The Jahrhundertring (Centenary Ring) was the production of Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen , at the Bayreuth Festival in 1976, celebrating the centenary of both the festival and the first performance of the complete cycle. The festival was directed by Wolfgang Wagner and the production was created by the French team of conductor Pierre Boulez, stage director Patrice Chéreau, stage designer Richard Peduzzi, costume designer Jacques Schmidt and lighting designer André Diot. The cycle was shown first in 1976, then in the following years until 1980. It was filmed for television in 1979 and 1980. While the first performance caused "a near-riot" for its brash modernity, the staging established a standard, termed Regietheater (director's theater), for later productions.
Festival director Wolfgang Wagner selected the composer Pierre Boulez as the conductor for the centenary celebration of Wagner's most complex work, which had been first performed at the first Bayreuth festival. The conductor's first choice for a stage director was Ingmar Bergman. When he refused,Boulez recommended as stage director Patrice Chéreau. Chéreau brought in the team of stage designer Richard Peduzzi, costume designer Jacques Schmidt and lighting designer André Diot, with whom he had collaborated already in his first theatre, the Public-Theatre in the Parisian suburb of Sartrouville, from 1966.
The French team revolutionised the understanding of Wagner in Germany, as music critic Eleonore Büning wrote in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung .Unprecedentedly, the scene was set in the Industrial Revolution, "dressing the gods as capitalists at war with the Nibelung proletariat". Set at the time of the composition, it took a critical view of the time's capitalism, industrialism and spiritual background. The Rhinemaidens appeared as 19th-century cancan dancers and Wotan as a banker in a frock coat. Siegfried enters the hall of the Gibichungs dressed in the "ragged clothes of a mythical hero" and meets Gunther wearing a dinner jacket, visualising how alien the hero is to the world. The director's approach was described as a mix of "a vague sense of 19th-century melodrama with Shaw's messianic socialism and Strindberg's psychodrama.
The singers for the production had to act as much as to sing, especially for the filming in 1980.
The following table shows singers from the first year 1976 to the last year, when it was filmed. The parts of Wagner's stage work are abbreviated R for Das Rheingold, W for Die Walküre, S for Siegfried, G for Götterdämmerung.
|Role||In part||Singer 1976||Singer 1977||Singer 1978||Singer 1979||Singer 1980||All|
|Wotan||R W S||Donald McIntyre||Donald McIntyre||Donald McIntyre||Donald McIntyre||Donald McIntyre||*|
|Donner||R||Jerker Arvidson||Martin Egel||Martin Egel||Martin Egel||Martin Egel|
|Froh||R||Heribert Steinbach||Siegfried Jerusalem||Siegfried Jerusalem||Siegfried Jerusalem||Siegfried Jerusalem|
|Loge||R||Heinz Zednik||Heinz Zednik||Heinz Zednik||Heinz Zednik||Heinz Zednik||*|
|Fricka||R W||Yvonne Minton||Eva Randová||Hanna Schwarz||Hanna Schwarz||Hanna Schwarz|
|Freia||R||Rachel Yakar||Carmen Reppel||Carmen Reppel||Carmen Reppel||Carmen Reppel|
|Erda||R S||Ortrun Wenkel||Hanna Schwarz||Ortrun Wenkel||Ortrun Wenkel||Ortrun Wenkel|
|Alberich||R S G||Zoltán Kélemen||Zoltán Kélemen||Zoltán Kélemen||Hermann Becht||Hermann Becht|
|Mime||R||Wolf Appel||Wolf Appel||Helmut Pampuch||Helmut Pampuch||Helmut Pampuch|
|Fasolt||R||Matti Salminen||Heikki Toivanen||Heikki Toivanen||Matti Salminen||Matti Salminen|
|Fafner||R S||Bengt Rundgren||Matti Salminen||Matti Salminen||Fritz Hübner||Fritz Hübner|
|Woglinde||R G||Yoko Kawahara||Norma Sharp||Norma Sharp||Norma Sharp||Norma Sharp|
|Wellgunde||R G||Ilse Gramatzki||Ilse Gramatzki||Ilse Gramatzki||Ilse Gramatzki||Ilse Gramatzki||*|
|Floßhilde||R G||Adelheid Krauss||Cornelia Wulkopf||Marga Schiml||Marga Schiml||Marga Schiml|
|Siegmund||W||Peter Hofmann||Robert Schunk||Peter Hofmann||Peter Hofmann||Peter Hofmann||*|
|Hunding||W||Matti Salminen||Matti Salminen||Matti Salminen||Matti Salminen||Matti Salminen||*|
|Sieglinde||W||Hannelore Bode||Hannelore Bode||Hannelore Bode||Jeannine Altmeyer||Jeannine Altmeyer|
|Brünnhilde||W S G||Gwyneth Jones||Gwyneth Jones||Gwyneth Jones||Gwyneth Jones||Gwyneth Jones|
|Gerhilde||W||Rachel Yakar||Carmen Reppel||Eva Johansson||Carmen Reppel||Carmen Reppel|
|Ortlinde||W||Irja Auroora||Astrid Schirmer||Lia Frey-Rabine||Karen Middleton||Karen Middleton|
|Waltraute||W||Doris Soffel||Gabriele Schnaut||Silvia Herman||Gabriele Schnaut||Gabriele Schnaut|
|Schwertleite||W||Adelheid Krauss||Patricia Payne||Hitomi Katagiri||Gwendolyn Killebrew||Gwendolyn Killebrew|
|Helmwige||W||Katie Clarke||Katie Clarke||Eva-Maria Bundschuh||Katie Clarke||Katie Clarke|
|Siegrune||W||Alicia Nafé||Cornelia Wulkopf||Linda Finnie||Marga Schiml||Marga Schiml|
|Grimgerde||W||Ilse Gramatzki||Ilse Gramatzki||Uta Priew||Ilse Gramatzki||Ilse Gramatzki|
|Rossweisse||W||Elisabeth Glauser||Elisabeth Glauser||Hebe Dijkstra||Elisabeth Glauser||Elisabeth Glauser|
|Siegfried||S||René Kollo||René Kollo||René Kollo||Manfred Jung||Manfred Jung|
|Mime||S||Heinz Zednik||Heinz Zednik||Heinz Zednik||Heinz Zednik||Heinz Zednik||*|
|Waldvogel (forest bird)||S||Yoko Kawahara||Norma Sharp||Norma Sharp||Norma Sharp||Norma Sharp|
|Siegfried||G||Jess Thomas||Manfred Jung||Manfred Jung||Manfred Jung||Manfred Jung|
|Gunther||G||Jerker Arvidson||Franz Mazura||Franz Mazura||Franz Mazura||Franz Mazura|
|Hagen||G||Karl Ridderbusch||Karl Ridderbusch||Karl Ridderbusch||Fritz Hübner||Fritz Hübner|
|Gutrune||G||Irja Auroora||Hannelore Bode||Hannelore Bode||Jeannine Altmeyer||Jeannine Altmeyer|
|Waltraute||G||Yvonne Minton||Yvonne Minton||Yvonne Minton||Gwendolyn Killebrew||Gwendolyn Killebrew|
|First Norn||G||Ortrun Wenkel||Patricia Payne||Patricia Payne||Ortrun Wenkel||Ortrun Wenkel|
|Second Norn||G||Dagmar Trabert||Gabriele Schnaut||Gabriele Schnaut||Gabriele Schnaut||Gabriele Schnaut|
|Third Norn||G||Hannelore Bode||Katie Clarke||Katie Clarke||Katie Clarke||Katie Clarke|
Alternate singers were in 1976 Hans Sotin as Wotan and Karl Ridderbusch as Hunding, Roberta Knie as Brünnhilde in Götterdämmerung and Bengt Rundgren as Hagen. In 1977, Patrice Chéreau acted the part of Siegfried in one performance of Siegfried, because singer René Kollo had broken his leg. In 1978, Astrid Schirmer performed Sieglinde in Walküre, Jean Cox sang the part of Siegfried in one performance of Siegfried.
The Ring production was initially met with controversial reactions,provoking "a near-riot", due to its controversial setting of the saga in the Industrial revolution, with the Rhinemaidens as prostitutes. Later it was understood as "a thoughtful allegory of man's exploitation of natural resources". Winifred Wagner, the then elderly matriarch of the Wagner dynasty, disliked the production but asked rhetorically "isn't it better to be furious than to be bored?". After its final performance in 1980 the production was celebrated in a 45-minute standing ovation. It set a standard for productions of the Ring Cycle to follow. Called the beginning of Regietheater (director's theater), the production influenced directors and designers.
The production was filmed for television in 1979 and 1980.Die Walküre was shown in the ARD on 28 August 1980. The cycle was shown completely in 1983, in commemoration of the composer's death, and also presented in the cinema internationally.
While a DVD review of the BBC criticized Boulez's "ruthless tempi" and "pervasive lack of expressiveness",James Leonard noted: "... more controversial than Chéreau's dramatic conception was Boulez's musical execution. With startlingly clear textures, spectacularly bright colors, and stunningly light tempos, Boulez obtains a Wagner sound like no other. And for those with ears to hear, it works. Wagner's music doesn't have to be murky to be metaphysical or massive to be overwhelmingly moving and Boulez gets playing from the too-often turgid Bayreuth Festival Orchestra that makes the music crackle and blaze with musical and dramatic meaning." Edward Rothstein wrote for the New York Times: "Aspects of the score emerge with unexpected clarity. In the opening of 'Die Walküre', he deliberately understates the bass line, giving the music's aggressive restlessness an eerie disembodied character. Throughout 'The Ring', filigree and details are crisply articulated without undue stress on the leitmotifs; nothing is made sentimental or obvious. Particularly drawn to the intricately shifting sound world of the late, last opera, Mr. Boulez gives it a dramatic sweep along with a crystalline gleam."
Der Ring des Nibelungen, WWV 86, is a cycle of four German-language epic music dramas composed by Richard Wagner. The works are based loosely on characters from Norse sagas and the Nibelungenlied. The composer termed the cycle a "Bühnenfestspiel", structured in three days preceded by a Vorabend. It is often referred to as the Ring cycle, Wagner's Ring, or simply The Ring.
The Bayreuth Festival is a music festival held annually in Bayreuth, Germany, at which performances of operas by the 19th-century German composer Richard Wagner are presented. Wagner himself conceived and promoted the idea of a special festival to showcase his own works, in particular his monumental cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen and Parsifal.
Patrice Chéreau was a French opera and theatre director, filmmaker, actor and producer. In France he is best known for his work for the theatre, internationally for his films La Reine Margot and Intimacy, and for his staging of the Jahrhundertring, the centenary Ring Cycle at the Bayreuth Festival in 1976. Winner of almost twenty movie awards, including the Cannes Jury Prize and the Golden Berlin Bear, Chéreau served as president of the jury at the 2003 Cannes festival.
Dame Gwyneth Jones is a Welsh operatic dramatic soprano, widely regarded as one of the greatest Wagnerian sopranos in the second half of the 20th century.
Heinz Zednik is an Austrian operatic buffo tenor, closely associated with the character tenor roles of Wagner such as Mime and Loge and David. He is also distinguished in roles such as Valzacchi, Monostatos, Pedrillo, the Scribe (Khovanshchina), the Captain in Wozzeck, and the Director.
Hanna Schwarz, is a German mezzo-soprano and contralto singer in opera and concert. In 1976 she performed the parts of Fricka and Erda in the centenary production of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen at the Bayreuth Festival, staged by Patrice Chéreau.
The Rhinemaidens are the three water-nymphs who appear in Richard Wagner's opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen. Their individual names are Woglinde, Wellgunde and Flosshilde (Floßhilde), although they are generally treated as a single entity and they act together accordingly. Of the 34 characters in the Ring cycle, they are the only ones who did not originate in the Old Norse Eddas. Wagner created his Rhinemaidens from other legends and myths, most notably the Nibelungenlied which contains stories involving water-sprites (nixies) or mermaids of the Danube.
Ortrun Wenkel is a German operatic contralto. She notably portrayed the role of Erda in the Bayreuth Jahrhundertring in 1976 and was awarded a Grammy Award as a Principal Soloist in 1983.
Fritz Hübner was a German operatic bass. Active from the late 1950s through the 1980s, he was particularly known for his performances in operas by Richard Wagner.
The four operas of Richard Wagner's cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen together take about 15 hours, which makes for several records, tapes, or CDs, and much studio time. For this reason, many full Ring recordings are the result of "unofficial" recording of live performances, particularly from the Bayreuth Festival where new productions are often broadcast by German radio. Live recordings, especially those in monaural, may have very variable sound but often preserve the excitement of a performance better than a studio recording.
Jacques Schmidt was a French costume designer, who collaborated regularly with stage directors Antoine Bourseiller, Patrice Chéreau and Roger Planchon.
Carmen Reppel is a German soprano active in both opera and concert. A member of the Staatstheater Hannover, she had a major international career, appearing in leading roles in over 60 operas. She also explored lesser-known repertoire such as Siegfried Wagner's Schwarzschwanenreich and appeared in contemporary operas, singing in world premieres of operas by Aribert Reimann and Flavio Testi. She is known for her parts in the Jahrhundertring, the centenary production of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen at the Bayreuth Festival, including the filmed version of 1980.
Hannelore Bode is a German operatic soprano. She performed at the Bayreuth Festival from 1968 to 1978, including Elsa in Lohengrin, Eva in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and several parts in the 1976 Jahrhundertring, including Sieglinde in Die Walküre. She performed internationally and recorded operas with conductors such as Eugen Jochum, Silvio Varviso and Pierre Boulez.
Norma Sharp is an American operatic soprano. She is known for singing Mozart and Richard Strauss, but also sang Wagner roles at the Bayreuth Festival. She worked mostly in Germany, made an international career, and has been a professor of voice at the Hochschule für Musik "Hanns Eisler" from 1992.
Gerd Nienstedt was a German and Austrian opera singer, bass and bass-baritone. After an international career at major opera houses and the Bayreuth Festival, he was also a theatre director, stage director and academic voice teacher.
Marga Schiml is a German opera singer who sings mezzo-soprano and alto. She has appeared at major European opera houses and festivals, such as the Vienna State Opera, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Hamburg State Opera and La Scala, at the Salzburg Festival and the Bayreuth Festival. She is also an academic voice teacher.
Eva Randová is a Czech operatic mezzo-soprano who made an international career based in Germany. She appeared at major opera houses including the Metropolitan Opera, and at festivals such as the Bayreuth Festival. She is known for performing Czech operas by Leoš Janáček and Antonín Dvořák.
Manfred Jung was a German operatic tenor, who performed Wagner's heldentenor roles internationally, including the Metropolitan Opera and the Bayreuth Festival where he was Siegfried in the Jahrhundertring, but he also sang all other tenor roles in Der Ring des Nibelungen.
Patricia Katherine Payne is an operatic mezzo-soprano and contralto from New Zealand. A member of London's Royal Opera House, she made an international career, performing leading roles of both Wagner and Italian repertory at major opera houses of the world. After decades of singing, she became a visual artist.
Der Ring in Minden was a project to stage Richard Wagner's cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen at the Stadttheater Minden, beginning in 2015 with Das Rheingold, followed by the other parts in the succeeding years, and culminating with the complete cycle performed twice in 2019. The stage director was Gerd Heinz, and Frank Beermann conducted the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie, playing on the stage of the small theatre. The singers acted in front of the orchestra, making an intimate approach to the dramatic situations possible. The project received international recognition and was compared favourably to the Bayreuth Festival.