Opera: RING FESTIVAL (San Francisco Opera)

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by Jim Allen on March 4, 2021

in Music,Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area,Virtual


Wagner’s Ring Cycle Streams in March Accompanied by
Live Ring Festival Virtual Events Featuring Special Guests

Daniel Brenna (Siegfried) and Iréne Theorin (Brünnhilde) in Wagner's Siegfried
(streaming March 20–21)

Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung), in Francesca Zambello’s “boldly contemporary” (New York Times) staging, a co-production with Washington National Opera, returns as part of San Francisco Opera’s first-ever virtual Ring Festival. The four parts of the massive, 15-hour Ring cycle tetralogy, which played to sold-out audiences at the War Memorial Opera House in summer 2018, will stream in four weekend access periods accompanied by a diverse complement of live Ring-related events throughout the month.

Greer Grimsley as Wotan in Wagner's Das Rheingold

The performances feature former Company music director Donald Runnicles conducting the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and an international cast headed by Iréne Theorin as Brünnhilde, Greer Grimsley as Wotan, Daniel Brenna in his Company debut as Siegfried, Brandon Jovanovich as Froh and Siegmund, Karita Mattila as Sieglinde, Ring veteran Falk Struckmann in his Company and role debuts as Alberich, Jamie Barton as Fricka, the Second Norn and Waltraute and Ronnita Miller as Erda and the First Norn, among many other leading artists.

Wagner's Das Rheingold (streaming March 6–7)

Zambello’s production, which includes themes and imagery associated with American history, features the creative work of set designer Michael Yeargan, costume designer Catherine Zuber, lighting designer Mark McCullough and projection designers S. Katy Tucker and Jan Hartley.

Wagner's Die Walküre (streaming March 13–14)

The Ring Festival kicks off on March 5 with a Festival Opening Salute, for Festival Pass holders and All-Access Pass holders, hosted by Company General Director Matthew Shilvock welcoming special guests Zambello, Runnicles, Grimsley and former Metropolitan Opera Company Manager Stephen A. Brown for a lively discussion and Wagner quiz.

Daniel Brenna (Siegfried) and Stacey Tappan (Forest Bird) in Wagner's Siegfried
(streaming March 20–21)

Wagner’s Ring cycle, unveiled in 1876 at the composer’s theater in Bayreuth, Germany, remains one of the most ambitious and all-encompassing works of art ever created. Its breathtaking scope and brilliant synthesis of music, theater and stagecraft continues to offer inspiration and provocation to artists, critics and audiences and is a “bucket list” cultural event. Typically necessitating great expense for travel, tickets and accommodations while taking in the four operas in succession, experiencing the Ring fosters a unique sense of community and, for some, an ongoing relationship with the work. Through free streams of San Francisco Opera’s vaunted production and a bevy of ancillary events, the Ring experience will now be widely available online.

Iréne Theorin (Brünnhilde) with members of the San Francisco Opera Chorus
in Wagner's Götterdämmerung (streaming March 27–28)

The event calendar also includes interviews with luminaries such as Jane EaglenNina StemmeGrace Bumbry, Mattila, Jovanovich, San Francisco Chronicle classical music critic Joshua KosmanNew Yorker critic and author Alex Ross and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner; introductory lectures for the four operas by San Francisco Opera Dramaturg Emeritus Dr. Clifford Cranna; and presentations on topics ranging from the Ring and feminism with Naomi André, Miller and Zambello; the Ring and the Environment with Kirsten Paige and Zambello; the history of the Ring in San Francisco; a conversation with Bumbry about becoming the first Black singer to perform at Bayreuth, hosted by Kenneth Overton; food and wine in the Ring by Fred Plotkin and Barton; and a look at legendary Wagnerian soprano Kirsten Flagstad’s San Francisco Opera career by writer Paul Thomason, co-hosted with the Kirsten Flagstad Museum in Norway. All live events take place on Zoom, allowing participants the opportunity to ask questions of the artists and presenters.

Greer Grimsely (Wotan) and Iréne Theorin (Brünnhilde)
in Wagner’s Die Walküre
(streaming March 13–14)

photos by Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

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