Scenic & Projections Designer
Composer & Librettist: Richard Wagner
Premiere Date: Sept 22, 1869, National Theatre Munich
Before there was Marvel or Tolkien, there was Wagner. From Norse mythology comes the first of his fantastical Ring operas, a vivid, fast-moving masterstroke that follows the curse of the pestilent imp Alberich. Lust, greed, and the hunger for world domination–these are the things that drive Das Rheingold, setting into motion an epic showdown between gods, giants, and dwarves.
Performed in German with English supertitles
In the depths of the Rhine, the three Rhinemaidens guard the Rhinegold, a treasure of immeasurable value. The Nibelung dwarf Alberich is dazzled by the sight of it. The girls explain that whoever wins the gold and forges it into a ring will gain power over the world, but must first renounce love. Frustrated by his unsuccessful attempts to catch one of the girls, Alberich curses love and steals the gold.
Wotan, lord of the gods, is reproached by his wife Fricka: he has promised to give Freia, goddess of youth, to the giants Fasolt and Fafner in return for their building a fortress for the gods. When the giants demand their reward, Loge, the god of fire, suggests an alternative payment: the ring Alberich has forged from the Rhinegold, and his other treasures. The giants agree, and Wotan and Loge leave for the Nibelungs’ underground home.Read More
Here they meet Alberich’s brother Mime, who has forged the Tarnhelm, a magic helmet that transforms its wearer into any shape. Mime tells Wotan and Loge how Alberich has enslaved the Nibelungs to work for him. Alberich appears and mocks the gods. Loge asks for a demonstration of the Tarnhelm and Alberich turns himself into a dragon, then into a toad, which the gods capture. Dragged to the surface, the dwarf is forced to summon the Nibelungs to heap up the gold. Wotan wrests the ring from his finger. Shattered, Alberich curses the ring: ceaseless worry and death shall be the destiny of its bearer.
The giants return and agree to accept the gold. The gods have to give up even the Tarnhelm, but Wotan refuses to part with the ring. Erda, goddess of the earth, appears and warns him that possession of it will bring about the end of the gods. Wotan reluctantly gives the ring to the giants, and Alberich’s curse claims its first victim as Fafner kills his brother in a dispute over the treasure. As the voices of the Rhinemaidens are heard, lamenting the loss of their gold, the gods walk toward their new home, which Wotan names Valhalla.
Courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera
Operas on our mainstage are grand theatrical experiences. You can always expect the unexpected, and for our productions to be presented at the highest quality.
Many operas are in a foreign language. Supertitles are similar to subtitles in a film, except they are projected above the stage. These translations will help you follow what’s happening on stage.
What to Wear
There is no dress code at The Opera and you will see everything from jeans to evening gowns and formal suits. Most people use it as a chance to enjoy dressing up in their own style.
Arriving in Good Time
If you are late, you will be escorted to the nearest late seating area. At intermission ushers will show you to your seat. Plan ahead to arrive with extra time.
Our elegant three course dining at the Cobb Energy Center is seated on the mezzanine before every performance. Please make reservations 5 business days prior to the performance.
Learn about the history of the opera and the composer with board member and opera aficionado, Carter Joseph. One hour prior to curtain. Free with your ticket!
Familiarizing Yourself with the Story
Because of the foreign languages, classical music, and often complex plots, you will very likely enjoy the performance better if you spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself with the story and characters in advance. Some people even like to listen to the music in advance and others prefer to let it wash over them during the show and perhaps look it up afterwards.
Actors ﬁrst audition for roles up to a year in advance, or for more experienced artists, directors also invite them to play a role.
Most of the rehearsals are held in our rehearsal hall, and not the actual theatre. The conductor begins orchestra rehearsals about a week and half before opening night. They have four rehearsals with the conductor, and then the singers are added into the mix.
Sets & Costumes
The Atlanta Opera Costume Shop alters the costumes to fit our singers. Sometimes they do have to make costumes if there aren’t enough, or if there is nothing that fits, etc. Once the sets are in place, the cast begins rehearsing at the theatre. The Opera production staff works with staff at the theatre to get all of the lighting and technical aspects of the production together.
Sitzprobe & Dress Rehearsal
The orchestra comes together with the singers in a special rehearsal called sitzprobe. There are no costumes during the sitzprobe, this is mainly to hear the voices with the orchestra. There is a piano dress rehearsal, when the singers rehearse in full costume for the first time so they can get used to wearing them. Finally, all of the pieces are put together for two full dress rehearsals leading up to opening night.
Richard Wagner molded opera according to his own creative definition with revolutionary zeal. Consequently, his innovations in melodic structure, harmony, characterization and orchestration have inspired awe among audiences and music professionals alike for over a century. Impressionist and expressionist composers have spent most of this century struggling to overcome his influence, rebelling against him. Wagner was a man who lived in capital letters and bold print, a study in superlatives: huge creative canvases, legendary feuds and hatreds, gigantic depressions and losses, enormous successes, and passionate romantic liaisons. His music represents the dynamic and incandescent final flowering of romanticism.
Egocentric from childhood, Wagner began at age twenty to record details of his personal and creative life in a series of journals, all in anticipation of drafting an extensive autobiography in later life. He never seems to have doubted his destiny or his own titanic genius. At first, Wagner fancied himself a writer and planned a career in the literary world, drafting a ghoulish drama, Leubald which killed off forty-two characters in the first four acts, with some returning as ghosts in the fifth.Read More
Attendance at performances of Weber’s Der Freischutz and Beethoven’s Fidelio turned his attention toward a lifelong obsession with operatic composition. With his mother’s encouragement, he undertook the serious study of music, an academic process peppered with bouts of drinking, dueling, and gambling. Wagner’s father, at least in name, was Karl Friedrich Wagner, a police court clerk who died while his son was in infancy. In recent years, evidence gathered would indicate that Wagner’s biological father was actually Ludwig Geyer, a talented painter, dramatist and actor. Geyer married Wagner’s mother shortly after she was widowed.
He introduced his love of literature, art and theater into the household. Although Geyer died while Wagner was only eight years old, the stepfather’s influence had an indelible effect on the boy.
Wagner’s earliest works, two orchestral overtures, were completed in 1829 and received scornfully. A spare six months of formal music education came from Theodor Weinlig, cantor of the Thomasschule, in 1831. Those studies culminated in the composition of a Wagner symphony which was well-received in Leipzig and Prague. He began work on an opera Die Hochzeit , and tossed it aside unfinished, then completed a full operatic work Die Feen , which was destined not to be performed until five years after the composer’s death.
He undertook a series of conducting posts with small, sordid operatic companies, and there built the instinct and skills which would forge his colossal vision of musical drama. In 1836, Wagner married Minna Planer, an impulsive act he almost instantly regretted. Although mediocre, the union lasted until 1862.
Wagner struggled to establish himself in opera in Paris, living on the verge of starvation, from time to time imprisoned for his debts. Minna took in boarders. His preliminary sketches of the operas Rienzi and Das Liebesverbot were rejected by producers despite introductory letters from Giacomo Meyerbeer. Wagner staggered briefly under the humiliation, then turned to a new concept, The Flying Dutchman, and although impoverished and unknown declared himself victorious at its completion in 1841. He was not far from wrong. La Rienzi opened in Dresden in 1842 to enormous acclaim. A triumph followed the next year for The Flying Dutchman, in the same city.
Wagner became Kapellmeister of the Dresden opera and should have realized financial security at last. However, he continued to live far in excess of his means, accumulating impossible debts. Within the five years which followed, he had completed Tannhauser and Lohengrin. However, Lohengrin, which he considered his greatest effort to date was rejected by Dresden opera and, in anger, Wagner turned to revolution. He wrote handbills sympathetic to Dresden rioters who were creating a growing insurrection in the state of Saxony. When the revolution failed, Wagner was forced to flee to Paris.
During the thirteen years of Wagner’s exile, Lohengrin was presented in Weimar and was received tentatively just as Tannhauser had been. However, in the decade which followed both operas were embraced by German audiences. In fact, by the time his exile ended in 1860, Wagner was one of the few Germans who had never witnessed a performance of Lohengrin.
Years of high living had nearly bankrupted Wagner when, in 1864, the newly-crowned eighteen year old King Ludwig II became the composer’s devoted benefactor. Wagner produced Tristan and Isolde, Meistersinger, Das Rhinegold, and Die Walküre, in the five years between 1865 and 1870. However, his enormous persuasive influence on King Ludwig placed Wagner at the mercy of warring political factions who demanded the composer’s allegiance. Wagner refused all of them categorically. His refusal to engage in intrigue, combined with his involvement in a scandalous affair with the married daughter of Franz Lizst, Cosima von Bulow, drove Wagner from Munich. Wagner had indulged in numerous romantic liaisons in the past. However, in this case he had fathered a child whom his betrayed friend, Cosima’s husband Hans von Bulow, graciously accepted as his own. Cosima and Wagner acknowledged von Bulow’s discretion by naming the girl Isolde.
Once more in exile, Wagner continued receiving financial support from King Ludwig at a retreat near Lucerne, Switzerland. And, when his legal wife, Minna, died in 1866, he at last married Cosima.
The final years of Wagner’s life were dedicated to completion of the gargantuan music project – The Ring – which was to combine all the noblest forms of Art in its presentation: innovative melodic structure, ambitious orchestration and instrumentation, intensely dramatic characterization and evocative sets. His concept was immense: an orchestral, vocal and theatrical portrayal of the legendary struggle between gods and men for control of the earth. This compelling mythological drama would be presented over consecutive days in a series of four sequential operas: Das Rhinegold, Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung.
And to that end, he also undertook the construction of his concept of the perfect operatic performance facility at Bayreuth. When the theater opened for the first full performance of The Ring cycle on August 13, 1876, the event was attended by the luminaries of the musical world including Tchaikovsky, Saint-Saëns, Gounod, Grieg, and Liszt. Tchaikovsky noted, “Whether Wagner is right in pursuing his idea to the limit, or whether he stepped over the boundary of aesthetic conventions which can guarantee the durability of a work of art, whether musical art will progress further on the road started by Wagner, or whether the “Ring” is to be the point from which a reaction will set in remains to be seen. But in any case what happened in Bayreth will be well remembered by our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren.” And so it has been.
Wagner died suddenly of heart disease in 1883, having been seriously debilitated by his efforts at premiering his final work, Parsifal. He was buried in the garden of his home Wahnfried, at Bayreuth to the music of “Siegfried’s Death.”
Patrick Summers is currently Artistic Director and Music Director of Houston Grand Opera. This past summer, he conducted Donizetti’s La Favorite at Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu and led the National Symphony Orchestra, in collaboration with Wolf Trap Opera, in a program of Wagner Ring selections. He also appeared in concert with the Aspen Festival Orchestra and Aspen Philharmonic. Highlights of his 2018–19 season include the world premiere of The Phoenix by Tarik O’Regan and John Caird at the Houston Grand Opera, as well as productions in Houston of The Flying Dutchman and Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas. A leading proponent for contemporary American opera, Maestro Summers has fostered and led more than 20 world premieres, collaborating with many of today’s most prominent and performed composers, including Jake Heggie, Carlisle Floyd, Christopher Theofanidis, and Philip Glass. Summers conducts a wide range of repertoire, from Baroque to bel canto to German Romantic, and he has appeared with the Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Dallas Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Rome Opera, Welsh National Opera, Norwegian Opera, and Opera Australia. From 2009 to 2016, he served as Principal Guest Conductor of San Francisco Opera, where he has conducted more than 30 productions, including Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, Theofanidis’ Heart of a Soldier, and Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, Three Decembers, and Moby-Dick.
General and Artistic Director of The Atlanta Opera since 2013, Israeli born Tomer Zvulun is also one of leading stage director of his generation, earning consistent praise for his creative vision and innovative interpretations. His work has been presented by prestigious opera houses in Europe, South and Central America, Israel and the US, including The Metropolitan Opera, Washington National Opera, Seattle Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Dallas, San Diego, Boston, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Montreal, Buenos Aires, Israeli Opera, and the festivals of Wexford, Glimmerglass and Wolf Trap, as well as leading educational institutes and universities such as The Juilliard School, Indiana University, and Boston University.
Tomer spent seven seasons on the directing staff of the Metropolitan Opera where he directed revivals of Carmen and Tosca and was involved with more than a dozen new productions. He is a frequent guest director in companies such as Seattle Opera (Semele, La Bohème, Eugene Onegin, Lucia di Lammermoor), Dallas Opera (Die Fledermaus, La Bohème), Houston (Flying Dutchman, Rigoletto), Wexford Festival (Silent Night, Dinner at Eight), Cincinnati Opera (Magic Flute, Don Giovanni, Flying Dutchman), Wolf Trap (Falstaff, Don Giovanni), Israeli Opera (Dead Man Walking, Giulio Cesare) among others. His European premiere of Silent Night at the Wexford Festival received two Irish Times Awards and traveled from Ireland to Washington National Opera, The Glimmerglass Festival and the opera companies of Atlanta, Austin and Salt Lake City.Read More
Zvulun directed over 15 new productions in his home company in Atlanta, including Dead Man Walking, Flying Dutchman, Soldier Songs, Silent Night, Maria de Buenos Aires, La Boheme, Madama Butterfly, Lucia di Lammermoor, Magic Flute, and Eugene Onegin to name but a few. During Tomer’s tenure, the company’s fundraising has tripled, resulting in twice the number of productions presented annually. His focus on innovation has garnered national attention and resulted in a Harvard Business School case study chronicling The Atlanta Opera’s turnaround, an International Opera Awards nomination, an ArtsATL Luminary Award, and an invitation to deliver a TEDx Talk about innovation in opera.
His upcoming projects include a new Rigoletto in Houston; a new Salome in Atlanta and Kansas City; revivals of his acclaimed production of Eugene Onegin in Montreal, Seattle and Palm Beach; Silent Night at Utah Opera; and Madama Butterfly and Glory Denied in Atlanta. He is currently working on developing a world premiere based on Anne Frank’s Diary and Sensorium Ex, a world premiere based on a story about artificial intelligence.
Tomer’s recent shows have traveled across continents, receiving critical acclaim for their striking visuals and cinematic quality. Some of them included The Flying Dutchman (Houston, Cincinnati, Atlanta), Dinner at Eight (Wexford Festival, Minnesota Opera), Eugene Onegin (Seattle, Atlanta, Detroit, Kansas City), Lucia di Lammermoor (Seattle, Atlanta, Cleveland) Silent Night (Wexford, Atlanta, Glimmerglass, Washington, Austin), Soldier Songs (Atlanta, San Diego), Dead Man Walking (New Orleans, Atlanta), La Bohème (Seattle, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Atlanta, Dallas), Lucrezia Borgia (Buenos Aires), Gianni Schicchi (Juilliard, IVAI Tel Aviv), L’heaure Espagnole (Juilliard), Magic Flute (Cincinnati, Atlanta, Indiana University), Don Giovanni (Wolf Trap, Cincinnati), Die Fledermaus (Dallas, Kansas City), Falstaff (Wolf Trap, Des Moines), Rigoletto (Boston, Atlanta, Omaha, Charlotte), Madama Butterfly (Atlanta, Castleton Festival, New Orleans), Tosca (National Theatre Panama, Atlanta) and Semele (Seattle).
Tomer Zvulun was born and raised in Israel, attended the open University in Tel Aviv and Harvard Business School and makes his home in Atlanta.