (1930, 1931)

 


1933-1942 (18 cycles) - Heinz Tietjen

Stage director

Heinz Tietjen

Conductors

Karl Elmendorff (1933, 1934, 1942)
Heinz Tietjen (1934, 1936, 1938, 1939, 1941)
Wilhelm Furtwängler (1936, 1937)
Franz von Hoesslin (1940)

This was the first Ring not to be directed by a Wagner family member.

 

 

 


1951-1958 (16 cycles) - Wieland Wagner

Stage director

Wieland Wagner

Conductors

Herbert von Karajan (1951)
Hans Knappertsbusch (1951, 1956, 1957, 1958)
Joseph Keilberth (1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956)
Clemens Krauss (1953)

Das Rheingold (Premiere 31 July 1951): Hans Knappertsbusch
Die Walküre (Premiere 1 August 1951): Hans Knappertsbusch
Siegfried (Premiere 2 August 1951): Hans Knappertsbusch
Götterdämmerung (Premiere 4 August 1951): Hans Knappertsbusch

 

 


1960-1964 (11 cycles) - Wolfgang Wagner

Stage director

Wolfgang Wagner

Conductors

Rudolf Kempe (1960, 1961, 1962, 1963)
Berislav Klobucar (1964)

Principal singers

Hermann Uhde/Theo Adam / Jerôme Hines / Otto Wiener / Hans Hotter (Wotan), Gerhard Stolze (Loge), Otakar Kraus (Alberich), Jutta Meyfarth (Sieglinde), Gottlob Frick (Hunding and Hagen), Birgit Nilsson / Astrid Varnay (Brünnhilde), Hans Hopf (Siegfried), Herold Kraus / Erich Klaus (Mime)

Before his Bayreuth debut as Ring director, Wolfgang Wagner had already directed the Ring at La Fenice in Venice. The basic visual elements were a concave and a convex disc, symbolizing the world of the gods and the Nibelungs. During the final bars of Götterdämmerung the destroyed disc was restored. Wolfgang Wagner wanted to have two naked people, but this was too bold for its time, according to Wolfgang. (See Wolfgang Wagner: Lebens-Akte, p. 208-209)

Cover New Bayreuth

For this Ring Wolfgang  used a large concave disc – in German the Scheibe – which was soon nicknamed the saucer. But it did not remain a platform. It was also symbolic of the story, starting as the placid bed of a pool in the Rhine, it was later split and segments of it set at different angles. Each scene used the Scheibe in a different form, often roofed by a companion disc in various broken sections. Strife and suffering mark the development of the saga, and this design depicted the tumult of passions and events in bold, jagged shapes, until at the very end when the Rhinemaidens have regained their golden talisman, when all passion is spent and peace heals the passing of gods and men, the great disc sank back into its first simplicity. Bare and smooth it lay, under a silvery blue light. Of all the Rings I have seen in many different operahouses this was by far the fines ending of Götterdämmerung.
Penelope Turing: New Bayreuth (p. 63)

 

       

 

 


1965-1969 (12 cycles) - Wieland Wagner

Stage director

Wieland Wagner

Conductors

Karl Böhm (1965, 66, 67)
Otmar Suitner (1966, 67)
Lorin Maazel(1968, 69)

Das Rheingold (Premiere: 25 July 1965): Karl Böhm
Die Walküre (Premiere: 26 July 1965): Karl Böhm
Siegfried (Premiere: 28 July 1965): Karl Böhm
Götterdämmerung (Premiere: 31 July 1965): Karl Böhm

Principal singers

ring cover bohm

Theo Adam, Wolfgang Windgassen, Gustav Neidlinger, Erwin Wohlfahrt, Martti Talvela, Gerd Nienstedt, Gerhard Stolze, Zoltán Kelemen, Birgit Nilsson, James King, Leonie Rysanek, Josef Greindl, Thomas Stewart, Martha Mödl

"I was bowled over. It was the year after Wieland Wagner had died; to be able to see his productions was a total knock-out. These bare stagings, where everything was done with lighting. The light changed with the music, and the shadows and patterns seemed as archetypal as the music itself. Nobody had done that on the stage before. I thought it was extraordinary and wonderful."
(Patrick Carnegy to The Guardian)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


1970-1975 (16 cycles) - Wolfgang Wagner

Stage director

Wolfgang Wagner

Conductor

Horst Stein (1970, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75)

Principal singers

Heinz Zednik (Mime), Thomas Stewart / Theo Adam / Donald McIntyre (Wotan), Hermin Esser (Loge), Gustav Neidlinger / Franz Mazura (Alberich), Marga Höfgen (Erda), Karl Ridderbusch (Fasolt), Kurt Moll (Fafner), Catarina Ligendza / Gwyneth Jones (Brünnhilde), Gwyneth Jones / Marita Napier (Sieglinde), Karl Ridderbusch (Hunding), Jean Cox (Siegfried), Franz Mazura (Gunther), Janis Martin / Eva Randová (Gutrune)

 

 

 

     

 


1976-1980 (16 cycles) - Patrice Chéreau

heinz zednik

Stage director

Patrice Chéreau

   

Conductor

Pierre Boulez

This was the second Ring not directed by a Wagner family member. The first one was Heinz Tietjen's production running 1933-1942.

Principal singers

Donald McIntyre, Gwyneth Jones, Jeannine Altmeyer, Manfred Jung, Heinz Zednik, Siegfried Jerusalem, Hermann Becht, Helmut Pampuch, Matti Salminen, Fritz Hübner, Hanna Schwarz, Peter Hofmann

Written about Patrice Chéreau's Ring

ring chereau

Although some of the costumes may today look unavoidably ”1970s” in theatrical taste, Chéreau’s wonderful production remains an indisputable reference for all later Rings, and even (as the author J L Borges might have said) for all earlier ones as well! Today I can see that Chéreau’s emotionally intelligent ”Personenregie” is even more important than his historical re-reading of the drama. In his humanization of the roles, he brings out psychological nuances, ambivalences, doubts and desires that are matched (and surpassed) only by the relational complexity of the musical score itself.
Boulez’s famous transparency in orchestral texture, his rhythmic precision, lighter tempos, and his preference for woodwinds over strings, all contribute to a Gallic clarity of interpretation, evoking a modernist understanding pointing back to early French wagnerism and to Baudelaire’s aesthetical writings on Wagner in the 1860s. Still, in his conducting, Boulez is less avant-garde, less distanced and more emotionally expressive than he used to be before his Bayreuth experience started in 1966.
This Ring comes out extremely well on DVD, not least due to its humour, and to Brian Large’s magnificent TV production with its frequent close-up filming.
Erling E. Guldbrandsen

ring boulez

For anyone who would accuse Boulez of being a ‘cold’ conductor, listen to Act One of Die Walküre, once again with an unforgettable – not least visually – Siegmund and Sieglinde from Peter Hofmann and Jeannine Altmeyer. This is some of the most passionate Wagner one will ever see and hear. Boulez’s phenomenal ear clarifies textures yet, like Karajan, he is perfectly willing to broaden the scale and to intensify the emotional level when required. There is a host of other memorable performances, not least Donald Macintyre’s Wotan and Gwyneth Jones’s Brünnhilde. Yet it is the epoch-making nature of the production, resulting initially in death-threats for Boulez and Chéreau, which truly makes this mandatory viewing. Chéreau’s Personenregie is more or less unrivalled. His connection of the drama to its nineteenth-century political and social context is never didactic and often, even now, quite revelatory. Joachim Herz may have done something not entirely dissimilar in Leipzig but now the rest of the world had the opportunity to witness a searing mythological, historical, and contemporary drama, which unfolds mesmerizingly from the opening mise-en-scène (designer: Richard Peduzzi) of a Rhenish hydroelectric dam. Wagner production was transformed forever.
Mark Berry

 


1983-1986 (12 cycles) - Peter Hall

Stage director

Peter Hall

Conductor

Georg Solti(1983)
Peter Schneider (1984, 85, 86)

Principal singers

Hildegard Behrens, Siegmund Nimsgern, Siegfried Jerusalem

 

 


1988-1992 (15 cycles) - Harry Kupfer

Waltraud Meier (Waltraute) and Anne Evans (Brünnhilde) in Götterdämmerung.

Stage director

Harry Kupfer

Conductor

Daniel Barenboim

Principal singers

John Tomlinson, Anne Evans / Deborah Polaski, Siegfried Jerusalem, Graham Clark, Günter von Kannen, Matthias Hölle, Philip Kang, Poul Elming, Nadine Secunde

 

Waltraud Meier on Harry Kupfer's Ring production at Bayreuth

Denken Sie an Harry Kupfers grandiosen Bayreuther "Ring des Nibelungen". Bei diesen klugen und dabei emotional intensiven Bildern, bei denen stets ein Element des Gesamtkunstwerks ins andere greift, war ich ergriffen. Dagegen ist vieles heute nur noch banal, oberflächlich, läppisch und im Grunde moderner Kitsch. (Waltraud Meier ïnterviewed by Die Welt)

 

 

       

 

Comments on YouTube about Harry Kupfer's Ring production at the Bayreuth Festival

This is my favourite version of the Ring on DVD. I am a traditionalist, but this production changed my mind somewhat. Taking away the armour allowed the actors to create more realistic characters with their movement and actions. This production (1988) was also highly influential on the making of the movies Dark City and the Matrix. It is also the best sounding Ring on DVD.

What a silly and ugly production. I wonder whether Wagner would recognize his own work (apart from the Music, of course)

The producer has obviously not listened to the music. You can hear the flames in every note, and this hack comes up with laser beams? A shame that modern rings have become so tawdry.

This is probably my favourite portrayal of Siegmund and Sieglinde I have seen.  It is for me one of the most truthful realisations of their journey together.  

From a purely musical point of view, the performance is not bad, but the directing, the costumes ... and not talk about those antipathetic singers…

This was the worst Ring production I have ever watched. Mostly because of staging and the silly costume design.

I went to see this same performance in Bayreuth. To date to me this still is the most memorable of all performances! It was simply magical and I loved every moment of it!

I didn't know Wotan was a pimp. He sure dresses like one.

Out of the three "Rings" I've seen, this at the top.

 

 


1994-1998 (15 cycles) - Alfred Kirchner

polaski

 

 

Stage director

Alfred Kirchner

Conductor

James Levine

Only Götterdämmerung is available on DVD.

 


2000-2004 (15 cycles) - Jürgen Flimm

Stage director

Jürgen Flimm

Conductor

Giuseppe Sinopoli (2000)
Adam Fischer (2001, 02, 03, 04)

 


2006–2010 - Tancred Dorst

Photo: Jörg Schulze

Stage director

Tankred Dorst

Conductor

Christian Thielemann

Principal singers

Albert Dohmen, Linda Watson, Kwangchul Youn, Eva-Maria Westbroek, Andrew Shore, Stephen Gould.

 

 

Sources

 

2013-

Stage director

Frank Castorf

Das Rheingold Cast 2013

Aleksandar Denic’s magnificent scenography in each of the operas offers unlimited possibilities for vertical scenic activity. The intrigues of the gods are set against brash Western popular culture.
Click on image to enlarge.
Photo: Enrico Nawrath / Bayreuther Festspiele

Conductor Kirill Petrenko; Director Frank Castorf; Stage design Aleksandar Denić; Costumes Adriana Braga Peretzki; Lighting Rainer Casper; Video Andreas Deinert and Jens Crull
Wotan Wolfgang Koch; Donner Oleksandr Pushniak; Froh Lothar Odinius; Loge Norbert Ernst; Fasolt Günther Groissböck; Fafner Sorin Coliban; Alberich Martin Winkler; Mime Burkhard Ulrich; Fricka Claudia Mahnke; Freia Elisabet Strid; Erda Nadine Weissmann; Woglinde Mirella Hagen; Wellgunde Julia Rutigliano; Flosshilde Okka von der Damerau

Die Walküre Cast 2013

Conductor Kirill Petrenko; Director Frank Castorf; Stage design Aleksandar Denić; Costumes Adriana Braga Peretzki; Lighting Rainer Casper; Video Andreas Deinert and Jens Crull
Siegmund Johan Botha; Hunding Franz-Josef Selig; Wotan Wolfgang Koch; Sieglinde Anja Kampe; Brünnhilde Catherine Foster; Fricka Claudia Mahnke; Gerhilde Allison Oakes; Ortlinde Dara Hobbs; Waltraute Claudia Mahnke; Schwertleite Nadine Weissmann; Helmwige Christiane Kohl; Siegrune Julia Rutigliano; Grimgerde Geneviève King; Rossweisse Alexandra Petersamer

Siegfried Cast 2013

Conductor Kirill Petrenko; Director Frank Castorf; Stage design Aleksandar Denić; Costumes Adriana Braga Peretzki; Lighting Rainer Casper; Video Andreas Deinert and Jens Crull
Siegfried Lance Ryan; Mime Burkhard Ulrich; Der Wanderer Wolfgang Koch; Alberich Martin Winkler; Fafner Sorin Coliban; Erda Nadine Weissmann; Brünnhilde Catherine Foster; Waldvogel Mirella Hagen

Götterdämmerung Cast 2013

Conductor Kirill Petrenko; Director Frank Castorf; Stage design Aleksandar Denić; Costumes Adriana Braga Peretzki; Lighting Rainer Casper; Video Andreas Deinert and Jens Crull
Siegfried Lance Ryan; Gunther Alejandro Marco-Buhrmester; Hagen Attila Jun; Alberich Martin Winkler; Brünnhilde Catherine Foster; Gutrune Allison Oakes; Waltraute Claudia Mahnke; 1. Norn Okka von der Damerau; 2. Norn Claudia Mahnke; 3. Norn Christiane Kohl; Woglinde Mirella Hagen; Wellgunde Julia Rutigliano; Flosshilde Okka von der Damerau

The Rhine Daugthers and Brünnhilde outside the Stock Exchange on Wall Street. Götterdämmerung. During “Starke Scheite” one of the Rhinedaughters carries a painting (Picasso?) out of the Stock Exchange building. Should we read this as a manifesto that art must free itself from commerce?
Photo: Enrico Nawrath / Bayreuther Festspiele

 

The Castorf Ring on The Wagner Journal's website

On The Wagner Journal's website you can read an extended essay by Edward A. & Paula M. Bortnichak on Frank Castorf's Ring production at Bayreuth. The authors discuss the bold interpretations of Wagner's works at Bayreuth over the last decade in the context of deconstructionist approaches to literature and theatre, concluding with a dramaturgical analysis of the Castorf Ring. This landmark article should prove invaluable to anyone intending to see the production, but will also make stimulating and enlightening reading for anyone interested in the staging of Wagner's works in the modern era.

Read the essay here!

 

 

 

 

Der Ring des Nibelungen: Articles and Reviews

Nila Parly on Regietheater: Visions of the Ring

The Cry of the Valkyrie: Feminism and Corporality in the Copenhagen Ring

Mark Berry: Bayreuth 2017: Das Rheingold (Frank Castorf / Marek Janowski)

Mark Berry: Bayreuth 2017: Die Walküre (Frank Castorf / Marek Janowski)

Mark Berry: Bayreuth 2016: Das Rheingold (Frank Castorf)

Mark Berry: Bayreuth 2016: Die Walküre (Frank Castorf)

Mark Berry: Bayreuth 2016: Siegfried (Frank Castorf)

Mark Berry: Bayreuth 2016: Götterdämmerung (Frank Castorf)

Mark Berry: Bayreuth 2014: Das Rheingold (Frank Castorf)

Mark Berry: Bayreuth 2014: Die Walküre (Frank Castorf)

Mark Berry: Bayreuth 2014: Siegfried (Frank Castorf)

Mark Berry: Bayreuth 2014: Götterdämmerung (Frank Castorf)

 

Per-Erik Skramstad: Bayreuth 2013: There Will Be Blood: Frank Castorf Has Entered the Ring

Per-Erik Skramstad: Bayreuth 2010: Curtain Down on Tankred Dorst's Ring

Mark Berry: 2010 Cassiers Ring

Sam Goodyear: Laufenberg’s Wiesbaden Ring 2017

Jerry Floyd: Rheingold, Metropolitan 2010

Jerry Floyd: Die Walküre, Metropolitan 2010

Jerry Floyd Washington National Opera: Siegfried

Jerry Floyd Washington National Opera: Siegfried II

Jerry Floyd Washington National Opera: Götterdammerung Concert (2009)

Jerry Floyd Washington National Opera: Götterdammerung Concert (2009)

Los Angeles Rheingold (2009)

 

Mark Berry: Richard Wagner für Kinder – Der Ring des Nibelungen (2011)