Nature and Sentiment in Music and Vision 29 luglio
'Ring' at the Tyroler Festspiele Erl
impresses GIUSEPPE PENNISI
Whilst every summer a crowd of Wagnerians ascends the 'holy hill' of Bayreuth in Northern Bavaria, an equally important group of Wagnerians descends from the heights of the Alps to the
green valley of Erl in that small part of Austria entering Southern Bavaria along the River Inn. There, the Tyrol Festival, created and animated by Gustav Kuhn, challenges Bayreuth with about one tenth of the public money provided to the 'holy hill'. M&V has been reporting on the Tyrol Festival almost every year
because of its innovative approach and the lessons other theatres may learn.
An analysis of the four operas — a prologue of
two and a half hours and three 'days' of five hours each — would require
more space than M&V
readers might bear. Over the last few years, we have often reported on
many productions of Der Ring
and its individual operas, especially on the bicentenary of Wagner's birth in 2013. Thus, in this review, I only highlight the main features of the
production seen on 18, 19, 25 and 26 July 2014.
Secondly, to make the meaning stronger, this Ring
takes place in today's setting. Due to the peculiarity of Erl's theatre, the orchestra is in full view on six different levels at the back of the stage while the action is up front. Thus, only a few props are needed for the different
places where the action evolves, or to make special effects. For
instance, Hunting's hut is a worker's flat and the magicfire is obtained by surrounding Brünnhilde with six harpists wearing long red dresses. Wotan wears a tuxedo, and Fricka an elegant long robe for a soirée in Berlin. Loge looks like a too-clever-by-half
financial advisor. Gutrune has a smart robe and a Chanel tailleur. The two
Giants are a baseball and a hockey player, the Valkyries ride mountain bikes. The huge auditorium's staircase becomes the river where Siefgried's boat sails. These
are only a few examples of many brilliant ideas molded with a sprinkle of humor.
Thirdly, Herbert von Karajan considered Kuhn the best among his students and thought that he would be his successor. Kuhn follows the score meticulously with an orchestra of almost one-hundred-and-fifty players, almost all of them young and many trained in Kuhn's Montegral Academy in Italy. Unlike Sinopoli or Barenboim, he is not interested in a philosophical Ring, and neither
does he seem to aim at a Solti-like manicured Ring.
If he has a model, it is von Karajan's recording of a symphonicRing full of musical colors, both those of nature and of sentiments (of gods and human beings alike). This is the reason for the care given both to the
lighting (on the orchestra as a whole as well as on various sections) and
to the acting.
Ring requires over thirty principals. They are mostly young and hardly known outside the
German-speaking world, with a few 'old hands' such as Franz Hawlata in 'cameo' roles.
It's hard to forget Vladimir Baykov's intense Wotan, the passionate Siegmund and Sieglinde from Andrew Sritheran and Marianna
Szivkova, Gianluca Zampieri's heroic Siegfried, Andrea Silvestrelli as a devious Hagen and especially Mona Somm's impressive Brünnhilde. The polyphonic touch of three Japanese Rhine maidens — Yukiko Aragaki, Michiko Watanabe and Misaki Ono —
deserves a special mention.
The audience was enthralled, with extended ovation
after each of the four operas, including more than ten minutes after Götterdämmerung's
five and a half hours. More important is the request to repeat three
cycles in July 2015. Reservations are already being made.