The 1976 Bayreuth Centenary Ring

Author: sounding images

0000: The film tells how one of the greatest scandals in opera went on to become one of the greatest musical moments of all.

  • Szene aus „Götterdämmerung“ (RDN) | Copyright: © Unitel

    Szene aus „Götterdämmerung“ (RDN) © Unitel

  • Szene aus „Siegfried“ („Der Ring des Nibelungen“ / RDN, 1976) | Copyright: © Unitel

    Szene aus „Siegfried“ („Der Ring des Nibelungen“ / RDN, 1976) © Unitel

The opera production sent ripples through art and society even before the curtain was lifted. Leaflets were distributed, signatures were collected and musicians left the orchestra pit in disgust, all because of disagreements over the bold new interpretation of Wagner’s Ring Cycle by conductor Pierre Boulez. The festival hired 31-year-old television and film director Patrice Chéreau, a relative unknown. Chéreau’s submitted concept for the multi-part, many hours long Ring Cycle had fitted on a single typewritten page. Once hired, he had just four months to prepare the monumental dramatic work.

The “Centenary Ring” was a fulfilment of Richard Wagner's dictum that the Ring Cycle should represent a musical synthesis of the arts. With the staging, set design and lighting, costumes, musical interpretation and, last but not least, the exceptional singing of the numerous soloists and choir, a legend was born. When the curtain came down, the Franco-German project was already being celebrated as a musical triumph, and in time the production would be celebrated as an event of the century.

The film shows excerpts from this unforgettable opera event. Contemporary witnesses look back and comment on events both on and off the boards. Soprano Dame Gwyneth Jones, contralto Hanna Schwarz and tenor Heinz Zednik were on stage as it unfolded; French director Vincent Huguet tells of his collaboration with Patrice Chéreau, whose assistant he would later become. The interviewees also include writer Friedrich Dieckmann, who authored one of the most important reviews of the events in Bayreuth.

Duration 43 minutes
Director Eric Schulz
Producer Holger Preuße
Executive Producer Christopher Janssen
Production Company ZDF/ARTE, sounding images



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