Melbourne Opera presents The Ring Cycle Cultural Festival.

Siegfried in Concert
? Siegfried in Concert

Distinguished international maestro Anthony Negus has arrived from the UK to conduct Wagner’s Siegfried in Concert at the Melbourne Recital Centre, on 25 September. Siegfried is the third opera in Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle, one of the biggest productions in all the performing arts and the greatest challenge for any opera company.

The company began tackling the Ring Cycle in 2021, staging the first two of the four Ring operas in full over two years, to resounding critical and public acclaim. Melbourne Opera’s staging is the first entirely Australian generated production since 1913.

Made possible by Melbourne’s most distinguished and committed arts patrons led by Patron in Chief Lady Primrose Potter, the company is thrilled to present The Ring Cycle Cultural Festival, a regional Australian first coming to Bendigo in March-April 2023. Henkell Brothers’ generous sponsorship also makes the Ring Cycle Cultural Festival possible.

The festival presents three Ring Cycles alongside recitals featuring star singers, gala dinners on stage, talks, exhibitions and a full-day Wagner symposium. All four Ring operas will be staged in full at the acoustically impressive Ulumbarra Theatre. Drawing attention from international opera lovers, over half of the full cycle tickets have already been sold, including 30% to interstate and international buyers.

The not-for-profit arts organisation’s $5 million production will employ over 250 Australian singers, musicians, creatives and technicians. The exclusively regional production is expected to drive major tourism to Bendigo with three full Ring Cycles performed over six weeks from 24 March – 30 April 2023.

Australian opera goers and curious new audience members have a final chance to preview Melbourne Opera’s Ring via a special Sunday performance of Siegfried in Concert. The concert features the 90-piece Melbourne Opera Orchestra and directly follows Wagner specialist conductor Negus’ highly successful productions of Die Walküre with the English National Opera at London’s famed Colosseum and at his famous Longborough Festival Opera.

Siegfried in Concert has assembled a superb Australian cast, with Warwick Fyfe as Wotan, Lee Abrahmsen as Brunnhilde, Simon Meadows as Alberich, Deborah Humble as Erda, Steven Gallop as Fafner, Bradley Daley as Siegfried, Rebecca Rashleigh as Woodbird and Robert Macfarlane as Mime.

Anthony Negus describes how Siegfried’s score references The Ring’s first opera Das Rheingold, which he travelled to Australia to direct at the Regent Theatre in February 2021.

“The mysterious opening over a long deep timpani roll and Mime’s brooding bassoon thirds leads into a reliving of the great build up in Rheingold scene four, where the gold is brought up to Wotan and Loge by the Nibelungs,” says Negus.

Siegfried follows a quest for identity, culminating in the third act; “there is an enormous exhilaration to this closing scene in which Brunnhilde’s resistance is finally conquered, and the mountain top is bathed in blazing C major light,” says Negus.

The Ring Cycle Cultural Festival features an all-Australian cast accompanied by internationally acclaimed singers, and led by creatively gifted director, Suzanne Chaundy. Suzanne is excited to crown her immense staggered staging of Wagner’s epic Ring with an even bigger undertaking, a season of three full cycles. She discusses her direction of Siegfried, ahead of the concert performance.

“Siegfried emerges – both literally and metaphorically – from darkness to light as he pieces together who he is and meets his destiny. We will tell this tale as an adult fairy-tale, full of mythical horror and deep-seated psychological yearning,” says Chaundy.

Wagner’s Ring totals 17 hours of stage time across four operas, and is known to be the inspiration behind many great themes, stories and soundtracks across the ages. The plot is understood to have inspired Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and the score includes highlights such as Siegfried’s Rhine Journey and Funeral March, Wotan’s Farewell and the infamous Ride of the Valkyries, known to modern audiences for its memorable use in iconic films such as Apocalypse Now.

Each Ring Cycle will be performed over two weekends at the Ulumbarra Theatre, encouraging longer stays in the booming Bendigo region, which has recently hosted a range of international arts and culture exhibitions and events.

Melbourne Opera continues its successes as one of Australia’s busiest opera companies with a roving, site-specific production of The Marriage of Figaro at The Australian Club on 16 October, and Mozart by Moonlight in the Royal Botanic Gardens in partnership with Australian Shakespeare Company in February 2023.

Siegfried in Concert
Melbourne Recital Centre, Elisabeth Murdoch Hall
Sunday 25 September, 2:00pm
Tickets from $30 via Melbourne Recital Centre

The Ring Cycle Cultural Festival credits
Conducted by maestro Anthony Negus and David Kram AM
Directed by Suzanne Chaundy
Warwick Fyfe as Wotan
Antoinette Halloran and Zara Barrett as Brünnhilde
Bradley Daley as Siegfried
Lee Abrahmsen as Sieglinde and Freia
Simon Meadows as Alberich
James Egglestone as Siegmund and Loge
Adrian Tamburini as Hunding and Hagen
Steven Gallop as Fafner
Deborah Humble as Erda
Rosamund Illing as Gerhilde and a Norn

24 March – 30 April
Ulumbarra Theatre, Bendigo
Tickets from $900 for a full Ring Cycle over two weekends
via Bendigo Venues & Events