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La Monnaie / De Munt LA MONNAIE / DE MUNT

Der Ring des Nibelungen

Richard Wagner

Reading time
4 min.

Listen! Listen! Listen!
All that is shall end.
A dark day dawns for the gods:
I urge you, avoid the ring!
Erda (Das Rheingold, Scene 4)

In the summer of 1876, a decisive new chapter opened in the history of musical theatre. The premiere of Der Ring des Nibelungen in the specially built Bayreuth Festspielhaus was an aesthetic, philosophical and above all artistic revolution. During this ‘stage festival play’ – consisting of Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung – Richard Wagner set out the principles of his new doctrine, inspired by ancient tragedy, in an attempt to unite art and society. The Gesamtkunstwerk, the total work of art stemming from ancient Greece, was reborn from its ashes!

Wagner preferred the term ‘music drama’ to ‘opera’, a notion that he felt had been hollowed out insofar as the means of expression (music) had become the object of expression to the detriment of the drama. Here, all art forms, including music, theatre and poetry, are brought together to create, conjointly, the drama.

In addition, the poet composer wrote four libretti, giving words a fundamental role in both the theatrical and musical expression. For this purpose, he drew on Nordic (Germanic and Scandinavian) mythology, employing thirty-four characters to tell of the perversion of the world, brought about by the renunciation of love in order to gain power. To achieve the linguistic unification of this colossal score, Wagner put an end to the predominance of the singers and of the voice by granting the orchestra a decisive place – that of narrator, which the Greeks reserved for the ancient choir.

Performing the Ring is a challenge for any opera house. La Monnaie is going to take it up over two seasons, under the impetus of two emblematic members of its artistic family, brought together for the first time: conductor Alain Altinoglu and director Romeo Castellucci.

La Monnaie’s music director is familiar with the Wagnerian repertoire: we remember his remarkable performances in Brussels of Lohengrin (2018), Tristan und Isolde (2019) and Parsifal (2022). He was the first French conductor invited to Bayreuth after Pierre Boulez conducting Lohengrin. By venturing with the La Monnaie Symphony Orchestra into the heart of Wagner’s magnum opus, Alain Altinoglu will embark on a new, decisive stage in the musical and artistic journey undertaken with ‘his’ musicians in 2016.

With this Ring, Romeo Castellucci returns to the composer with whom he made his operatic debut at La Monnaie. The mysterious power of his Parsifal (2011) hypnotized spectators at the time. This was followed by a close collaboration with our theatre: Orphée et Eurydice (Gluck, 2014); Die Zauberflöte (Mozart, 2018); Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher (Honegger, 2019); Requiem (Mozart, 2022).

Director and visual artist Romeo Castellucci will tackle this mythological material and project his visions over the course of the journey performed by the characters, representing concretely such key elements of the Ring as water and fire. This symbolic reading will concentrate on essential aspects of the libretto, inviting spectators to forge their own interpretation. Avoiding irony, Castellucci will treat each protagonist with equal importance, highlighting the aspirations, emotions and thoughts that animate them: absolute love and the conquest of power.

Thanks to the intense musical and theatrical interpretation by Alain Altinoglu and Romeo Castellucci, the drama, a concept dear to Wagner, will fully come into its own. This season, the first two parts of this musical milestone will move from the dark waters of the Rhine to the bright flames of Brünnhilde’s rock.