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Lyric Opera of Chicago Announces New Production of Wagner’s "Ring Cycle," Starring Soprano Christine Goerke and Bass-Baritone Eric Owens

By Louise Burton l.burton@classicalite.com on Jan 20, 2014 05:39 PM EST

Anthony Freud, general director of Lyric Opera of Chicago, announced that the company will present a new production of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung), starting in 2016.

Lyric will present one opera from the monumental four-opera "Ring Cycle" each season, starting with Das Rheingold in October 2016 and culminating with Götterdämmerung in early 2020. Audiences will then have the opportunity to experience the complete cycle in the same month, when Lyric presents three complete cycles in April 2020.

Freud also announced two key cast members at the January 17 press conference. "One of the most remarkable dramatic sopranos of our time, Christine Goerke, will be our Brünnhilde, and the magnificent bass-baritone Eric Owens will sing his first Wotan," Freud revealed.

"Each of these artists has enjoyed wonderful successes at Lyric--Christine as Strauss' Elektra and Eric as both Gen. Leslie Groves in Doctor Atomic and in the title role of Hercules. For the 'Ring' they are truly the 'dream team'--two extraordinary singing actors with unique qualities that make them predestined for the Wagner repertoire."

Other cast members will be announced at a later date.

Lyric has presented the full "Ring Cycle" only twice: in 1996 and again in 2005. The "Ring" is a complex and demanding work that encompasses some 15-plus hours of music.

"It represents the high-water mark of our art form--unique in its scale, complexity, fascination, and indeed, in its ability to 'hook' an audience," Freud said. "Experiencing a 'Ring' cycle is one of the most life-transforming artistic experiences the world has to offer. I am thrilled by the team we have assembled to create that experience at Lyric."

The international team includes conductor Sir Andrew Davis, Lyric's music director, who led Lyric's last "Ring Cycle" in 2004-05. The production will be directed by David Pountney, current artistic director of Welsh National Opera. Designers will include Johan Engels (sets), Marie-Jeanne Lecca (costumes) and Fabrice Kebour (lighting).

"Wagner spent some 20 years creating the Ring, so it is a lifetime statement by one of the most significant cultural figures in history," said Pountney. It is not surprising, then, that the Ring encompasses a huge variety of concerns, changing and developing its own ideas throughout the cycle.

"It is partly a satirical political cartoon, partly an Ibsenesque story of love and family, partly a symbolic drama about the beginning and end of the world, and not least a terrific yarn," Pountney continued. "It takes the driving forces of most human drama--love and greed--and handles them with enormous intensity and sophistication."

Tickets for the first opera, Das Rheingold, will go on sale in 2016.

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TagsLyric Opera of Chicago, Richard Wagner, Der Ring des Nibelungen, The Ring of the Nibelungs, Ring Cycle, Anthony Freud, Christine Goerke, Eric Owens, Sir Anthony Davis, David Pountney