Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Greatest Opera Ever Written - Der Ring Des Nibelungen Cycle by Richard Wagner

Der Ring Des Nibelungen is a cycle of four epic Musik Dramas by Richard Wagner. The operas are based on characters from the Norse sagas and the Nibelungenlied. The works are referred to as the 'Ring Cycle.' Wagner wrote the libretto and the music over a period of 26 years from 1848 to 1874. The Ring begins with a Prelude known as Das Rheingold, followed by Die Walkure, Siegfried and Gotterdammerung. Two other works that are a by-product of the Ring are the Siegfried Idyll for chamber orchestra and Kinderkatechismus for boys' choir and chamber orchestra. Although these operas are performed individually in their own right, Wagner intended the audience to attend the full performance of all four operas spanning four evenings and nineteen hours. This is a mammoth creation by a genius and believe me it deserves each second of your intense concentration. The Nibelung of the title is the elf 'Alberich.' Das Rheingold received its premiere at the National Theatre in Munchen on 22nd September 1869. It was much to the disgust of Wagner because he wanted the Ring operas to be viewed as a cycle in four evenings but he was not ready with Die Walkure yet. The complete cycle, as per the dream of Wagner, received its premiere performance at the Bayreuther Festpielhaus on 13th August 1876. Das Rheingold begins with a 136 bar unmodulating prelude based on the E Flat Major chord that is meant to represent the eternal motions of the River Rhine. It is considered the best known drone piece in the concert repertoire lasting a full four minutes. Another brilliant brushwork by Wagner is in the orchestral interlude from Scene 2 to Scene 3 where Wagner paints the descent of Loge and Wotan into Nibelheim. As the orchestra fades, it gives rise to a choir of 18 tuned anvils indicated in the score with specific size, quantity and pitch. These anvils are beating out the dotted rhythm of the Nibelung theme to give a stark depiction to the toiling of the enslaved dwarves. The definitive interpretation of this work has been given by Sir Georg Solti with the Wiener Philharmoniker. The other conductors who perform with spirit and fervour are Wilhelm Furtwangler, Herbert Von Karajan and Pierre Boulez.

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