The Washington National Opera: Der Ring des Nibelungen "Das Rheingold"
Conductor: Heinz Fricke, Director: Francesca Zambello, Set Design: Michael Yeargan , Costume Design: Anita Yavich, Lighting Design: Mark McCullough, Video/Projection Design: Jan Hartley
"Washington Opera to perform Wagner Series"
by Carl Hartman, Associated Press
WASHINGTON - An Americanized version of Richard Wagner's "The Ring of the Nibelung," a series that long has been a symbol of German nationalism, will open March 25 with the Washington National Opera's production of "Das Rheingold."
The Washington company will perform all four operas of the Ring for the first time. Co-produced with the San Francisco Opera, each of the four operas will premiere in Washington.
A year after "Das Rheingold" is performed here, the second opera in the series -- "Die Walkure" -- will be produced, according to the company's 2006-2007 schedule.
The operas are to be sung in Wagner's original German text -- he wrote the book as well as the music -- and will be accompanied by surtitles in English. Surtitles, usually flashed on a screen running across the top of the stage, summarize in English the foreign language of the opera.
"Working with Plácido Domingo, we have coined the term 'American Ring,' and the designers and I are using American history, mythology, iconography and landscape to set the operas," director Francesca Zambello said in a statement to announce the opening.
"We are creating a world in some ways familiar to our audience but also one that will feel very mythic as we look to our country's rich imagery," said Zambello, an American who grew up in Europe.
Domingo is the Washington company's general director.
The character of Erda, the Earth Mother whose daughters are the hard-riding Valkyries, will wear a costume inspired by the American Indian tradition. The part will be sung by Elena Zaremba, a Russian mezzo-soprano.
"Francesca's productions are always beautifully balanced between the intimacy of the characters and the sweep of the epic, and I think that she will use the symbols of America brilliantly," Domingo said.
Seven performances of "Das Rheingold" have been scheduled at the Opera House of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are priced at $45 to $290.
"Washington Opera to give Wagner's 'Ring' a New, American Setting"
By Tim Page, The Washington Post
One test of a masterpiece is its ability to withstand many different interpretations. Who would have imagined that the maverick director Peter Sellars could have set Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro" in a lavish apartment in Trump Tower and still have the opera seem absolutely true to its 18th-century origins? Director Jonathan Miller placed the action of Verdi's "Rigoletto" in New York's Little Italy, and Frank Corsaro had the same composer's Violetta ("La Traviata") expire in an AIDS ward.
And now Washington National Opera will present Richard Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" -- an encyclopedic study of the Norse gods, family politics, greed and the redemptive power of love -- as what the director Francesca Zambello calls an "American Ring."
The first of the four works in the "Ring" cycle -- an evening-length operatic prelude titled "Das Rheingold" -- will receive its first performance on March 25. "Die Walkure" (starring WNO General Director Placido Domingo) will follow in March and April 2007. No dates have yet been set for the last two operas, "Siegfried" and "Gotterdammerung."
Although this "Ring" will be a co-production with the San Francisco Opera, each installment will receive its premiere in Washington. When complete, this will be WNO's first "Ring" cycle. The last time the entire 15-hour work was performed here was during a visit by the Deutsche Oper Berlin to the Kennedy Center in June 1989.
"Like any Wagnerian masterpiece, the 'Ring' is always contemporary and speaks to us today," Zambello said in a statement. "We have coined the term 'American Ring,' and the designers and I are using American history, mythology, iconography and landscape to set the operas. We are creating a world in some ways familiar to our audience but also one that will feel very mythic as we look to our country's rich imagery. The great themes of the 'Ring' -- nature, power and corruption -- resound through America's past. In many respects, the politicians and celebrities that are today's superstars perform as if they were the gods of Valhalla. It is especially fitting to undertake an American 'Ring' in Washington, D.C., where the concept of global power is a feature of daily life."
Zambello staged "Die Walkure" for WNO at DAR Constitution Hall in 2003, but the new, unified production of the complete "Ring" will be nothing like that.
"From the very beginning of Washington National Opera's discussions about the 'Ring,' I wanted it to have an American atmosphere," Domingo said in a statement. "I felt that this is not only an original, but also a proper concept for a 'Ring' in the capital of the United States, and Francesca Zambello, the director, was very receptive to that. Francesca's productions are always beautifully balanced between the intimacy of the characters and the sweep of the epic, and I think that she will use the symbols of America brilliantly."
According to Zambello, the costumes "encompass worlds that are both abstract and realistic." For example, Erda, the Earth Goddess, will be clad in Native American attire. Further details will be forthcoming.
The cast will include Robert Hale as Wotan, Elizabeth Bishop as Fricka, Gordon Hawkins as Alberich and Robin Leggate as Loge. WNO Music Director Heinz Fricke will conduct. The production will include sets by Michael Yeargan, costumes by Anita Yavich and video projections by Jan Hartley. Mark McCullough will be the lighting designer.
"I wanted an American production team," Zambello said. "Many of our artists are American as well, and I felt they could bring a collective experience and personal histories to the piece."
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