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Deutsche Grammophon is proud to present a virtual Bayreuth Festival this summer. The Yellow Label’s digital enterprise, created in partnership with the spiritual home to Richard Wagner’s music dramas, will run on sixteen evenings between 25 July and 29 August as part of DG Stage – The Classical Concert Hall.
The four works scheduled for the 2020 Bayreuth Festival – Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Tannhäuser, Lohengrin and Der Ring des Nibelungen – will be broadcast online in recent or landmark productions from the Bayreuth archives. Every production will be shown on the day and at the time it would have been performed during this year’s cancelled festival and subsequently repeated a second time. Each will remain available to view for 48 hours.
DG Stage ticketholders can also watch critically acclaimed festival stagings of Tristan und Isolde and Parsifal on free days in the 2020 Bayreuth calendar. To substitute for Bayreuth’s new production of the Ring, DG Stage is set to run Frank Castorf’s challenging 2013 staging of Wagner’s tetralogy (in a recording from 2016, conducted by Marek Janowski) as well as Patrice Chéreau’s iconic production from 1976, the “Centenary Ring” (recorded in 1980) with Pierre Boulez conducting. Most of the productions will be introduced by a stage director, conductor or principal singer involved with the original production, specially filmed for the festival’s DG Stage season.
Together with the festival management, the Friends of Bayreuth have set up an emergency fund for artists of the Bayreuth Festival. Artists and performers who are in need as a result of the Corona pandemic are to be supported by this fund. Income generated from the sale of these DG Stage-Bayreuth Festival tickets will also benefit this fund.
The high-point of the 2017 Bayreuth Festival: Barrie Kosky’s “astonishingly entertaining and convincing” (Der Spiegel) new Meistersinger is “a triumph” (Berliner Morgenpost): “a production of enormous insight and great quality ... that plumbs the depths of both the opera and its composer” (Opera News). The “exquisite” cast (Die Zeit) is headed by Michael Volle’s “eloquent” Hans Sachs (New York Times). ”Philippe Jordan’s supple conducting is moulded around Kosky’s staging ... and the Bayreuth orchestra and chorus are superb” (The Guardian).
Tobias Kratzer’s “novel...wrenching” (New York Times) 2019 production of Tannhäuser as a wildly contemporary parable of art and freedom – with Valery Gergiev making his long-awaited Bayreuth Festival debut – was greeted with a standing ovation and exceptional press acclaim. The young Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen makes her “astonishingly mature” (New York Times) Bayreuth debut as Elisabeth, American heldentenor Stephen Gould exhibits “great dramatic and vocal power in the title role” (Telegraph), and Russian mezzo Elena Zhidkova is the “scene stealing Venus”(Opera Today).
From the 2018 Bayreuth Festival, the acclaimed new production by American director Yuval Sharon. The New York Times praised “the outstanding Piotr Beczala” as Lohengrin, “Anja Harteros [making] her impressive Bayreuth debut” as Elsa, and Ortrud “played with dominant presence by the incomparable Waltraud Meier”. The distinguished artists Neo Rauch and Rosa Loy created “breathtaking visuals”, and the whole performance was guided with “enthralling musicality” by conductor Christian Thielemann.
"Richard Wagner’s ultimate, immortal tale of love and longing staged by the composer’s great-granddaughter Katharina Wagner and conducted by Christian Thielemann with an elegance and precision that is probably unsurpassable today.” (Der Spiegel). The sublime cast includes Evelyn Herlitzius as Isolde, Stephen Gould as Tristan and Georg Zeppenfeld as Marke.
Every new production of Parsifal in Bayreuth is a special event, as it was written specifically with the Bayreuth acoustic in mind. In summer 2016, director Uwe Eric Laufenberg presented his reading of Wagner’s Bühnenweihfestspiel, transposing it to a region bordering Iraq, Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan – in other words, to the very heart of today’s religious wars. The cast boasted Klaus Florian Vogt as a silvery yet clarion-toned Parsifal, the fabulous Elena Pankratova as Kundry, the “Rose from Hell”, rich-voiced Georg Zeppenfeld as Gurnemanz, Ryan McKinny with his burnished baritone as Amfortas and Gerd Grochowski in one of his last major roles as Klingsor. The New York Times was full of praise: “Sensitive, visually arresting … With an excellent cast and the conductor Hartmut Haenchen drawing radiant sound and striking transparency from the festival orchestra, this was a sublime and provocative Parsifal.”
Frank Castorf’s staging of the Ring, premiered in 2013 and filmed in 2016, provoked controversy right from the beginning. For Castorf, the Rheingold of our days is oil; thus he places the first part of the tetralogy at a gas station on Route 66. Die Walküre is situated in Baku, Azerbaijan, which was seized by the Bolsheviks in 1920 for its oil, whereas Siegfried takes place in a socialist equivalent of Mount Rushmore and at Berlin’s Alexanderplatz. Götterdämmerung is set somewhere in the GDR, ending up at New York’s stock exchange. Whilst Castorf’s staging polarized, Marek Janowski’s musical reading was unanimously praised, as was the excellent cast including Catherine Foster, John Lundgren, Nadine Weissmann and Georg Zeppenfeld.
In 1976 French director Patrice Chéreau's centenary staging of Wagner's Ring-Cycle unleashed the greatest scandal in Bayreuth Festival history but, by the end of its last performance in 1980, this epoch-making production was acclaimed with an hour and a half of thunderous applause.
In Das Rheingold, Wotan wears the brocade coat of feudal times while the Rhine seems to be a reservoir with a modern power station, whereas Die Walküre gets a radical re-imaging unprecedented in its psychological penetration. Siegfried was described by Chéreau as “a hero (that) has been created who would actually have had all the attributes of freedom, but nobody remembered to tell him...". And the closing Götterdämmerung for the director "presents a world in which no values exist any more. The only refuge is in the past".
Pierre Boulez’ conducting and the excellent cast with Donald McIntyre, Gwyneth Jones, Manfred Jung, Peter Hofmann, Jeannine Altmeyer and many others also contributed to the legendary status of this production with their musical and dramatic interpretations and performances.