Sam Goodyear reviews the Der Ring des Nibelungen by Valentin Schwarz / Cornelius Meister at the Bayreuth Festival 2022

Coherent incoherence - a “constructively disrespectful” Ring at the Bayreuth Festival 2022

Cornelius Meister and Valentin Schwarz. (Photo: Enrico Nawrath, Bayreuter Festspiele)

A new production of the Ring is always an occasion in the opera world, especially when it’s taking place on the Green Hill. But the first runs of Valentin Schwarz’s staging, delayed from 2020 due to you-know-what, actually marked a Bayreuth first in not taking place on the Green Hill. Rather, they took place on the Yellow Hill. Or perhaps the Beige Hill. Either way, the dried-out grass around the Festspielhaus was a stark reminder of the impact that increasingly frequent heatwaves are having on the planet, even in escapist destinations for the well-off.  So much so, in fact, that it led my friend Diana Garcia Lopez (whose insights, by the way, contributed a great deal to my understanding of the production and to this review, even though some of our conclusions may differ) to ask me if I thought there even would be a Bayreuth Festival in 50 years’ time. “Oh, of course”, I replied, muttering something misty-eyed about there always being heil’ge deutsche Kunst. Little did either of us know at the time though, that such questions would prove integral to Schwarz’s production, a staging that frankly promised, intrigued, frustrated, and perplexed in equal measure.

The first thing to note is that Schwarz and his team make it clear in their programme notes that the production does not seek complete “coherence” with Wagner’s libretto in a traditional sense, and is instead intended to be “constructively disrespectful”. Such a concept, which includes a deliberately “liberal approach to the plot”, and shifting representations of objects and ideas over the four evenings, is justified by alleged inherent inconsistencies within the work itself, the musical development of motivic material, and an assertion that a traditional Theatre of Ideas approach “threaten[s] to reduce our perspective”. Their staging, Kuhn states, “does not make a claim to an overarching world model”.

Can such an approach prove fruitful? Kuhn’s further justification that holding on to the idea of coherence “runs counter to a sense of being in a world characterised by increasing fragmentation” is, in my opinion, at least as debatable as whether the Ring itself contains inherent contradictions – one could just as easily argue that any real-world splintering makes coherence in art even more important, in order to give us a framework in which we can try to bring some clarity to it all. Furthermore, the willingness to overlay the work with something new reminded me somewhat of former Bayreuth director Sebastian Baumgarten’s attempt to “escape the hell of interpretative theatre” in his 2011 production of Tannhäuser by subsuming the opera into a modern art installation; an experiment that led to occasionally thought-provoking, but more often nonsensical, results.  On the other hand, a certain amount of what might be viewed as incoherence, or at least incongruity, in time and stage action was also a hallmark of Frank Castorf’s 2013 Ring, a production that is rightly coming to be viewed as a modern classic. It would, then, be too sweeping to say that a coherent incoherence cannot be made to work.

In any case, it is an interesting approach, and whether one agrees with the reasons for it or not, it is at least to some extent what we got, and as the week progressed, it became increasingly apparent that whatever there was to be gleaned from it could not be found by fighting it. Much though it was my instinct (and frankly, still is) to attempt to link A to B, and to work out what was going on based on what people were saying or what I already knew about the Ring, this often led up blind alleys. One had to try and view it as if one were coming to the work anew: sometimes Wotan’s medallion represented his spear, sometimes it did not; some characters were added, others were changed; and one simply had to accept that there was no point trying to come up with a grand unified theory as to why.

The thing is, it’s not that there weren’t themes of a sort, at the very least in a narrative sense, running through the production, the first of which was the focus on family. The opening E flat chords of Das Rheingold played to a projection of twin foetuses in the womb. At first, they were intertwined peacefully, before one attacked the other, ripping the umbilical cord from its stomach. Moreover, through his programme notes, if not via actions on stage, Schwarz tells us that these warring foetuses are actually brothers of his own creation – Wotan and Alberich. What this sets up is an attempt to place the majority of the work’s characters into one of two branches of the same family – broadly, the have and have-nots – in order to compare their contrasting, or sometimes similar, fortunes, throughout the four evenings.  

The family of the gods appeared in Das Rheingold as something out of a soap opera; a sort of nouveau-riche, quasi-mafia family, preoccupied with the superficial trappings of wealth and the leisure pursuits of the rich. Fricka gave the impression of having recently maxed out the black Amex, Froh seemed to be wearing the green members’ jacket of Augusta National Golf Club, while Wotan strutted around asking “anyone for tennis?”. Much of the action across all four evenings took place in the Valhalla set, which could easily be viewed as akin to Mar-a-Lago, but perhaps was closer to Southfork ranch from Dallas, a kind of fulcrum about which the residents may come and go, slay dragons, or step out of the shower back from the dead, but where disaster is doomed to repeat itself no matter the players. In this way, Fafner was seen there in Siegfried as a dying rich uncle with various suitors for his inheritance, before Gunther and Gutrune took up residence in Götterdämmerung as a fake-Rolex, wannabe version of Wotan and Fricka, their behaviour, dress and love for trophy hunting giving them away as even trashier and more feckless than their predecessors. Meanwhile, Hunding’s shabby hut (Cliff Barnes’ flat?! – the constant presence of Chinese takeaway food had me wondering whether this might genuinely have been in mind...) was the location for a lot of the action “downstairs”, also doubling as the home of Mime and the young Siegfried, both of whom joined Alberich in wearing simple, sometimes grubby, t-shirts and shirts.

Gutrune (Elisabeth Teige), taking a selfie, and Gunther (Michael Kupfer-Radecky) on the sofa. (Photo: Enrico Nawrath, Bayreuter Festspiele)

Gutrune (Elisabeth Teige), taking a selfie, and Gunther (Michael Kupfer-Radecky) on the sofa. (Photo: Enrico Nawrath, Bayreuter Festspiele)

More than just a general focus on family intrigue though, children specifically played a crucial role throughout the production. In the opening scene, Alberich did not steal the gold, but abduct one of a number of children apparently being minded by the Rhinemaidens. This child would also sometimes seem to represent the ring rather than the gold, and later turned out to also represent the young Hagen. In any case, the strong implication was that children were a coveted thing in the world of these people, while at the same time the issue of traumatic childhood experiences, and how these might affect the next generation in adulthood, permeated the four evenings.

Arnold Bezuyen (Mime) with young girls. (Photo: Enrico Nawrath, Bayreuter Festspiele)

To start with, our descent into Nibelheim in scene 3 of Rheingold led us not to a race of dwarves beavering away, but a classroom full of children, all of whom were blonde girls save for the dark-haired boy abducted in Scene 1. They appeared to be under Mime’s tutelage, variously playing with horses or drawing pictures of stereotypical Wagnerian gods and heroines. Whose children were they? Were they also abducted? Were they being raised to aspire to be like the gods? The answers to such questions were unclear, at least at that stage, but what did become clear was that the boy abducted earlier in the evening had developed a violent streak, either due to his experiences or through deliberate education by Alberich, when he tore through the classroom, scaring the girls away with a gun before spraying red paint over the walls.

Olafur Sigurdarson as Alberich. (Photo: Enrico Nawrath, Bayreuter Festspiele)

Olafur Sigurdarson as Alberich. (Photo: Enrico Nawrath, Bayreuter Festspiele)

Exploration of childhood experiences continued in Die Walküre, first with Siegmund and Sieglinde, the latter already apparently pregnant with Hunding’s child before the former arrived. Their rediscovery of each other at the end of Act 1 was not, therefore, one of building passion, but rather entirely unsexual, a joint remembering of a forgotten childhood together. The entry of the other members of the second generation of characters - Brünnhilde and the Valkyries – then seemed to offer a potential answer to the question of the identity of the little girls from Das Rheingold: all were blonde, and all – crucially, except for Brünnhilde – were also ostentatiously consumerist and wearing bandages indicative of recent plastic surgery. The result of being raised to view our nouveau-riche gods as role models? It appeared so. Furthermore, Wotan’s disappointment in how these Valkyries had turned out was more than implied by his presenting Brünnhilde with a bandage of her own to wear while “in festen Schlaf”, her punishment seemingly to become as superficial as the rest of them (or maybe to return played by Donna Reed…?).

Okka von der Damerau stole every moment she had as Erda with an impressively full sound. (Photo: Enrico Nawrath, Bayreuter Festspiele)

Siegfried’s childhood is of course, one of being raised by a single, adoptive parent. In Schwarz’s staging, one began to wonder whether Mime might not, at least in part, have been genuinely trying his best to raise the boy within his limited means as a member of the “wrong” side of the family, as much effort seemed to have been put into the buying of gifts, wearing of costume, and creation of puppets to entertain Siegfried, only for our hero to smash everything to pieces save for – tellingly – the puppet of Sieglinde. Perhaps he had also been trying to steer the little girls seen in Das Rheingold along a different path, but failed? Perhaps his eventual determination to kill Siegfried and take the ring was only made after being driven to the brink, Wozzeck-style, by his lot in life and the constant abuse and ingratitude he had received from his charge? That may be a stretch, but what was clear, is that in this production, Siegfried, whether due to trauma induced by his upbringing or otherwise, does little maturing until the moment of his downfall. His violent outbursts against Mime drew a parallel with those seen earlier in Das Rheingold from the abducted, motherless young Hagen, whom he would later briefly befriend in Act 3. More than this, his complete lack of empathy or love for anything and anyone was demonstrated in Götterdämmerung, when rather than go off on new adventures with the blessing of Brünnhilde, he walked out on her like a man simply bored with his wife, leaving her distraught, but in the company of – you guessed it – their young child.

Elisabeth Teige as Freia. (Photo: Enrico Nawrath, Bayreuter Festspiele)

Though one might have assumed that this child would end up being the hope for the future at the conclusion of the cycle, somehow surviving the wreckage of their parents’ and grandparents’ upbringings and influence unscathed, this did not prove to be the case. Following a Norn scene played out as the little girl’s nightmare and her abandonment by her father, she then became the latest metaphor for the ring when she was abducted by Siegfried-as-Gunther, before being physically pulled around the stage by warring factions in the following act. By the time the curtain fell on the production, she had collapsed, presumably dead, along with her parents. The sins of the father and all that, one final time.

“Hang on a minute, Goodyear. Didn’t you start off by going on about climate change? You haven’t mentioned it once since the first paragraph.” Well spotted, and thanks for sticking it out this far. And yes, you’d be right, I did go on about it in the introduction, and the reason I haven’t mentioned it again, is that neither did Valentin Schwarz…until the final act of Götterdämmerung.  But as the curtain rose for Act 3, we found the Rhinemaidens, now depicted as also having succumbed to the trappings of consumerism, not near the banks of the river, but in an empty swimming pool. The backdrop, however, of trees baking under an amber sky, clearly implied this pool was not merely empty, but dried up. Siegfried, having arrived from his hunting party with his daughter, proceeded to try and fish in the only small puddle of water left, to no avail, yet seemed more concerned with drinking the only liquid available – beer. Hagen, now a tired old man seemingly desperate to have a do-over of his troubled youth if his attempts at sport earlier in the evening were anything to go by, simply stabbed him in the back. The Gibichungs, who had previously appeared in mysterious hooded cloaks and masks similar to the drawings the children had been doing all the way back in Das Rheingold, then staggered on stage in dishevelled evening dress, apparently dehydrated and dying of thirst. Gunther did not die, but rather scampered off stage in a panic, as did Hagen after seeing Siegfried and Brünnhilde’s daughter collapse before his final line. Brünnhilde herself, not having the energy to use the can of petrol teasingly left in the swimming pool, simply lay down next to Siegfried and passed away peacefully by him. The walls of the set were then raised as the final bars were played, to reveal lights that were shined out into the house.

Putting all that together then, the message from Schwarz’s production, as I saw it, can basically be summarised as follows:

  1. Society has been led by greedy men and their families, who have raised their children to be focused on useless, material things.
  2. Over several generations, we have become more and more damaged and false in our priorities, as inherited traumas, poor upbringing and a lack of proper education pile on top of one another.
  3. In the present, we – the well-off opera-going middle class – may consider ourselves relatively enlightened. But in reality, we are like the Gibichungs, content as a group to throw our support behind political leaders ever more craven and self-interested, and then swan off to watch the Ring at Bayreuth. We are fiddling while Rome burns, almost literally.
  4. Consequently, nothing serious is being done about climate change. If we continue like this, there will be no “Liebeserlösung”. And those who led us there, will, like Gunther and Hagen in this staging, never be held to account.
  5. So, take a look in the mirror.

If you’ve read that and are thinking, “you know what, that all sounds suspiciously like an overarching concept”, then I’d agree with you. For I think that despite the approach being novel in many ways, an “an overwriting [of] the work, by using the work’s intrinsic structure” as Kuhn puts it, there was still at least something of the Theatre of Ideas about it. And to be honest, I don’t think those ideas form a bad outline for a production at all.

This is not to say, however, that I think the execution of the interpretation always worked, or got the most out of the concept – I don’t think it did. For the purposes of this review, I, much like Schwarz himself, have skipped over some elements in the name of what I think is a clear narrative. Some of those elements, such as the anthropomorphising of Grane, or the recurring sexism depicted in the actions of the family, provided further food for thought. But when it came to the protean nature of the representations and metaphors we saw on stage, I did not, for the most part, feel that it helped either to connect us with the development of the music, or to reveal more of the drama. Much as I tried to go with the flow, the many instances of actions on stage conflicting with words, and of props changing from one thing to another, often proved jarring rather than natural. It is hard after to all, to make a gun subtly change, intertwine with other things, and gradually become a sword – it just suddenly becomes a sword, or it does not.

Moreover, in being so determined to focus on the noumenal rather than the phenomenal, to “tell real stories about real people in a linear manner” as Kuhn writes, the production unquestionably strips the operas of a lot of their wonder, awe, and power to overwhelm. There is perhaps a sense of inevitability to events on stage, but no sense of fate; some characters seem more controlled by events than others, but there is little exploration of what being “free” might really mean. By zoning in to such a large extent on the actions of specific individuals and plot, and not what characters and their actions might represent more broadly, there is, dare I say it, a somewhat Verdian feeling to proceedings. I just felt there was a certain mundanity to what we saw that did not align with the nature of the music, much like those productions of Tristan und Isolde that we have all seen that are about two people called Tristan und Isolde, rather than Tristan und Isolde.

I do think that Schwarz has something here though. Given the number of overlapping parent and sibling relationships in the Ring, a focus on family is certainly not without merit. Similarly, there seems to me to fewer contemporary issues more appropriate than climate change around which to centre a discussion on the fate, or renewal, of the world. With perhaps just a little less “constructive disrespect”, I think the production could become dramatically stronger in future runs. Nobody wants a one-for-one game of snap where a cigarette lighter is produced every time Loge’s music appears, but I believe more consistency would only help to elucidate Schwarz’s overall message. For me it is less a question of whether “incoherences” are detrimental, but rather one of how do they help? If a child, or even different children, represent the ring, how does introducing a diamond-encrusted knuckleduster for a brief period in the middle add to our understanding, or align with the team’s goal of telling a story “in a linear manner”? Perhaps I’m missing the theatrical point, but either paring back this sort of thing, or making changes less abrupt, would, I think, work wonders. Additionally, while I think the time and place is right for a Ring about climate change, suddenly throwing such a big topic into the mix at the eleventh (or even fifteenth…) hour after three and a half days, does not do it justice. Without too many changes, I think the final act could have been made more powerful if it were set up more in the previous evenings. Perhaps we could get a glimpse of how the conspicuous consumption of the gods is affecting the environment while they are doing it? How much water does young Siegfried have to drink compared with his father? I mean, the end of Die Walküre practically directs itself when considering the topic of global warming.

On the musical side of things, singing and playing were never less than solid, and in some instances, very much more than that. In the pit, Cornelius Meister, a relatively late stand-in due to Pietari Inkinen falling ill, showed no signs of abbreviated preparation. Progression through the work, and through each opera, felt consequential, with no hint of meandering or missed gears even in the most testing of passages. Dynamic contrast was never absent, and always effective. Though his reading may have lacked the thrill of a Karl Böhm, or the gravitas of a Hans Knappertsbusch – indeed, “safe” would, I think, be a fair description – it is no small feat to lead a fluent, cogent Ring, and he will doubtless only delve deeper in the years to come.

Egils Silins and Tomasz Konieczny shared the role of Wotan. While the former was dependable and pleasing of tone, the latter shone, conveying a keen understanding of the text, appropriately deployed power, and unwavering dramatic commitment. The role of Brünnhilde was also shared, with two Iréne Theorin performances sandwiching one by Daniela Köhler. Both had their strengths: Theorin demonstrated the greater acting chops and stage presence, some woolly diction perhaps my only minor quibble with what was otherwise strong, expressive singing of difficult material; while Köhler gave us beauty of tone combined with seemingly effortless power.

The two stars of the cycle were, for me, the Wälsung twins of Lise Davidsen and Klaus Florian Vogt. Quite simply, as good a pairing as I’ve ever seen live, and, in my opinion, absolutely worthy of being in the same conversation as classic partnerships of the past such as Rysanek and King, or Altmeyer and Hoffmann. Davidsen was the complete package – dramatically gripping, vocally emotive across the entire range of dynamics, and clear with the text. Vogt, who I have probably heard more often than any other singer, was the best he’s ever been, his famously sweet, clarion-like tone ringing out with as much muscularity as its ever has, and his diction an example to any singer in the world. Sometimes known to float through productions, on this occasion his acting had more variation and urgency than I had seen before. Put together, the Act 1 love duet was the clear musical highlight of the four nights – congratulations to them both on outstanding performances.

I am previously on record as hailing Andreas Schager the overall best Heldentenor since Siegfried Jerusalem, and his performance as the title character in Siegfried did not dissuade me of this. His acting was top notch throughout, perhaps the most compelling of anyone in the cycle, with a boundlessly energetic and unrestrained forging scene contrasted with deft comic timing in the following act. Vocally, his unmatched ability to churn out fortissimo top A’s was of course on show, although for the first time, I did detect a little tiredness at the end of acts 1 and 3, with a few high notes appearing to be slightly abbreviated. Nothing to get too worked up about though – he remains first choice for this most difficult of roles in any production. Taking over the role in Götterdämmerung was another big-role specialist in Stephen Gould. Although he may have lacked the charisma on stage that Schager had, vocally he was at least a match on this occasion, proving tireless throughout, and he delivered a nuanced narration of the earlier events of Siegfried’s life.

Olafur Sigurdarson as Alberich was new to me, but proved a revelation, his attention to the libretto as impressive as his rich tone and range of dynamics. Arnold Bezuyen also did well as his onstage brother Mime, in a sympathetic portrayal. In one of those parts that can easily slide from characterful to caricature, he never did, just as he never flirted with the more extreme style of Sprechgesang historically heard in the role.

As Hunding, Georg Zeppenfeld had little to do compared with his typical workload, but he remains one of the great operatic wordsmiths of our day. Okka von der Damerau stole every moment she had as Erda with an impressively full sound, while Michael Kupfer-Radecky and Elisabeth Teige were wonderfully tasteless as Gunther and Gutrune, each throwing themselves into the characterisation and having just the right weight and tone of voice for their roles. Albert Dohmen was a quietly menacing Hagen in what was a solid, professional performance, while Christa Mayer, Daniel Kirch, Wilhelm Schwinghammer, Jens-Erik Aasbø, and Alexandra Steiner all sang and acted well as Fricka/Waltruate, Loge, Fafner, Fasolt and the Waldvogel, respectively. All other roles were also well taken, including those of the non-singing variety, and the Bayreuth Festival orchestra and choir were, unsurprisingly, as strong as ever.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid I do, once again, feel the need to mention the audience. While the vast majority of people were there simply to enjoy their opera in a good spirit, it was disheartening to have to put up with a small number of book-burning types imposing booing on the rest of us. Booing at the opera is just attention seeking, nothing more. Maybe it’s fine in other contexts, but in this one it’s targeted and aggressive, yet anonymous and cowardly; it’s simply hurtful to performers who have spent months, or even years, preparing a role. It should have no place in the opera house.

If it were just standard booing we had to endure though, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to mention it. The real reason I feel compelled to call it out for the umpteenth time, is that on this occasion, there were a few who continued to boo Iréne Theorin even after the little girl playing her daughter joined her on stage for a curtain call. I’m sorry but that’s just truly dreadful behaviour. I mean, seriously, think about what you’re doing. You’re hurling abuse at a child who has just performed for you for 4 hours. Get a grip, or if you can’t, go and see Jack and the Beanstalk or something instead. You’ll save a lot of money and probably get more out of it. I’ll stop there, except to say to the little girl (and indeed, to Theorin, Meister, and anyone else on the receiving end) – thank you, you did great, and don’t let the b#%@$*!& get you down.

Not wanting to end on a sour note, I think one can find something positive in the point I am trying to make there – namely, that Bayreuth clearly remains committed to trying new ways of doing Wagner, even if it knows that doing so will provoke a subsection of its audience. That is something enormously valuable, artistically courageous, and I commend festival management for committing to it. Some productions will be great successes, some will fail. After a first viewing, I’d say Valentin Schwarz’s Ring lies somewhere in the middle, but in some ways, it doesn’t matter, and it is the attempt itself that is what is most important.  Either way, what a pleasure it was to return to the festival after a three-year absence. It’s still special, you know.


Sam Goodyear

Sam Goodyear is an opera fan and Wagner enthusiast, originally from Portsmouth but now living in Germany. He read history at Peterhouse, Cambridge, and has at various times worked as a bookie, translator, trader, journalist, and TV researcher. He currently works in socially responsible investment. While very much an amateur, his interest in music has in the past led to him singing on BBC radio, and playing the trumpet in front of the queen. He attends as much Wagner both at home and abroad as time and money will permit, and he has written on Wagner for Classical Music Magazine.


Bayreuth 2022: More Reviews

The Ring

Review: A New ‘Ring’ at Bayreuth Does Wagner Without Magic. Valentin Schwarz’s production of the four-opera epic presents human characters with relations even more tangled than usual. (Zachary Woolfe, The New York Times)

Das Rheingold

In der Neuproduktion von Richard Wagners "Der Ring des Nibelungen" bei den Bayreuther Festspielen bringt Regisseur Valentin Schwarz das Epos feministisch auf Zack. (Süddeutsche Zeitung)

Valentin Schwarz inszeniert „Rheingold“ bei den Bayreuther Festspielen als Auftakt seines „Ring des Nibelungen“. Schlimmer als die Regie sei der Dirigent und die meisten Sänger, sagt unser Kritiker. Er hofft auf die anderen drei Teile. (Deutschlandfunk Kultur)

Im Stil einer Netflix-Serie will der junge Regisseur Valentin Schwarz Wagners "Ring" in Bayreuth erzählen: als Familiensaga, die in unserer Gegenwart spielt. Eingesprungen für den an Corona erkrankten Dirigenten Pietari Inkinen ist Cornelius Meister. (BR Klassik)

Das Rheingold review – no ring, no gold, instead child abuse and abduction drive Bayreuth’s new Ring. Austrian director Valentin Schwarz’s new Ring presents the bold and searing idea that the original sin that drives Wagner’s world of power is the abuse of children. Can it be sustained? (Martin Kettle, The Guardian)

Das Licht der Welt erblicken auch zwei Kinder, die wir im Vorspiel in einer Videoprojektion sehen, die sich wohl schon im Mutterleib spinnefeind sind – Wotan und sein „Schatten“ (C. G. Jung) Alberich. Der Beginn einer großen spannenden Sage? (Matthias Lachenmann)

Am Sonntagabend feierte "Das Rheingold" von Regisseur Valentin Schwarz Premiere bei den Bayreuther Festspielen. Wagners Mythos wird in dieser Neuinterpretation zur Familiensaga der Gegenwart. (Norddeutscher Rundfunk)

„Rheingold“ in Bayreuth Valentin Schwarz lässt Wagners Symbolik leiden: Dass da noch niemand draufgekommen ist: Göttervater Wotan und sein Kontrahent Alberich sind Zwillingsbrüder. Im Video wird die Es-Dur Ursuppe des „Rheingold“-Vorspiels zur Fruchtblase, in der sich zwei Babys friedlich schlafend wiegen. Bis eines dem anderen das Auge aussticht und das andere den einen entmannt. (Kölnische Rundschau)

Nach 25 Minuten kommt es in jedem „Rheingold“ zum Schwur. Alberichs Fluch auf die Liebe im Gegenzug fürs Edelmetall - nur taucht es an diesem Abend gar nicht auf. Denn was ist tatsächlich das Kostbarste? Da wird Regisseur Valentin Schwarz moralisch: Es sind die Kinder, unser aller Hoffnung. Sie werden von diesem abgehalfterten Western-Desperado entführt, auf dass er sie zusammenpferchen und umerziehen kann. (Münchner Merkur)

„Das Rheingold“ in Bayreuth: Poolparty mit Kindesentführung. Der Auftakt mit „Das Rheingold“ war brav und fern von großartig. (Tiroler Tageszeitung)

Die Walküre

Bühnenunfall, Buhgewitter und ein unrunder Ring: Eine Schrecksekunde, ein Bühnenunfall und ein Einspringer, der bejubelt wird. Heftige Buhgewitter gab es auch. Die galten offenbar der Regie von Valentin Schwarz. Der erzählt die Handlung der "Walküre" weiter als Familiensaga im Netflix-Stil. Ein ereignisreicher Abend mit überragenden, traurigen und mittelmäßigen Momenten. (BR Klassik)

Der Ring nimmt an Fahrt auf, was vor allem einer Reihe von exzellenten Sänger:innen zu verdanken ist. Im ersten Aufzug begeistern Georg Zeppenfeld als sonorer, klarer und bösartiger Hunding und Lise Davidsen als präsente Sieglinde, mit einer bombigen Mittellage, über die sie Tiefen und Höhen eindrücklich erreicht. Auch Klaus Florian Vogt kann begeistern, selbst wenn ihm die Partie eigentlich zu tief liegt. (Matthias Lachenmann)

Der Bayreuther «Ring»-Regisseur Valentin Schwarz inszeniert Wagners großes Musikdrama um Gold und Gier, Zwerge und Drachen als moderne Serie über eine verkorkste Familie. Vor allem mit dem Familienoberhaupt gibt es Probleme. (Schwarzwälder Bote)


Schnitzeljagd für Wagner-Nerds: Der schreckliche Drache ist ein todkranker, uralter Mann. Siegfried zieht ihm den Rollator weg, worauf er einen Herzschlag bekommt. Außerdem wird er sicherheitshalber noch erstochen und erstickt. Und so weiter. Ständig ist man am Rätseln und Entziffern. Was erzählt Wagner, was erzählt Schwarz, was ergibt die Differenz. Ergibt sie was? (Bernhard Neuhoff, BR Klassik)

Nachdem man den ersten beiden Abenden viel Positives abgewinnen konnte, überrascht nun Cornelius Meister mit einem zupackenden Dirigat und gutem Zusammenspiel mit dem Orchester, während die Solisten leider schwächeln und die Inszenierung vielen Zuschauern den letzten Nerv raubt. (Matthias Lachenmann)


In der Trash-TV-Sendung „Die Geissens“ erlebt der Zuschauer das Leben einer reichen, wohlstandsverwahrlosten und prolligen Familie, was Valentin Schwarz – nach dem ersten Aufzug der Götterdämmerung zu urteilen – zu seiner Ring-Inszenierung inspiriert hat. Dabei denken wir natürlich gleich an das Rheingold und die Walküre, wo ebenfalls eine reiche Familie zu sehen ist, so dass sich der Ring zur Götterdämmerung schließt. Nur: Was interessieren uns „die Geissens“? (Matthias Lachenmann)

Bayreuther Festspiele: Ob dieser «Ring» zu retten ist, wissen die Götter. Valentin Schwarz erntet für seine wenig schlüssige Neuinszenierung von Richard Wagners «Ring des Nibelungen» fast einhellige Ablehnung. Bei der Musik gibt es Hoffnung, aber die Arbeit muss jetzt erst richtig beginnen. (Christian Wildhagen, Neue Zürcher Zeitung)

Intellektuell und sinnlich erweist sich der neue Bayreuther „Ring“ schließlich als das Fiasko, an das man zuvor drei Abende lang trotzdem nicht glauben konnte. (Judith von Sternburg, Frankfurter Rundschau)



Christian Thielemann bringt Bayreuth zurück, wo es musikalisch hingehört! (Klaus Billand, 5. August 2022, für und



The Bayreuth Festival 2022 - Reviews by Mark Berry and Sam Goodyear

Cornelius Meister and Valentin Schwarz

Cornelius Meister and Valentin Schwarz. (Photo: Enrico Nawrath, Bayreuter Festspiele)

→ Das Rheingold (Valentin Schwarz / Cornelius Meister) - Bayreuth Festival 2022

→ Die Walküre (Valentin Schwarz / Cornelius Meister) - Bayreuth Festival 2022

→ Siegfried (Valentin Schwarz / Cornelius Meister) - Bayreuth Festival 2022

→ Götterdämmerung (Valentin Schwarz / Cornelius Meister) - Bayreuth Festival 2022

→ Sam Goodyear: Der Ring des Nibelungen (Valentin Schwarz / Cornelius Meister) - Bayreuth Festival 2022


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