The official word: Robert Lepage's acclaimed new production of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, will air on Great Performances at the Met, September 11-14 in primetime each night on PBS stations (check local listings), as a major television event.
The operas - Das Rheingold, Die Walkure, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung - will be preceded on Monday, September 10 at 9 p.m. (check local listings) by the airing of award-winning filmmaker Susan Froemke's documentary Wagner's Dream, which chronicles the backstage story of the creation of this ambitious new staging.
This is only the third time a complete Ring cycle has been aired on PBS. In 1983, Great Performances aired Patrice Chereau's production of the Ring conducted by Pierre Boulez from the Bayreuth Festival, and in 1990, Live from the Met (the precursor of Great Performances at the Met) presented Otto Schenk's Metropolitan Opera production, conducted by James Levine.
Both the operas and the documentary will be screened in movie theaters throughout the U.S. and Canada this spring and summer , and in more than 20 countries including Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Chile, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, Malta, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
A documentary by Susan Froemke
(PBS: Monday, September 10, 9 p.m.)
The stakes could not be higher as visionary director Robert Lepage, some of the world's greatest operatic artists, and the Metropolitan Opera tackle Wagner's Ring cycle. An intimate look at the enormous theatrical and musical challenges of staging opera's most monumental work, the film chronicles the quest to fulfill Wagner's dream of a perfect Ring.
"A highly entertaining outing for operaphiles and operaphobes alike" (Variety)
Das Rheingold (The Rhine Gold)
(PBS: Tuesday, September 11)
Conducted by James Levine
Starring Wendy Bryn Harmer (Freia), Stephanie Blythe (Fricka), Patricia Bardon (Erda), Richard Croft (Loge), Gerhard Siegel (Mime), Bryn Terfel (Wotan), Eric Owens (Alberich), Franz-Josef Selig (Fasolt), Hans-Peter König (Fafner)
In the first opera in the Ring cycle, the gods of Valhalla clash with underworld dwarves and brawny giants, with disastrous consequences. The evil Alberich steals gold from the Rhine and uses it to forge a ring of unimaginable power. Wotan, the king of the gods, uses magic to steal the ring, but Alberich places a curse that guarantees misery for whoever wears it. Wotan's unwillingness to part with the ring leads him to break a contract with the giants who have built the gods' new castle in the sky, setting in motion a chain of events that will end in his own destruction.
"A triumph, at once subtle and spectacular, intimate and epic." (The Telegraph)
Die Walkure (The Valkyrie)
(PBS: Wednesday, September 12)
Conducted by James Levine
Starring Deborah Voigt (Brünnhilde), Eva-Maria Westbroek (Sieglinde), Stephanie Blythe (Fricka), Jonas Kaufmann (Siegmund), Bryn Terfel (Wotan), Hans-Peter König (Hunding)
The mysterious hero Siegmund finds shelter in the strangely familiar arms of a lonely woman named Sieglinde. Their forbidden love leads Wotan's daughter, the warrior maiden Brünnhilde, to defy morality and intervene on behalf of the hero. Brünnhilde's transgression forces her father to choose between his love for his favorite daughter and his duty to his wife, the formidable goddess Fricka. Overcome with grief, Wotan takes away Brünnhilde's godlike powers and puts her to sleep on a mountaintop, surrounded by a ring of magic fire that can only be crossed by the bravest of heroes.
"Die Walkure enthralls." (The Huffington Post)
(PBS: Thursday, September 13)
Conducted by Fabio Luisi
Starring Deborah Voigt (Brünnhilde), Patricia Bardon (Erda), Jay Hunter Morris (Siegfried), Gerhard Siegel (Mime), Bryn Terfel (The Wanderer), Eric Owens (Alberich)
The young hero Siegfried grows up in the wilderness, raised by Alberich's conniving brother Mime. He puts together the broken pieces of the sword Nothung, uses it to slay the fearsome dragon Fafner, and takes the ring for himself. To fulfill his destiny, he must overcome one more opponent-Wotan, now disguised as the Wanderer, who knows the world of the gods is coming to an end-and cross through the magic fire to awaken his true love, Brünnhilde.
"Visually stunning and dramatically engrossing." (Associated Press)
Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods)
(PBS: Friday, September 14)
Conducted by Fabio Luisi
Starring Deborah Voigt (Brünnhilde), Wendy Bryn Harmer (Gutrune), Waltraud Meier (Waltraute), Jay Hunter Morris (Siegfried), Iain Paterson (Gunther), Eric Owens (Alberich), Hans-Peter König (Hagen)
Siegfried and Brünnhilde's love is torn apart by the curse of the ring. A trio of scheming humans separates the two heroes in a desperate attempt to steal the ring for themselves. Their villainous plan fails, but they succeed in murdering Siegfried. Heartbroken, Brünnhilde takes the ring and leaps into the hero's funeral pyre, causing a global cataclysm and the twilight of the gods.
"The most theatrically effective staging of the four works in this epic series." (The New York Times)
Great Performances at the Met is a presentation of THIRTEEN for WNET, one of America's most prolific and respected public media providers. For nearly 50 years, WNET has been producing and broadcasting national and local arts programming to the New York community.
Gary Halvorson directs the telecasts.
Major funding for the telecast is provided by Gilbert S. Kahn & John J. Noffo Kahn Foundation and Charles and Lisa Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences. Corporate support for Great Performances at the Met is provided by Toll Brothers, America's luxury home builder®. This Great Performances presentation is funded by The National Endowment for the Arts, the Irene Diamond Fund, Vivian Milstein, Annaliese Soros and the Philip and Janice Levin Foundation.
For the Met, Jay Saks is Music Producer, Mia Bongiovanni and Elena Park are Supervising Producers, and Louisa Briccetti and Victoria Warivonchik are Producers. Peter Gelb is Executive Producer. For Great Performances, Bill O'Donnell is Series Producer; David Horn is Executive Producer.
Visit Great Performances online at www.pbs.org/gperf for additional information on this and other Great Performances programs.