In a packed room at the Goethe-Institut in Woollahra, Sydney, Artistic Director of Opera Australia, Lyndon Terracini provided members of The Wagner Society (NSW) with an update on plans for staging Wagner’s epic DER RING DES NIEBELUNGEN in Melbourne in 2013.
The discussion was a Special Event planned by The Wagner Society for its October meeting. The meeting commenced at 12.30 pm with the viewing of a video of the second half (Acts 3,4 and 5) of the 2010 Deutsche Oper production of RIENZI. For the screening around 25 members were present, but when the appointed hour (2 o’clock) came for the presentation by Mr Terracini, the audience rapidly swelled to around 100 eager Wagnerites.
Lyndon Terracini, a delightful raconteur, was in a relaxed yet ebullient mood and delivered a very exciting overview of some of the proposed plans for the Melbourne RING.
His vision is for Opera Australia to take its place as a truly International opera company by finally performing a well overdue series of RING Cycles. This will not only benefit the demands of the opera going public, which has felt short changed by the infrequent performance of Wagner operas, but also to place the company, its artists, creatives,and orchestral musicians on a track leading to regular performances of these works, to extend them, and take them to the next level. He hopes the RING productions will be able to be repeated in RING Festivals in Melbourne every 3 years. The 2013 RING will hopefully be repeated in 2016 and 2019 before considering a new production. Accordingly, he feels it is of particular importance that the new RING will be a staging that will last the test of time, and will be eminently suitable for repeated stagings. This will be a no gimmick RING !
Accordingly after much deliberation, Neil Armfield was chosen for his excellent ability to clearly tell the narrative of a work, as has been proven time and again with his work with the company, including his productions of TRISTAN UND ISOLDE, PETER GRIMES and his Janacek cycle.
He explained his appointment of Richard Mills as conductor of the RING at some length. Mr Mills has been a controversial appointment for the RING gig, due to a lack of experience conducting Wagner. However, Richard Mills worked with Lyndon Terracini in presenting a concert performance of Wagner’s TRISTAN UND ISOLDE for the 2005 Brisbane Festival. The Australian Youth Orchestra was used featuring various soloists, including John Treleaven, Lisa Gasteen, Bruce Martin, Bernadette Cullen, David Wakeham, Barry Ryan, Jaewoo Kim, and Lionel Theunissen. The performance was a great success and won a Helpman Award that year. Terracini feels that as he is also a composer, he views music with different eyes to a conductor, and has a greater sense for pacing works and preparing an orchestra for performance.
Terracini also hopes that the development of a RING Orchestra (consisting of a core of players from Orchestra Victoria, the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra and elite members of other major orchestras on leave to participate in this extraordinary music) will also lead to a long term culture and excellence in performing Wagner’s works. The State Theatre at the Victorian Arts Centre which is set to have major renovations, will have its orchestra pit enlarged to take the orchestra of 110 players required.
Participation of many of the current roster of singers is also viewed as a long term project to develop a culture and increased expertise in these works. Some younger singers will cover and rehearse major roles such as Wotan as an intensive learning experience for future years and their development.
In short, it is all about setting the ground work for an impetus, culture and performance excellence in staging Wagner’s RING and other works for the long term.
Although he was reticent to name the designer, the film and theatre designer, Robert Cousins is working closely with Neil Armfield and the staging has been thought through to mid-SIEGFRIED at this time.
Casting already announced includes English soprano Susan Bullock as Brunnhilde, Finnish bass-baritone Juha Uusitalo as Wotan, American Heldentenor Gary Lehman as Siegfried and Australian Helden baritone John Wegner as Alberich. It will come as no surprise to learn that Australian and Internationally renowned helden tenor – Stuart Skelton will be singing Siegmund (probably the worst kept secret in opera circles). No other casting was offered and surprisingly was not requested from this particularly excited and well informed audience. Opera Insider believes Daniel Sumegi has also been cast as Hagen and Fasolt.
The RING FESTIVAL
With financial assistance and enthusiastic collaboration, Victorian Events and Tourism will assist in a true Arts Festival supporting the RING and the music of Wagner.
Proposed activities includes:
* films about Wagner and the RING, including outdoor films at the Edge
* seminars on the RING and the music of Wagner
* pre-performance talks
* RING dinners
* a discussion on Wagner and his views on Jews
* brass bands marching through the streets of Melbourne playing music by Wagner
* performances of cut-down RINGS
* the use of a Spiegeltent as a ‘Festspielhaus’ at the front of the State Theatre as the centre for the Festival activities
* performances of music associated with Wagner by other composers
* concert performances of Wagner’s DIE FEEN and Marschner’s DER VAMPYR
At this stage the Wagner Festival is all about Melbourne. Activities are also planned for Sydney, but are not developed at this time.
It was made quite clear that sadly, but quite appropriately Melbourne will be the site of large scale opera and Wagner by Opera Australia until such time as Sydney has an appropriate, large scale lyric theatre similar to the State Theatre in Melbourne and the lyric theatres in Adelaide and Brisbane. Sydney opera fans will have to travel to Melbourne to see performances of the RING, Richard Strauss’ ELEKTRA planned for 2014 and a planned future production of LOHENGRIN.
Some respite may be in store for Sydney with Lyndon Terracini and Opera Australia seriously considering occasional concert performances of opera. A particular project on which Terracini is very keen, is a concert performance of Wagner’s PARSIFAL on Easter Sunday some time in the future. The performance is already out for 2012, but may happen in 2013 or 2014. Concert performances of TRISTAN UND ISOLDE and Rossini’s GUILLAUME TELL are also under consideration.
All up, the presentation and discussion were very informative and extremely entertaining, and the audience was very appreciative of Lyndon’s candour.
As enthusiasm and excitement mount, final casting details for the Melbourne RING will be announced later this year when tickets go on sale.