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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Wings Over Bayreuth: Wim Wenders to Direct the Ring

Image from Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire.
Photo by Wim Wenders, © 1998 Wim Wenders.
An article in Tuesday's Der Spiegel names director Wim Wenders as the next director of Wagner's Ring at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus. The German director is best known for such art films as Wings of Desire, Until The End of the World and The Million Dollar Hotel.

The choice of Mr. Wenders to direct the Ring continues the Bayreuth trend of bringing in major stage and film directors to tackle Wagner's massive four-part tetralogy. This tradition began in 1976 with the choice of Patrice Chéreau as the director of the so-called "Centennial Ring." Other Ring directors at Bayreuth have included Sir Peter Hall, Harry Kupfer, Alfred Kirchner, and Jürgen Flimm, with varying degrees of artistic success.

The Wenders Ring is scheduled to open in 2013. It will replace an unpopular production by director Tankred Dorst which opened in 2005 to scathing reviews. Mr. Dorst was, in turn, a replacement for Swedish filmmaker Lars von Triel, whose eleventh-hour decision to pull out of the Ring left the Festspielhaus in chaos.

Written over a 26-year period in Wagner's life, the Ring cycle (full title: Der Ring des Nibelungen) retells the mythic saga of the hero Siegfried, the Valkyrie Brünnhilde, and the struggle over a cursed magic ring that allows its wearer to rule the world. The four complex operas (Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried, Götterdämmerung) present considerable hurdles to any director, requiring gods, dwarves, giants, two dragons, magic fire and an apocalyptic climax that portrays the end of the world in fire and flood.

This production represents Mr. Wenders' operatic debut.
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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.