Breaking: Berlin will stage Rheingold next week in car park

Deutsche Oper Berlin has just released plans for a new production of Das Rheingold in a 90-minute chamber version by the British composer Jonathan Dove.

It will involve 22 musicians and 12 singers, conducted by music director Donald Runnicles on the parking deck of the opera house. The First night is June 12.

There will be room for an audience of 200.

 

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  • I can envision Wotan and Loge walking down the parking ramp to Nibelheim, and the gods walking up the ramp to Valhalla.

  • Aren’t there more interesting ways to utilize 22 musicians and 12 singers in an opera rather than trashing Das Rhinegold, which is written for:

    Woodwind: Piccolo; 3 flutes; 3 oboes; cor anglais; 3 clarinets; bass clarinet; 3 bassoons

    Brass: 8 horns; 2 tenor tubas in B flat; 2 bass tubas (“Wagner tubas”) in F; 3 trumpets; bass trumpet in E flat; 4 tenor-bass trombones; contrabass trombone; contrabass tuba

    Percussion: 2 sets of timpani; cymbals; triangle; gong

    Strings: 16 first violins; 16 second violins; 12 violas; 12 cellos; 8 double basses; 6 harps (plus a seventh on-stage)

    Off-stage: 18 anvils of varying sizes (tuned to 3 octaves of F#); hammer

    So you cut out one-third of the score and significantly reduce the orchestral forces. And you are left with…? Think of the number of operas that are better suited to this treatment than one by Wagner.

    • Stuart, you know operas also have stories, right? As in philosophical, intellectual and dramatic content. I’m delighted you can read a list of instruments off page 3 of a score (or more likely copied and pasted from Wikipedia), but what on earth are you on about “more interesting ways to utilize 22 musicians and 12 singers”? If size matters that much to you, you are revealing a pretty shallow bias. Cut out one-third of the score, reduce the orchestral forces and Das Rheingold is still a highly topical work for our times – and one whose beauty is far more dependent on the quality of the interpreters than their number. But if you only care for music that goes “boom”, it may be a while before you’ll have a chance to indulge yourself in live performance again. Good luck!

      • Condescending but your points are valid. Cut out one-third of the score, reduce the orchestral forces and Das Rheingold is still a highly topical work for our times – and one whose beauty is far more dependent on the quality of the interpreters than their number. Yes, but it wouldn’t be Das Rheingold. The point was that if you are working with limited forces, produce a work that can be fully realized with those forces rather than producing Wagner lite. I am sure that the reduced Rheingold is very beautiful, but that wasn’t the point I was making. No more cutting and pasting from Wikipedia for me, BTW. There are 1-7 minutes versions of the Ring as well – at some point it all gets reduced to something performed by Anna Russell (The Rhine maidens are looking after a lump of magic gold. And the magic of this gold consists of the fact that anybody who will renounce love and make a ring out of this gold will become Master of the Universe. This is the gimmick.)

    • I can think of many reasons to do this, but here are just a few. 1. The company were there to do the full piece right now, so they have the singers. 2. Jonathan Dove’s reduced orchestration is fabulous. 3. It proves a point that the show really MUST go on in a country where the virus is clearly well under control, and looks as if it may have blown itself out in 3 weeks’ time. Since the 16 Länder are deciding when and how to open up after the lockdown, Berlin is being more cautious than most. It is therefore highly political with a small p. So perhaps it will give some cheer to the many people working in the theatre in Berlin that they/we may finally be able to go back to some sort of normality in August/September. Here’s hoping.

    • This version is 30 years old and has been staged frequently and highly successfully, including as part of the Grimeborn festival in London last summer, to very positive reviews. It’s a powerful musical-dramatic experience for those who don’t know the original, and intensely revealing and rewarding for those who do. It’s an excellent solution to our current problems.

      And no-one is being forced to attend. Sceptics are free to stay at home with their preferred recordings. Though if you think Wagner isn’t strong enough to withstand the loss of a couple of anvils…then perhaps you don’t know Wagner.

    • This is what makes the operation interesting and challenging. Transcriptions and arrangment are supposed to present a work under a different light and prospective, not just a small scale reduction of of bigger work. Transcribing is not just cutting the number of instruments: this is called banality.

    • Actually, having seen the Jonathan Dove reduction, it’s surprisingly effective. Wagner might have had fewer financial problems and more fans if he’d proceeded along these lines himself.

  • Given the production and personnel circumstances of this opera, would the title “Das Rheinkupfer” be more fitting?

    I’m sure that we’d all pay a pretty penny to hear it!

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