Wagner’s “Ring Cycle”
An Introduction to Wagner’s “Ring Cycle”
Presented by Phyllis Neumann
6-week course — 2-hour PowerPoint presentation
followed by a Ring opera in its entirety
(a long day — lunch is included)
Summer 2020: dates TBA
Phyllis Neumann will once again present her course, “An Introduction to Wagner’s Ring Cycle” in Pescadero. The course, which has received rave reviews, is intended for those who have always wanted to enjoy and understand Wagner’s masterpiece, or who have felt too intimidated by its length and complexity to give it a try. It is also for those already familiar with The Ring who want to delve more deeply into the story, the music, the leitmotifs, and the characters. “An Introduction to Wagner’s Ring Cycle” speaks to the lay person in a language that is easy to understand as well as entertaining. It makes use of video and audio excerpts through PowerPoint to demonstrate the power of The Ring and the meaning of its music.
Wagner’s Ring Cycle is considered to be the greatest work of art ever written and has taken opera to new heights. It consists of four operas: Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Gotterdämmerung — an opera mini-series. The Ring Cycle is based on Ancient German and Norse mythology. Das Rheingold begins with the creation of the world and Gotterdammerung ends with the destruction of the gods. It includes gods, goddesses, Rhinemaidens, Valkyries, dwarfs, a dragon, a gold ring, a magic sword, a magic Tarnhelm, magic fire, and much more. It also includes greed, love, incest, punishment, betrayal and murder. It is an extraordinary work of art, taking opera to a new level. Come with an open mind and you’ll be swept away by the sheer magnitude of the performance along with the most extraordinary music on earth.
Wagner’s “Der Ring des Nibelungen” is based on Norse mythology and is an extraordinary mini-series of four operas, taking opera to a new level. “Ring” lovers from around the world travel to see this amazing work at the Festspielhaus in Bayreuth, Germany (Wagner’s own opera house), where it continues to be performed each summer. Today “Ring Cycles” are regularly being performed throughout the United States, shown in their entirety in movie theaters, on television and on YouTube from opera houses around the world.
This course is intended for those who have never experienced a “Ring Cycle,” or who have felt too intimidated by its length and complexity to give it a try. It is also for those already familiar with “The Ring” who want to delve a bit more deeply into the synopsis, the music, the characters and the leitmotifs.
Phyllis Neumann has taught this course many times, speaking in a language that is easy to understand, as well as entertaining. The course includes audio and video excerpts through PowerPoint to demonstrate the power of the Ring and the meaning of its music. The slides incorporate Arthur Rackham’s famous “Ring” illustrations, as well as photographs and video clips from various “Ring” productions. The leitmotifs (musical themes) are studied to help better understand familiarize yourself with the music and understand the complexity of Wagner’s music. This curriculum was developed and frequently revised over the past fifteen years.
Class 1 — Introduction to Wagner’s “Ring Cycle.” This class introduces Wagner and his contribution to music and the arts. It explores the Festspielhaus in Bayreuth, Germany, and discusses Wagner’s vision for the future and his influence on the world. It breaks down the many components of “The Ring” — synopses, letimotifs, musical instruments, structure, singers, etc.
Class 2 — Das Rheingold. The first opera in the “Ring Cycle” is considered a “Prologue” to the next three operas. It is the story of the creation of the ring and ends with the entrance of the gods to Valhalla. Through the use of PowerPoint this opera and the three that follow delve into the complex story, as well as the emotional conflicts in the main characters. The music is also illustrated by listening to and understanding many of the “leitmotifs” associated with it.
Class 3 — Die Walküre. The second opera in the “Ring Cycle” is about love relationships. It focuses on the love between the Wälsung twins, Sigmund and Sieglinde, and the father-daughter relationship between Wotan and Brünnhilde. This opera is considered to be the most romantic (and most beloved) of the four operas and includes some of the most glorious music in the entire “Ring Cycle.”
Class 4 — Siegfried. The third opera in the “Ring Cycle” is about the growing up of Siegfried, the child of Sigmund and Sieglinde. This opera is packed with action, and even adds some comic relief. Here you will learn how to forge a sword, slay a dragon, understand a bird and wake a sleeping maiden.
Class 5 — Götterdämmerung. The fourth and final opera in the “Ring Cycle” is the original story of Siegfried’s introduction to Hagen, evil son of Alberich the Niebelung dwarf, eventually leading to his death. It is the most complex of the four opera and ends with an extraordinary finale. “It’s not over ‘til the fat lady sings.”
Class 6 — A Tribute to Wagner. This last class is devoted to watching and listening to excerpts from “The Ring.” It includes Anna Russell’s legendary and hilarious satire, “Analysis of the Ring;” “Sing Faster: The Stagehands’ Ring,” a backstage look at the making of the 1995 San Francisco “Ring;” as well as hearing Birgit Nilsson sing “Brünnhilde’s Immolation Scene.” A special German pot-luck is provided, as well as a certificate saying “You survived The Ring.”
For a great one-hour introduction to Wagner’s “Ring Cycle,” please listen to:
The Ring and I: The Passion, the Myth, the Mania
Tribute (August 18, 2018)
AUDIO AND VIDEO LINKS
COMPLETE “RING” OPERAS