After three years of planning and more than 800 hours of rehearsal, the curtain rose on Opera Australia’s Ring cycle in November 2013.
It was a history-making production, Opera Australia’s first Ring cycle, and a testament to the immense talent of the six hundred artists, musicians and staff who worked on the project.
We’ve gathered together insights from the creative team, the best of the production photos, a mini-documentary including musical highlights, reviews and quotes to provide a window into this unique project.
Watch and listen to some highlights of the show with insights from director Neil Armfield, Associate Conductor Anthony Legge and Opera Australia’s Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini.
The music of the Ring
Conductor Pietari Inkinen gave a fascinating interview before he arrived in Australia to begin rehearsing the Melbourne Ring Orchestra. In it, you can see Wagner’s music through the eyes (and ears) of a man who has been utterly won over by his talent.
“It’s more like – after you’ve heard it, at least for a while, you can’t listen to anything else. You are so soaked in this world. It’s not in your head, it’s in your whole body. You’re covered with it.” – Maestro Pietari Inkinen
Read the full story here.
The creative concept
From the very start, director Neil Armfield was determined to create a Ring cycle for a world the audience understood.
For Armfield, the meaning and moral of Wagner’s epic tale is very clear: it’s a parable about the destruction of the world by humankind. It follows the human impulse that can cast aside love and pursue greed to its logical conclusion: the end of the world. His interpretation of the tale shies away from spectacle and avoids cliché images of horned helmets and bronzed breastplates.
“I see the director’s job as revealing the music. The audience listens with their eyes. If you put vague or distracting images on stage, you can actually muddy the communication of the music. Conversely, by pursuing clarity and in my case, using a kind of spareness, you can lead the audience to hear the music in a very pure and clean way, the way in which meaning becomes the most resonant.” – Director Neil Armfield
The design team strove to create a contemporary, familiar world.
“I don’t necessarily want to create the kind of traditional fantasy that people are accustomed to seeing on stage. I create pictures of a world that we know and that we live in. The aesthetic is made up of recognisable archetypes of our society.” – Costume Designer Alice Babidge
In practice, that concept gave us Rhinemaidens depicted as showgirls: an instantly identifiable symbol of desire, a famous image of the performer. The Valkyries are dressed in nondescript, combat green, rescuing fallen heroes from among a crowd of dishevelled, aimless, refugees – the victims of war.
The Gods are set apart, wearing furs and heels, symbols of the wealthy elite. The Gibichung palace is decked out with the best of everything: from the gold-framed oil paintings to the designer, top-of-the-line exercise equipment by Technogym that sits pride of place in the royal hall.
Read more about the design aesthetic here.
“Musically rich, theatrically enthralling, conceptually provoking and visually gorgeous…” – Sydney Morning Herald
“A euphoric audience response proved that Armfield and Inkinen, as well as their cast, had the enthusiastic approval of their public” – Financial Times UK
“Though Ring cycles have proliferated throughout this Wagner bicentenary year, Opera Australia’s is rather special” – The Guardian
As the Ring cycle closed, Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini had nothing but praise for the artists that had made this Ring so special.
“I am incredibly proud of the many artists involved in Opera Australia’s first Ring Cycle. They have shown unwavering commitment, focus and sheer stamina in the long process that has taken place to bring the Ring to fruition. And their performances have been simply outstanding. For many of our artists, this has been a turning point, and their futures will never be the same. They’ve been part of the biggest opera in the repertoire, and part of a transformative journey. I think many of them have achieved more than they ever thought possible of themselves – though I had faith in them from the beginning. They have a lot to be proud of!” – Lyndon Terracini
Principal artists of the Melbourne Ring Cycle included:
Jud Arthur, Susan Bullock, Rachard Berkeley-Steele, Jacqueline Dark, Taryn Feibig, Warwick Fyfe, Deborah Humble, Graeme Macfarlane, Stuart Skelton, Terje Stensvold, Mirian Gordon-Stewart, Daniel Sumegi and Stefan Vinke.
The conductor was Pietari Inkinen, with Associate Conductor Anthony Legge.
The creative team included Neil Armfield (Director), Robert Cousins (Set Design), Alice Babidge (Costume Design), Damien Cooper (Lighting Design), and Kate Champion (Associate Director and Choreographer).
The Melbourne Ring Orchestra comprised players from Orchestra Victoria, The Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra, the Sydney, Melbourne, Queensland, Tasmanian and West Australian Symphony orchestras, the Orchestra of Beethovenhalle Bonn; the Lucerne Symphony; and the Oslo Philharmonic.
The Chorus was the Opera Australia Chorus. The ‘Sea of Humanity’ comprised generous volunteers from in and around Melbourne.
The Melbourne Ring Cycle ran from Monday 18 November to Friday 13 December 2013.