A new film and a big challenge | Music | DW | 25.09.2012
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A new film and a big challenge

Director Hans Christoph von Bock was faced with a considerable challenge: to film the abridged version of the "Ring" and turn it into an intimate and thrilling musical documentary.

Hans Christoph von Bock Copyright: Mark von Wardenburg

Hans Christoph von Bock

Staging Wagner's "The Ring of the Nibelung" in a single day - is that even possible? When I first heard that the most immense, complex work in the history of music was to be presented in a shortened version at Latin America's foremost opera house, I was immediately excited.

Wagner conceived his tetralogy for three opera evenings and one preliminary evening. But the mammoth work, which addresses fundamental questions of human existence, never gets boring - even if it does include several drawn-out sequences. One example comes in the second opera, "The Valkyrie," when Wotan goes on for 20 minutes about what happened in the preceding opera of the cycle.

Katharina Wagner - the composer's great-granddaughter, co-director of the Bayreuth Festival and a stage director as well - had invited me along to film her own production of the abridged version at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. It was an ambitious project, developed in collaboration with her set and costume designer.

A strong cast of internationally tested Wagnerian soloists was engaged for the event. Like our camera team and I, they made their way to the Argentine capital, expecting to partake in a unique project of music theater.

But it didn't happen that way.

Katharina Wagner and her team arrived at the Teatro Colón but didn't find adequate conditions for rehearsals there. Refusing to work under these conditions, the director departed.

How that version of the "Ring," never-before performed, had its successful premiere after all is the subject of this 93 minute documentary.

We follow the cast on all the ups and downs of an exceptional staging process over a period of five weeks. We experience how Valentina Carrasco, the new director who stepped in on short notice with her team, stages Wagner's mammoth work in a heretofore unknown seven-hour version, together with singers, stage and costume designers - the entire music drama performed on a single day.

There's no commentary, but the cameras reveal what goes on in detail. Solely from the perspective of those involved, we show how modern musical theater is created.

The expectations and cooperation of all of the artists involved ahead of their premiere on November 27, 2012 informs the dramaturgical structure of the film.

My goal is to show in an entertaining and visually appealing way how exciting contemporary opera can be - particularly for audiences that might not normally make their way to the opera house.