‘A Stone in the Mosaic’: A Director Enters the House of Wagner

We follow Wotan, we follow Brünnhilde, we follow Siegfried, and never get just one impression that one is a hero and the other is purely evil. Instead, we get to know the scratching, the deep dive into unconscious motivations. The “Ring” is mainly about one big family. We take this tale through different generations, through children and grandchildren, and this long stretch of history within the people and this family.

There are guests — wanted and unwanted — who interfere in this family story. The basic conflicts are Greek conflicts. Motivations of anger, of hatred, of love, the will to power. This stays within this family, and that informs my, you could say, Nietzschean approach. What is the thing that motivates every person in the piece? It’s knowing the end: that they will die, that it will end, that time ends. All of them are trying to find a solution for this.

This summer’s production will have many singers switch roles between productions instead of, for example, casting one single Wotan and Brünnhilde throughout the entire cycle. Is this related to that generational approach, or is it a more prosaic choice?

Like most things in a theater, there’s the basic mundane thing, which is that we have not so many Wagner singers, and they are reducing in number every year. There’s maybe five people in the world who can sing Wotan. Bayreuth gives those singers a chance for singers to evolve within the pieces. Over time, someone can sing Fasolt and go on and sing Wotan afterward, for example.

For the casting, I was of course very involved with Katharina Wagner. In many cases, it’s interesting to show how the role, the character changes between pieces. Irene Theorin, for example, sings Brünnhilde in “Walküre” and “Götterdämmerung,” and in between, in “Siegfried,” it’s Daniela Köhler. To make this big transition, it was great to see — at the end of Walküre, Irene Theorin is trapped on the cliffs by Wotan behind the magic fire, but this person is changing.

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