SAN FRANCISCO (January 19, 2010, UPDATED May 13, 2011)––In June–July 2011 San Francisco Opera will present three complete cycles of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung), the composer’s epic four-opera cycle widely considered one of the greatest works ever conceived for the operatic stage. The four operas in this new production by San Francisco Opera Artistic Adviser and internationally celebrated director Francesca Zambello—Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung—will be presented in San Francisco for the first time as a complete cycle.
Maestro Donald Runnicles, one of the world’s most acclaimed Wagner conductors and former San Francisco Opera music director, will lead the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus in these performances that feature an international roster of singers, including Nina Stemme (Brünnhilde), Mark Delavan (Wotan), Stefan Margita (Loge), Jay Hunter Morris (Siegfried, Siegfried), Ian Storey (Siegfried, Götterdämmerung), Gordon Hawkins (Alberich), Elizabeth Bishop (Fricka), David Cangelosi (Mime), Anja Kampe (Sieglinde) and Brandon Jovanovich (Siegmund and Froh).
Three complete cycles will be presented each in their entirety over the course of one week as the composer originally intended. These cycles each begin on a Tuesday evening and conclude on a Sunday afternoon, and they will take place June 14-19, June 21–26, and June 28–July 3, 2011. All performances are presented at the historic Beaux Arts style War Memorial Opera House. Preceding the Ring cycles, San
Francisco Opera will present the San Francisco production premiere performance of Siegfried on May 29, 2011 and the production premiere performance of Götterdämmerung on June 5, 2011. Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, and Siegfried are co-productions with Washington National Opera; Götterdämmerung is a new San Francisco Opera production premiere.
An internationally renowned cast featuring some of the greatest Wagnerian singers of our time has been assembled for San Francisco Opera’s highly anticipated new presentation of Der Ring des Nibelungen. The cast for this complete Ring cycle varies from that of San Francisco Opera’s previous productions of Das Rheingold in June 2008 and Die Walküre in June 2010. Swedish soprano and Wagner specialist Nina Stemme sings Brünnhilde in her complete Ring cycle role debut after making her role debut in June 2010’s Die Walküre; she previously performed the Brünnhilde of Siegfried at the Vienna State Opera in 2008. Baritone Mark Delavan returns to sing his complete Ring cycle debut as Wotan after his triumphant role debut with the Company in 2008’s Das Rheingold and 2010’s Die Walküre. Tenor Jay Hunter Morris makes his role debut as Siegfried in Siegfried and Ian Storey makes his Company debut and his role debut as Siegfried in Götterdämmerung. Gordon Hawkins also makes his Company debut as Alberich, a role he sang to great acclaim at Washington National Opera. American mezzo-soprano Elisabeth Bishop appears as Fricka and David Cangelosi returns as Mime. Soprano Anja Kampe sings Sieglinde, which she also sang in Die Walküre at Washington National Opera, and American tenor Brandon Jovanovich makes his role debut as Siegmund and also appears as Froh. Former Adler Fellow Heidi Melton will sing Sieglinde on the June 29 performance of Die Walküre as well as the Third Norn in Götterdämmerung.
Stefan Margita returns to the Company as Loge following his critically acclaimed performances of the rolein 2008’s Das Rheingold. German bass-baritone Gerd Grochowski appears as Gunther and Andrea Silvestrelli returns to San Francisco Opera as Fasolt and will also sing the role of Hagen. Merola Opera Program alumni Ronnita Miller (Erda and the First Norn) and Melissa Citro (Freia, Ortlinde and Gutrune) make their Company debuts. Former Adler Fellow and Merola alumnus Daniel Sumegi sings Fafner and Hunding, and 2009 Adler Fellow Daveda Karanas sings Waltraute as well as the Second Norn.
Director Francesca Zambello and set designer Michael Yeargan use imagery from various eras of American history to illuminate Wagner’s legend in which human virtue and nature’s sanctuary fall prey to greed and lust. The talented creative team also includes costume designer Catherine Zuber, lighting designer Mark McCullough, projection designer Jan Hartley, and choreographer Lawrence Pech.
“Despite a very difficult financial year, I’m genuinely pleased that we are able to move ahead with our plans to present the Company’s new production of Wagner’s complete Ring,” commented David Gockley. “We’ve been hard at work on this new production for many years now and with director Francesca Zambello and conductor Donald Runnicles, along with an exceptional cast of singers and creative team members, I believe this new interpretation of the Ring will proudly join San Francisco Opera’s pantheon of so many impressive past productions. I want to particularly acknowledge and thank our lead donors for making this incredible musical journey a reality and for making it possible for Ring lovers around the world to return to the Bay Area in June 2011.”
San Francisco Opera has long been regarded as one of the world’s leading companies to present the entire Ring cycle, with past acclaimed presentations at the War Memorial Opera House in 1935, 1972, 1985, 1990 and 1999. The Company presented a partial Ring cycle in 1936, omitting Siegfried. The City of San Francisco played host to two other presentations of the Ring in 1900 by the Metropolitan Opera at the Grand Opera House, led by famed conductor Walter Damrosch, and a partial Ring cycle in 1931 (omitting Das Rheingold) by the Grand German Opera Company in Civic Auditorium.
ABOUT DER RING DES NIBELUNGERN
The plot of Wagner’s epic music-drama Der Ring des Nibelungen revolves around a ring made from gold stolen from the Rhine River—the ring can only be forged by one who renounces love forever, and it gives its possessor unlimited power. The ring carries a deadly curse that determines the destiny of all who come in contact with it. Throughout the cycle, various mythic figures struggle to obtain the ring; chief among them is Wotan, ruler of the gods. Wotan strives to undo the curse by fathering a pure of heart hero, but events spin out of control as his offspring—the half-mortal twins Siegmund and Sieglinde and the Valkyrie Brünnhilde—defy his will. The ring is eventually won by the hero Siegfried, son of Siegmund and Sieglinde, and he braves a circle of fire to awaken the sleeping Brünnhilde, after which the two fall ecstatically in love. Siegfried gives the ring to Brünnhilde as a token of their union and leaves for new adventures, but he is ultimately slain and Brünnhilde sacrifices herself to return the ring to its natural home in the Rhine, thus ending the rule of the gods.
Composed from 1853 to 1874, Richard Wagner’s epic masterpiece, Der Ring des Nibelungen, is arguably the pinnacle of operatic art. The composer, who also wrote the libretto, drew inspiration for hismagnum opus from early Germanic and Norse mythology and from the poem Nibelungenlied, which was written by an anonymous German poet in the 13th century. In 1848 Wagner drafted a prose outline for his drama, and throughout the next five years he wrote the librettos for Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung in reverse order. While Das Rheingold and Die Walküre received their premieres in Munich in 1869, the first performance of the complete Ring cycle was in 1876 in Bayreuth, Germany.
Der Ring des Nibelungen is regarded by many as the artistic ancestor of such 20th-century epics as The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. Common themes such as the lust for power, the lure of wealth, the sacred beauty of nature and the destructive force of man remain relevant today.