Richard Wagner

Der Ring des Nibelungen

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Axel Kober

Editorial

The Rhine is where Richard Wagner’s cycle of operas “Der Ring des Nibelungen” begins and ends – and it was beside the Rhine in 1851 that the composer first dreamed of this equally visionary and monumental work. Even if Wagner’s plans for a festival would ultimately be realised in an entirely different part of Germany, the performance of a “Ring on the Rhine” will always remain something very special.
And where better to make this happen than at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein? Two cities, two orchestras, two casts of singers – with the Rhine opera’s fantastic ensemble of singers and its two outstanding orchestras, the Duisburger Philharmoniker and the Düsseldorfer Symphoniker, at their two venues in Duisburg and Düsseldorf, the essential conditions were in place. The “Ring on the Rhine” staged by Dietrich W. Hilsdorf and under my own musical direction gradually began to take shape from June 2017 onwards.
The successful conclusion of this two year musical and scenic collaboration was planned for the end of the 2018/19 season with the performance of a complete “Ring” cycle at each of the two venues. However, a few weeks before the premiere of “Götterdämmerung”, a defective sprinkler system flooded Theater Duisburg. The damage this caused made completing the staged “Ring” cycle in Duisburg (for the time being) impossible.
Fortunately, on short notice we had the opportunity to perform the “Ring des Nibelungen” at least in concert form in Duisburg at the nearby Mercatorhalle. Soon after we started rehearsing, we realised that this supposed “emergency solution” had turned out to be a real stroke of luck. In the brilliant acoustics of the concert hall the singing voices and the sound of the orchestra came together to create a thrilling experience for the listeners – one that our audience greeted with standing ovations. A desire was soon expressed to make the experience available to a wider public beyond this one-time concert performance. The result is this live recording of all four parts of the “Ring” cycle.
My sincere thanks to the Artistic Director of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, Prof. Christoph Meyer, and the Artistic Director of the Duisburger Philharmoniker, Prof. Alfred Wendel, who have made the realisation of this project possible, and also to our sound engineer Holger Urbach. In addition to the fantastic sound quality, he has also succeeded in capturing the wonderful atmosphere of these performances.

Axel Kober
Generalmusikdirektor Deutsche Oper
am Rhein / Duisburger Philharmoniker


  • Das Rheingold

    DAS RHEINGOLD

    Deep down in the waters of the Rhine the three Rhine maidens guard their untold treasure: the legendary Rhine gold. Only someone who is prepared to renounce love will be able to steal the Rhine gold and forge from it a ring that will give them the power to rule the world. The Nibelung Alberich is willing to risk this. When the Rhine maidens mockingly reject his advances, the humiliated dwarf promptly turns to force rather than love and steals the treasure.
    Meanwhile Wotan, the father of the gods, is plagued by worries. He had promised the giants Fafner and Fasolt his sister in law Freia as a reward for building his castle Valhalla. But this is a promise he cannot keep as Freia is the Goddess of Youth and guardian of the golden apples which keep all the gods immortal. The demigod Loge tells him that Alberich has used the magic power of his newly-forged ring to enslave the Nibelung people and claim Nibelheim’s natural resources for himself. Loge’s plan is to trick Alberich and use his gold to pay the giants a ransom for Freia, while returning the ring to the Rhine maidens.
    Wotan and Loge set off for Nibelheim, where Alberich has forced his skilful brother Mime to make him a magic helmet which allows whoever wears it to assume whatever form they desire. When Alberich agrees to his visitors’ request to transform himself into a toad, Wotan and Loge capture him and force him to hand over the Nibelungs’ gold, the magic helmet and the ring – at which point the indignant dwarf places a curse on the ring: “Whoever has it will be plagued with worry – and whoever does not have it will be consumed with envy.”
    Fafner and Fasolt return to demand the reward they have earned. Wotan hopes to be able to satisfy them with the Nibelungs’ gold as this is of no value to him. However, the giants insist on both the magic helmet and the ring. Wotan is only willing to part with this jewel after the Earth Mother Erda has appeared and warned of the fate that the cursed ring will bring.
    The first effects of this curse are immediately seen when Fafner kills his brother Fasolt while fighting over their booty. The gods enter Valhalla to the sound of the mourning Rhine maidens.

    MUSICAL DIRECTOR Axel Kober

    WOTAN James Rutherford
    DONNER David Jerusalem
    ERDA Ramona Zaharia
    ALBERICH Jochen Schmeckenbecher
    MIME Florian Simson
    FASOLT Thorsten Grümbel
    FROH Bernhard Berchtold
    LOGE Raymond Very
    FRICKA Katarzyna Kuncio
    FREIA Sylvia Hamvasi
    FAFNER Lukasz Konieczny
    WOGLINDE Heidi Elisabeth Meier
    WELLGUNDE Roswitha Christina Müller
    FLOSSHILDE Anna Harvey

    ORCHESTRA Duisburger Philharmoniker

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  • Die Walküre

    DIE WALKÜRE

    To curb Alberich’s thirst for power, Wotan, father of the gods, begat nine Valkyries, who were to gather an army of fallen heroes for him in Valhalla. His son Siegmund, born from a union with a human woman, is to recapture the Ring of the Nibelung, which the dragon Fafner guards in the Cave of Envy.
    In the house of his enemy Hunding of all places, the injured Siegmund seeks protection from his pursuers. According to old custom, Hunding grants him shelter for one night, but challenges the unarmed man to a duel for the following morning. Hunding’s wife Sieglinde drugs her husband with a sleeping potion so as to show Siegmund a sword that a stranger had once thrust into the trunk of the native ash tree. In this, Siegmund recognises the deed of his father, who had promised him a weapon in case of dire need, and in Sieglinde his twin sister, who was stolen many years ago. Overwhelmed by their feelings, the siblings fall into an ecstatic frenzy of love.
    Wotan orders his favourite daughter Brünnhilde to support Siegmund in the forthcoming fight with Hunding. Incensed, Wotan’s wife Fricka reminds him that he too is not above the holy contracts with which he once gave the world its order, and that he therefore must not tolerate the incest and adultery of Siegmund and Sieglinde.
    Resigned, Wotan is forced to realise how deeply he has become caught up in the tangle of his own intrigues and self-justification. He longs for only one thing: the end. He now instructs Brünnhilde to help Hunding win the duel after all.
    However, moved by the deep love between the siblings, Brünnhilde promises Siegmund her support. Wotan himself intervenes in the battle by smashing Siegmund’s sword Nothung on his spear. Hunding kills Siegmund, Brünnhilde flees with Sieglinde and the pieces of the sword.
    The Valkyries gather the fallen heroes to set off for Valhalla together. In desperation, Brünnhilde begs her sisters to protect her from Wotan’s furious revenge. She tells Sieglinde that she is expecting a child - Siegfried - and urges her to flee on her own.
    Brünnhilde faces Wotan’s wrath. One last time she appeals to Wotan’s compassion and begs him not to put her to sleep unprotected. Wotan surrounds Brünnhilde with a ring of fire that only the strongest hero can pass through.

    MUSICAL DIRECTOR Axel Kober

    SIEGMUND Michael Weinius
    HUNDING Lukasz Konieczny
    WOTAN James Rutherford
    SIEGLINDE Sarah Ferede
    BRÜNNHILDE Linda Watson
    FRICKA Katarzyna Kuncio
    HELMWIGE Anke Krabbe
    GERHILDE Jessica Stavros
    ORTLINDE Katja Levin
    WALTRAUTE Romana Noack
    SIEGRUNE Zuzana Šveda
    ROSSWEISSE Maria Hilmes
    GRIMGERDE Katharina von Bülow
    SCHWERTLEITE Susan Maclean

    ORCHESTRA Duisburger Philharmoniker

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  • Siegfried

    SIEGFRIED

    Unaware of his origins, Siegfried grows up deep in the forest with the dwarf Mime. The dying Sieglinde had placed her child in Mime’s care together with Siegmund’s broken sword Nothung. However, his custody of the boy is not entirely selfless: with the aid of his strong foster son, Mime plans to take possession of the ring, which the dragon Fafner guards in the “Neidhöhle”. Afterwards he intends to kill Siegfried.
    However, Siegfried smashes all the swords the dwarf forges for him, and Mime himself has not yet succeeded in reassembling the pieces of the sword Nothung. After Siegfried has stormed out of his hut following an argument with Mime, Mime receives a visit from Wotan, who now roams the world as a nameless Wanderer. The Wanderer forces the dwarf into a wager of knowledge. Mime learns that only he who knows no fear is able to reforge Nothung - and that he will lose his head to precisely this hero. Soon after, Siegfried returns and without any expertise, but all the more success, he sets about reforging Nothung.
    In front of the “Neidhöhle”, the Wanderer meets his adversary Alberich, who is lurking there waiting for an opportunity to take the ring back into his power. Mime has lured Siegfried to the “Neidhöhle” claiming it will teach him to fear, and now withdraws. Whilst trying to make contact with the animals of the forest, Siegfried awakens the dragon by playing his horn and kills it. After coming into contact with Fafner’s blood, Siegfried understands the language of the birds. A forest bird shows him the way to the treasure of the Nibelungs and warns him of Mime’s murderous intentions. Suddenly able to read Mime’s true thoughts, Siegfried also kills the dwarf. The forest bird tells him about Brünnhilde who has fallen into an enchanted sleep, and he sets out to free her.
    Meanwhile, the Wanderer tries in vain to find out from the wise primordial mother Erda, Brünnhilde’s mother, how he can prevent the demise of the gods. Shortly afterwards, he meets Siegfried. A quarrel ensues, in which Siegfried’s sword Nothung smashes the Wanderer’s spear - the old order is ultimately destroyed.
    Siegfried finds Brünnhilde and wakes her with a kiss. Brünnhilde’s joy at her awakening is mixed with fear of the hero and sadness at the loss of her immortality. However, in the presence of the unknown woman, Siegfried too finally experiences fear. The two of them join one another and praise their love.

    MUSICAL DIRECTOR Axel Kober

    SIEGFRIED Corby Welch
    MIME Corney Frey
    DER WANDERER James Rutherford
    ALBERICH Jochen Schmeckenbecher
    FAFNER 
    Lukasz Konieczny
    ERDA Renée Morloc
    BRÜNNHILDE Linda Watson
    WALDVOGEL Aïsha Tümmler


    ORCHESTRA Duisburger Philharmoniker

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  • Götterdämmerung

    GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG

    The three Norns report that Wotan had the world tree felled and the logs piled around his castle Valhalla, where he now awaits the end in the company of his gods. Siegfried takes leave of Brünnhilde to set out for new deeds. As a pledge of his love he leaves her the ring.
    At the court of the Gibichungs, King Gunther lives with his sister Gutrune and his half-brother Hagen, whom his father Alberich had sired with the siblings’ mother. Ostensibly out of concern for the royal reputation, Hagen advises his unmarried brother to free the “magnificent woman” Brünnhilde. Since Gunther himself is not able to pass through the ring of fire around Brünnhilde’s rock, the strongest hero Siegfried is to be enlisted for the task: after his arrival at the hall of the Gibichungs he is given a magic potion which makes him forget Brünnhilde and fall for Gutrune. In exchange for Gutrune’s hand, Siegfried agrees to use the magic helmet to take on Gunther’s appearance so as to deceive Brünnhilde and win her for the king. The plan is sealed by an oath of blood brotherhood. Siegfried and Gunther set out for Brünnhilde’s rock. Left behind, Hagen awaits the moment when he can finally obtain the ring.
    Meanwhile, Brünnhilde is visited by her Valkyrie sister Waltraute, who tells her of the hopeless situation in Valhalla and begs Brünnhilde in vain to return Siegfried’s ring to the Rhinemaidens to put an end to Alberich’s curse. Just after Waltraute has left, a stranger appears at Brünnhilde’s rock and demands her submission. It is Siegfried in the guise of Gunther. Although Brünnhilde resists fiercely, she cannot prevent him from taking the ring off her and forcing her into his chamber.

    In the night-time hall of the Gibichungs, Hagen is visited by an apparition of his father Alberich. Siegfried returns to the royal court and reports on his overpowering of Brünnhilde, whereupon Hagen calls the men to a double wedding. Shortly after Brünnhilde arrives with Gunther at the bank of the Rhine, she recognises Siegfried at Gutrune’s side and is shocked by his indifferent behaviour. Seeing the ring on his hand (which she had last seen on the bogus Gunther) she suspects that she has been deceived. She openly accuses Siegfried of betraying his royal blood brother: she claims that Siegfried has already shared her bed and is therefore her lawful hus band. Under oath, Siegfried denies the accusations, but Brünnhilde swears that they are true.
    Brünnhilde stays behind with Gunther and Hagen and demands Siegfried’s death. She reveals to Hagen his weak spot: when she made him invulnerable with a rune spell, she left out his back. The conspirators decide to murder Siegfried during an impending hunt.
    In search of prey, Siegfried meets the three Rhinemaidens, who try in vain to persuade him to return the ring. Hagen, Gunther and the hunting party join him. Hagen encourages Siegfried to tell them about his life. Through a counter potion, Siegfried regains his memories of Brünnhilde. When he tells those present how he once awakened Wotan’s daughter on the rock of fire, Hagen stabs him in the back with his spear. In his dying moments, Siegfried once again experiences Brünnhilde’s awakening.
    Gutrune worriedly awaits Siegfried’s return. Hagen appears with the company and reports of a fatal hunting accident to which Siegfried had fallen victim. When Gunther accuses him of murder, Hagen justifies himself, saying that he had merely avenged the false oath and demands Siegfried’s ring as a reward. Gunther refuses and is then murdered by Hagen. Brünnhilde, who has realised that there is only one way to free the world from Alberich’s curse, hands the ring over to the Rhine. She lights a fire around Siegfried’s body and follows her lover into the flames. While the fire devours Valhalla and the gods, Hagen makes a last futile attempt to take the ring under his control and is dragged into the depths by the Rhinemaidens.

    MUSICAL DIRECTOR Axel Kober

    SIEGFRIED Corby Welch
    GUNTHER Richard Šveda
    HAGEN Sami Luttinen
    ALBERICH Jochen Schmeckenberger
    BRÜNNHILDE Linda Watson
    GUTRUNE Anke Krabbe
    WALTRAUTE Sarah Ferede
    1. NORN Renée Morloc
    2. NORN Annika Schlicht
    3. NORN Barno Ismatullaeva
    WOGLINDE Heidi Elisabeth Meier
    WELLGUNDE Annelie Sophie Müller
    FLOSSHILDE Anna Harvey


    ORCHESTRA Duisburger Philharmoniker

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