Following the resounding acclaim received for Das Rheingold in February 2021, Melbourne Opera continues its triumphant staging of The Ring Cycle, with the cycle’s second opera, Die Walküre, at Her Majesty’s Theatre from 9 February 2022.
Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle is known to be the most impressive event in opera, representing the pinnacle of opulence, excess and excellence and the ultimate challenge for any opera company. As the first independent and unsubsidised Ring Cycle to be staged in Australia since 1913, Melbourne Opera’s production is a historic event.
With a plot that many say inspired The Lord of the Rings, and a score that includes the iconic leitmotif Ride of the Valkyries, used to great effect in many films and memorably in Apocalypse Now, Die Walküre is lauded as the inspiration behind many great themes, stories and soundtracks across the ages.
Between Das Rheingold and Die Walküre, Wotan fathers half-human twins Siegmund and Sieglinde in his attempt to change destiny and subvert the foretold destruction of the gods and Valhalla. He also fathers an extraordinary warrior woman, Brunnhilde along with her sister Valkyries to protect his godly empire.
But children, mortal, or even demigod it seems, never do exactly what a parent plans: they have free will and what ensues is a messy, passionate and transcendent emotional roller coaster where Wotan is forced by duty to turn against those he loves the most.
Siegmund and Sieglinde both emerge heroically, Brunnhilde discovers the meaning of love and Wotan is pushed to breaking point.
Melbourne Opera’s production features an all-Australian cast led by internationally acclaimed singers and helmed by creatively gifted Wagner director, Suzanne Chaundy, who continues her realisation of Wagner’s epic Ring.
“Die Walküre is an opera about heroes and gods which helps us understand what it is to be human. In Das Rheingold, we see the rejection of love for power, in Die Walküre we experience the power of love,” says Chaundy.
“My challenge is to portray this epic work in a truly affecting way. It is such a massive world and I wish to embrace, rather than reduce, the grandeur of Wagner’s vision. Our scale of design is monumental to match Wagner’s epic vision, but our performance detail is minute, so that every dramatic moment is interrogated.”
“I could not be more thrilled to be working with Anthony Negus again on achieving this vision, alongside my wonderful creative team and our extraordinary all Australian cast of singing actors,” says Chaundy.
Distinguished international Wagner specialist maestro Anthony Negus returns to Australia to conduct the production, after highly successful productions of Die Walküre with the English National Opera at London’s famed Colosseum, and at his famous Longborough Festival Opera, both recently.
Helpmann Award winning baritone Warwick Fyfe stars as Wotan, a role he has performed to great acclaim internationally, with Wagner Quarterly reviewing his performance as “clean, powerful and yet nuanced.”
Fast becoming one of Australia’s most prolific Wagner sopranos, Lee Abrahmsen performs the romantic lead of Sieglinde, after performing a slate of Wagnerian roles for Melbourne Opera to great acclaim.
For her memorable and greatly acclaimed performance as Isolde in Tristan & Isolde (2018), Lee was the first Australian to perform the role in the country since 2001. She is also the first Australian to sing Sieglinde on our shores since 2004.
Striking soprano Zara Barrett was celebrated for her titular role in Turandot for Opera Australia, and will star as Brunnhilde. Accomplished tenor Bradley Daley performs Siegmund, while Sarah Sweeting returns to Melbourne Opera’s Ring to play the role of Fricka, following her phenomenal performance in Das Rheingold.
The impressive line-up of Valkyries will be led by the distinguished Rosamund Illing, joined by fellow luminaries Dimity Shepherd, Sally-Anne Russell, Olivia Cranwell, Eleanor Greenwood, Caroline Vercoe and current Herald Sun Aria winner Naomi Flatman alongside emerging star Jordan Kahler.
The 90-piece orchestra, including 4 harps and a full set of Wagner tubas, will fill the specially modified pit at the beautiful Her Majesty’s Theatre.
“More than 140 Victorian singers, musicians, creatives and technicians will be employed in the production, taking on the resplendent stage at Her Majesty’s Theatre, as well as the wonderful Ulumbarra Theatre in Bendigo,” says company director Greg Hocking.
Melbourne Opera will stage Siegfried, the third opera in Wagner’s Ring Cycle, in concert at the Melbourne Recital Centre, in October. The culmination of the company’s Ring Cycle will feature a multi-million dollar season of performances of Wagner’s full Ring Cycle, including all four operas, in 2023.
Her Majesty’s Theatre, 219 Exhibition Street, Melbourne
Season: 9 – 16 February 2022
Ulumbarra Theatre, 10 Gaol Road, Bendigo
Performance: Sunday 27 February 2022
For more information, visit: www.melbourneopera.com for details.
Image: Melbourne Opera 2021 production of Das Rheingold – photo by Robin Halls