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Bayreuth Festival 2021 comes to DG Stage
DG Stage returns to Bayreuth this summer as the Festival’s global digital partner. A year ago, Deutsche Grammophon’s first-ever virtual Bayreuth Festival set benchmark standards for online music streaming and this year’s programme is even more ambitious, offering unprecedented access to one of the greatest of all musical experiences. Between 24 July and 24 August DG Stage will broadcast ten different productions – encompassing all of Wagner’s mature music dramas from the festival stage – plus the opening performance of the 2020 Bayreuth Festival at Villa Wahnfried.
As part of the 2021 virtual Festival, DG Stage will host Christian Thielemann’s special opening concert from last year, performed by members of the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra at Wagner’s “Haus Wahnfried” (25 July); the exclusive online premiere (except within Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Japan – TBD) of this year’s new production of Der fliegende Holländer (27 July)
Thanks to Deutsche Grammophon’s collaboration with the Bayreuth Festival and the Society of Friends of Bayreuth, the online ticket price has been waived for all transmissions except the exclusive premiere of Der fliegende Holländer. Each production from the Bayreuth catalogue will remain available to registered viewers for 48 hours after its initial broadcast.
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.