Next month, the Teatro Real in Madrid will set a new Ring, a coproduction with the Cologne Opera, directed by Robert Carsen, who was already seen in Barcelona from 2013 to 2016. Late January 2019 will see here performances of Das Rheingold. Pablo Heras-Casado will conduct. It will be given in the following four seasons, one opera per year. For all Wagnerians, this is a true joy.
But this is a post to remember. Seventeen years ago, the madrilenian theater started this enterprise for the first time after its re-opening in 1997. The last Ring in its stage happened to be in 1922 (for those who doesn't know the story, Teatro Real was closed in 1925 due to menacing state of ruin and closed until 1966, when it was re-opened as a Concert Hall. The Teatro de la Zarzuela was the main operatic venue, hosting a Ring in the 70s. In 1988, Teatro Real was closed to be reformed into an Opera House again and finally re-opened in 1997). In that occasion, it was a coproduction with the Dresden Semperoper, and directed by Willy Decker. It was presented between the 2001/2002 and 2003/2004 seasons. Peter Schneider was the conductor designed to carry this epic musical task.
Willy Decker chose to represent the world of the theatre, in the stage of the theater. The drama of the gods, their demigod and human siblings, dwarfs, giants and the rest of the world conceived from the stage point of view.
As a result, an ocean of seats was visible throughout the whole shows.
I myself attended performances of this Ring, being a teenager. I missed only the Rheingold, having regretted it until nowadays. In addition, I saw the three remaining operas from the same standing-only seat (actually a chair, but to see better you had to stand up) . I will try to comment according to my memories.
Since I didn't see the Prologue, I cannot explain quite well how it was. I read that it was a rutinary performance.
I attended the performance of Die Walküre, in 8th March 2003. It featured the best cast in the whole cycle. Plácido Domingo as Siegmund and Waltraud Meier as Sieglinde, in her debut in this stage. I remember Domingo sounded very well, with his particular voice but still the best Siegmund of his time. Meier played in another league: she was in her prime. I remember her Siegmund - so nennt ich dich! as spectacularly in volume. I was impresssed by Lioba Braun as a wonderful Fricka and disssapointed by Luana DeVol as Brünnhilde, with a not very pleasant high register. I remember vaguely the rest but it seemed Alan Titus had a big voice, and Peter Schneider conducted nicely.
The production started with a wooden hall, in the middle of a sea of seats. Wotan appeared to put the sword. Sieglinde hold a picture of her wedding while she told her brother the story of Nothung being put in the tree. In Act 2, Wotan and Brünnhilde play with models of buildings, like playing with the World. Act 3 was the most spectacular, with the walkyries descending in thunders, and the seats illuminated in intense red to represent the fire.
Here we can listen to Siegfried.
Siegfried was, on the other hand, the most inspired, in an Orchestral level, as well as singing: Stig Andersen was a fine Siegfried, Luana DeVol sang well her short but intense part, Hartmut Welker was a splendid Alberich, Hanna Schwarz was a great Erda, with a beautiful low register, Alan Titus a great Wanderer. Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke as Mime, Jyrki Korhonen as Fafner and Olatz Saitúa as the Woodbird sang well their parts. I remember Schneider giving a nice rendition with the orchestra. I remember too liking the staging: Mime trying to teach Siegfried the fear in a blackboard, the forging scene filling the hall with smoke in Act 1. The bird was acted by a child, while the soprano sang out of stage. Act 3 was beautiful: a big ball in egg-appearance representing the world while Wotan unveils Erda and tries to awake her. In the bottom, a Blue sky with clouds. The Walkyrie rock was wallpapered in blue sky with clouds and sometimes in the bottom appeared the child woodbird and the Walkyries sit in the seats.
I attended the premiere of Götterdämmerung on February 20, 2004. Alfons Eberz was announced as Siegfried. He did sang the premiere, but in the second performance he lost the voice and after around one hour waiting, the cover Alan Woodrow appeared to sing in the orchestra pit while Eberz just acted the part. The performance for March 12, 2004 was cancelled due to the Al-Qaeda terrorist attack the previous day in the Atocha station, in which almost 200 people tragically died.
As I mentioned, I attended the premiere. The Orchestra didn't start very well , and the trumpet section cracked seven times only in the Prologue! But it improved as the performance went by. I remember the cast was good, led by Eric Halfvarson as an unforgettable Hagen, and Elena Zhidkova as a remarkable first norn.
The production started with the norns spinning a big web around the white ball representing the world and the omnipresent sea of seats. Siegfried and Brünnhilde were in a email circled dwell decorated in the Blue sky. The Gibichung Hall was a nice living room, with big windows with the sight of the forest and the Rhine. After his first monologue, we can see Hagen abusing of Gutrune. Siegfried's death was a moving moment, with him dying alone while Wotan appears with the harp sound, like waiting to pick Siegfried up. Decker represented the ending in a spectacular and emotive way: Gutrune kills Hagen and fails lifeless to the ground. In the bottom we can see the Gods in the seats, intensely lighted in red, to represent their burning. At the end, Erda appears dragging the big white world-ball, and sat holding it in the middle of the stage. This is the beggining of a new World without gods and heroes, just the people. A beam of hope.