In the midst of the current UK lockdown, BBC Radio 3 provides listeners at home with an opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of epic music drama, broadcasting Richard Wagner’s 18-hour operatic marathon The Ring Cycle over four evenings, from Wednesday 17 to Saturday 20 February.

At this time of uncertainty, with no opportunity to attend live events, radio audiences are virtually transported to the currently closed Royal Opera House in London to enjoy performances of Das Rhinegold, Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung – as introduced by Tom Service. These were recorded at Covent Garden in autumn 2018, when the Ring Cycle was last staged at the Opera House in Keith Warner’s critically-acclaimed production.

Online resources, including synopsises for all four operas, image galleries, filmed interviews with Pappano and singers in the cast, as provided by the Royal Opera House, offer background information for Wagner enthusiasts and first timers alike to relish in the broadcast of the world-class performances.

Bringing to life Wagner’s monumental score and libretti – with the recognisable leitmotifs, the complex instrumentation, and text referencing epic sagas with its roots in German and Scandinavian traditions – Covent Garden Music Director Antonio Pappano conducts the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House and a stellar cast of singers. Among them, Swedish soprano Nina Stemme is Brünnhilde, Swedish bass-baritone John Lundgren is Wotan, German tenor Stefan Vinke is Siegfried, English mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly is Fricka, and American soprano Emily Magee is Gutrune.

Alan Davey, BBC Radio 3 Controller, says: “In the current climate, with restrictions still impacting our daily lives, we are pleased to be able to give audiences the perfect opportunity to enter the world of myth and eternal values – a world of truth and archetype underpinned by the eternal truths of human behaviour and emotion, and music of astonishing beauty.

“Listening to Wagner’s magnificent scores – with words, background information, and one’s own imagination to call upon – is a deeply fulfilling way to enjoy one of the greatest achievements of western musical art, and we hope that beginners and established fans will join us in this extraordinary world without having to leave their sofas.”

Oliver Mears, Director of Opera at the Royal Opera House, says: “The Ring Cycle is the pinnacle of achievement for any Opera House and we are hugely proud of our most recent version conducted by Antonio Pappano, directed by Keith Warner and with an outstanding cast of top international singers.

“A vast panoply of characters, mythic inspiration and motivic invention make listening to a Ring Cycle one of the most arduous but rewarding experiences in classical music and we can’t wait for Radio 3’s listeners to join us for opera’s supreme journey.”

In the run up to the broadcast of The Ring Cycle, BBC Radio 3 also presents The Last Of The Volsungs as part of the Drama on 3 slot (Sunday 14 February). This is writer Melissa Murray’s dramatization of the 13th century Icelandic Volsunga Saga, which provided inspiration to Wagner for his epic work. The Last Of The Volsungs was produced and directed by Marc Beeby, long-standing member of the BBC Radio Drama team, who died on 26 December and will be greatly missed.

The complete Ring Cycle, as well as The Last Of The Volsungs, will be available on BBC Sounds for 30 days after initial broadcast, where audiences can also read full synopses of the stories in the programme description


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