Vintage ‘Ring’ cycle released for the first time
by Tim Pfaff
Astrid Varnay, backstage in Bayreuth.
Photo: Courtesy Testament
Like migratory birds in their summer plumage, True Wagnerites will make their annual return to the Green Hill — as insiders call the theater complex Richard Wagner established at Bayreuth, in large measure to stage his monumental cycle, the four-opera Der Ring des Nibelungen — on July 26 for the first of this summer’s Rings. But even they could be forgiven for not recognizing a single name in the cast in a production created to showcase conductor Christian Thielemann, Bayreuth’s Best Boy.
If you don’t fly in their flock or haven’t been on the Bayreuth Festival’s ticket waiting list for a decade, an alternative Bayreuth Ring can be yours by way of the first-ever release of the 1955 Bayreuth Ring conducted by Joseph Keilberth and recorded live in the cycle of July 24-28 (Testament). Its cast, a cross-section of the singers assembled by the composer’s grandson Wieland Wagner for his legendary “New Bayreuth” productions after the house re-opened after World War II, includes many of the greatest Wagnerian singers of the second half of the 20th century.
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