Von Bock: ′Communication′ the biggest challenge | Music | DW | 12.04.2013
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Von Bock: 'Communication' the biggest challenge

Director Hans Christoph von Bock and his team followed the project "Colón Ring" through all of its highs and lows. The result is a documentary film, which the director talks about with DW.

Hans Christoph von Bock (c) Mark von Wardenburg

Hans Christoph von Bock

DW: The "Colón Ring" production re-conceives Wagner's 16-hour "Ring" as a seven hour opera. And you have to capture five weeks of the staging process in 93 minutes of a documentary. Are those comparable achievements? What was the greatest challenge for you?

Hans Christoph von Bock: The creation and the working process for the "Colón Ring" can hardly be compared. "The Ring of the Nibelung" is the most immense work in opera. The producer and pianist Cord Garben cut the score down by half - that's not an adaptation but a shorter version. The biggest challenge for me, other than the actual shoots, was communicating with people. I had to build up trust with the artists in an environment where they wouldn't even notice us as a film team.

Cord Garben, who reworked the Wagner score, says in your film that one could take ten pages out of, say, "The Valkyrie," and no one would notice. For Wagnerians, that's heretical. Would you agree with him?

A person who knows the original "Ring" will, of course, hardly notice in "The Rhine Gold," in the first scene where Alberich and the Rhinemaidens fight for 20 minutes, that a few pages are missing, or when Wotan tells Brünhilde in "The Valkyrie" what happened the day before in "Rhine Gold." Especially when the transitions fit, and Garben paid particular attention there. That goes well with Wagner, who worked in modules and leitmotifs. It's harder when there are whole characters, like Erda or the Norns, who are cut out. That's why it's not Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung," but the short version of it.

A scene from a rehearsal of the 'Colon Ring' (c) DW/v. Bock

'Ring' performers had a furious five weeks to prepare for their altered performance

So, a "Ring" for beginners?

Yes, I would say so. In an age where our reception of works has changed, it's a possibility for someone interested in music to have initial contact with Wagner's magnum opus - with the music, the characters and themes, and get a sense of this complex and multi-dimensional work. The essential things are in it.

The film's protagonist had to take over in Buenos Aires from Katharina Wagner, who had resigned from the project. Is the film still about her?

It's in no way a film about Katharina Wagner. But the documentary shows and documents the situation in which stage director Katharina Wagner realizes that her original, very demanding and radical concept cannot be realized and that she must take the consequences - namely by giving up the project. She didn't want to tell the story of the "Ring" in a linear way, the way the stand-in director Valentina Carrasco has done. Katharina Wagner wanted to make the story much more compact dramaturgically, with scenes running parallel to one another on a revolving stage.

When she saw on the first rehearsal day that it couldn't be done, she decided to bow out. The film shows what happens then, how the ensemble manages to still put the project on stage - as they race against time.

A scene from rehearsals of 'The Valkyrie' (c) DW

A scene from rehearsals of 'The Valkyrie'

The one-of-a-kind project was realized in the last minute by Argentine stage director Valentina Carrasco. In Europe, a "rescue" of this sort would probably have been scarcely possible. Could the Europeans learn from the Argentines?

In terms of how people relate to each other generally or in preparing steaks - definitely. But less in terms of the organizational and technical realization of a modern opera production. It's two completely different worlds - evident even in how the costumes and stage are designed. In Europe, the focus is on precision, punctuality, details and technically streamlined workflows. In Latin America, they work much more spontaneously. You can of course also call it creativity: Improvisation is more important, and people prefer to react spontaneously. Sometimes very happily at that.

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