Wales to stage Russian production of Ring cycle

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The Independent Culture

British audiences are to get a chance to see a historic production of Wagner's epic Ring cycle conducted by Valery Gergiev, one of the world's hottest musical talents.

In a programming coup for the new Wales Millennium Centre, it will host the only UK performances of the four-opera cycle by the Mariinsky Theatre, formerly the Kirov Opera, of which Gergiev is artistic and general director.

The 19-hour cycle was acclaimed as "epochal" by The New York Times when it was presented in St Petersburg three years ago, the first Ring in Russia for 90 years and the first to be sung in the original German. Hardly any of Wagner's music has been performed in the former Soviet Union since the Second World War.

It went on to win acclaim in Germany where its presentation in Baden-Baden was the first foreign production in that country.

The choice of the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff as one of six venues for the cycle around the world confirms it as an international opera house as well as the home of the Welsh National Opera - although it is also the case that the large-scale production would not fit in many UK theatres.

Demand for tickets is likely to be high when the box office opens to the public on 27 March with prices of £120 to £500 for the full cycle with supertickets, complete with champagne reception on the first night, at £750. It will run over four consecutive nights from 30 November.

Judith Isherwood, the chief executive of the Wales Millennium Centre, said it would be "foolish" to approach a Ring cycle as a commercial exercise.

"It's not a profit-maker for us. We're doing this because it's a prestigious thing for us to do. We have a cultural ambition to be a significant centre and we need to be working with the major companies. Our brand is about artistic excellence."

Gergiev visited the WMC while it was being built and was apparently impressed by its "grandeur".

After its premiere in 2003 in St Petersburg, on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the founding of that city, it was presented in Baden-Baden and then Korea last year.

It has just been seen in Japan, will form part of the opening celebrations of the new Orange County Performing Arts Centre in greater Los Angeles in October before coming to Britain. In the summer of next year, it will be seen at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York and probably in Beijing sometime after that.

Gergiev has an enormous fan base and has won acclaim for his running of the Mariinsky, which is so big that it can provide an entire cast for the cycle from within its own ranks with no guest artists. Virtually no other company could do that. The New York Times said: "This was a Ring to match the four or five most important stagings since the middle of the last century."

Der Tagesspiegel in Berlin said: "The Russians stepped out of the Ring as champions. The Wagner community should have fewer difficulties in procuring a suitable cast of musicians and actors from now on."

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