The Wagner Festival of the Sofia Opera gathers audiences from all over the world to see the Bulgarian productions of Wagner's operas and especially the new production of "Der Ring des Nibelungen".
During the four nights of the cycle, the audience passionately commented and discussed the production, the singers, the orchestra and the conductor. People seemed to be participants in an endless journey through the recesses of Wagner's genius, collaborators in uncovering the philosophy of Wagner's music and theatre.
There was a curious anticipation in the hall for the denouement in the story of gods, heroes and Valkyries.
The curtain went up on "Götterdämmerung" – the fourth part of the cycle. It is hard to describe in words the magic on stage and the excitement in the hall.
A moving experience for everyone from the first to the last row!
What happened after the performance is also hard to describe.
The hall was shaking with applause for the amazing soloists who sang and played rousingly.
The Sofia Opera Orchestra came out to take a bow on stage to the thunderous applause of the audience, and conductor Constantin Trinks was rewarded with a wave of shouts of "Bravo!".
Huge applause also for the creators of the phenomenal spectacle – director Plamen Kartaloff, set designer Hans Kudlich and costume designer Hristiana Zorbalieva.
Among the guests was the distinguished Wagnerian bass Falk Struckmann, Kammersänger of the Vienna Opera. He said that what he sees and hears inspires him tremendously and the performers are world class.
The famous opera critic Andrea Merli said that he left Sofia with a full heart and great satisfaction.
Tony Cooper of Opera Critic magazine said only: "I have no words!".
The large group of Wagnerians, who had been following the production anxiously since the first night, were delighted to once again personally congratulate the artists, director and stage designer backstage.
People stood for a long time in front of the now closed Opera House doors and shared their delight and fascination with "Der Ring des Nibelungen". An excited lady said, "Such a thing is unlikely to happen to me again! I am so happy to have experienced this!"
We look forward to sharing the second part of the Wagner Festival with you. Forthcoming we'll see "Tristan und Isolde" on 23 July, "Parsifal" 25 on July, and two performances of "Der fliegende Holländer" on Lake Pancharevo on 29 and 30 July.
Here are the soloists and the production team who performed last night.
DER RING DES NIBELUNGEN
a solemn stage performance for three days and a prelude;
libretto and music by Richard Wagner
Eve – "Das Rheingold",
First day – "Die Walküre",
Day Two – "Siegfried",
Day Three – "Götterdämmerung"
"Der Ring des Nibelungen" interweaves complex narrative and conceptual motifs. The action of the cycle takes place on earth, in the waters of the Rhine, underground, in Valhalla – in the sky, among humans, dwarves, gods and ends with a cosmic catastrophe that encompasses the universe.
What is the denouement in "Götterdämmerung" on the last day of the tetralogy?
The Norns, who prophetically foretell the fates of men and gods, weave the thread of life, but it breaks, heralding inevitable death.
Siegfried leaves the ring to Brünnhilde, grabs the sword and the magic helm, and sets off in search of adventure. He comes to the court of Gunther, king of the Gibichungs. Here is the king's half-brother, Alberich's son, the evil and cunning Hagen. He fires Gunther's imagination with tales of Brünnhilde and the King's sister Gutrune with tales of Siegfried.
Hagen drugs the hero with a magic potion and Siegfried forgets everything, falls in love with Gutrune and promises Gunther to give him Brünnhilde. He puts on the magic helmet that changes his appearance and defeats Brünnhilde, who is to become Gunther's wife. Hagen removes the ring from her hand. Brünnhilde, hurt by Siegfried's betrayal, decides to take revenge on him. Hagen suggests to Gunther the idea that Siegfried has disgraced Brünnhilde, and Gunther agrees to kill the hero.
In vain do the daughters of Rhine beg Siegfried to return the ring to them – only this can save him. But during the hunt Hagen treacherously kills Siegfried, whose consciousness is cleared shortly before his death – the action of the drink has ended.
On Brünnhilde's orders, a huge pyre is lit on which the dead Siegfried is laid. Removing the ring of destiny from Siegfried's hand, Brünnhilde throws it into the waters of the Rhine, while she herself, on horseback, disappears in the raging flames.
The waves of the Rhine wash ashore. On the hand of one of the daughters of the river is the ring. Hagen throws himself into the water and drowns.
Tongues of fire reach the heavens – the gods perish.
Richard Wagner was captivated by folk tales and medieval legends. Like many 19th century intellectuals, he understood that these stories contained profound truths about contemporary culture and society and devoted most of his life to the study of the great sagas of Norse mythology.
This interest, as well as his curiosity about German heroic poetry ("Song of the Nibelungs"), provoked him to sketch a version of the Nibelung myth in 1848. His first libretto was called "The Death of Siegfried", which became the basis of "Götterdämmerung". He began composing the music in 1850, but soon realized that he could not tell the story of Siegfried's death without first telling the story of his life. In 1851 he wrote the libretto "Young Siegfried", later shortened to "Siegfried". Continuing back to the beginning of the story, he completed the librettos for "Die Walküre" and "Das Rheingold", respectively, in 1852. After completing the massive text, he composed the operas in the order of the story. The first two were composed by 1856, and Wagner then took a long break to complete "Tristan und Isolde" and "Die Mastersinger von Nürnberg" before finally completing "Siegfried" in 1871 and "Götterdämmerung" in 1874 – 26 years after he began work on the monumental cycle.
"Der Ring des Nibelungen", or "The Ring of the Nibelung", is an unsurpassed exaltation of German heritage and mythology. At points, Wagner tells the story with the orchestra, using leitmotifs – fragments of melody that convey emotions and themes while repeating in different contexts. The orchestra may even convey ideas that are hidden from the characters themselves, an idea that later found its way into film music.
Wagner needed enormous funds for the first production of "Der Ring", which was to be extremely expensive. He began conducting a series of concerts including orchestral excerpts from his forthcoming epic. The most famous fragment is "The Ride of the Valkyries", which begins the last act of "Die Walküre". His concerts provided a steady income and aroused public interest in the operas to be shown.
The original and continuing home of the cycle, the Festspielhaus in Bayreuth, was built to the composer's specifications with the help of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. The architect was Gottfried Semper.
"Der Ring des Nibelungen" was first performed from 13 to 17 August 1876, attended by Franz Liszt, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Camille Saint-Saëns and Anton Bruckner.
When, on 21 November 1874, Wagner completes the score of "Götterdämmerung", on the last page he wrote "I will say no more!!!"
Tickets for the next spectacles of the Sofia Opera Wagner Festival can be purchased here.