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Wagner’s Ring – five online talks by Barry Millington

posted on 29/01/21


One of the most ambitious works of art ever conceived, Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen unfolds over more than fourteen hours of music. The story it tells of political ambition and the abuse of power, but also of humanity’s countervailing capacity for love in all its sensual and compassionate manifestations, unfolds within a timeless, mythical framework and abounds in soaring lyricism and luxuriant harmonies. 

Prefaced by an introductory lecture placing the Ring in the context of Wagner’s life and work, this series takes us through the creation of the tetralogy from its inception in 1848 to its triumphant première at Bayreuth in 1876, and addresses the political and philosophical ideas that underpin the drama.

They take place every Tuesday from 4 May to 1 June at 4.30pm GMT+1 (11.30am EDT) and, including Q&A, will probably last just under an hour. They are available for viewing for eight weeks after the last episode is streamed (27 July).

Register for the webinar series for £65

Frequently asked questions

What methods of payment do you accept?

An electronic invoice will be sent to your e-mail address 1–3 working days after you have completed our registration form. Payment can be made online using AMEX, Apple Pay, Google Pay, MasterCard or Visa.

How do I purchase the webinar series as a gift?

Please contact us specifying how many subscriptions you would like and who they are for (we require their full name and e-mail address). We will invoice you directly, and after we have received your payment we will release the webinar joining instructions to your friend(s) or family member(s).

Can I purchase a single episode?

No, unfortunately not. The series must be purchased in full.

How do I join the webinar?

An e-mail confirmation will be sent to you after you have paid for your subscription, which includes your unique link for joining the webinar. Reminder e-mails will be sent to you one day and one hour before each event. We recommend that you download the Zoom software in advance of the first webinar.

Can I watch the live broadcast(s) on more than one device?

Only one device can be connected to the live broadcast(s) at any one time. If you wish to purchase a second subscription, please contact us.

What happens if I am unable to attend the live broadcast(s)? 

A recording will be uploaded to a dedicated webpage approximately two hours after the live broadcast. For copyright reasons, these recordings cannot be made available indefinitely; access is granted for eight weeks after the final live broadcast of the series.

The talks

1. Introduction: the musical and intellectual world of Wagner’s Ring (4th May)

How and why was this epoch-making ‘artwork of the future’ written? The genesis of the work and its many innovations – in scale, subject matter, fusion of text and music, abolition of traditional arias and ensembles, leitmotivic construction – are examined. We also see how Wagner looked back to Greek drama and the medieval German verse form Stabreim for inspiration.

2. Das Rheingold: The theft of the gold (11th May)

The extraordinary opening of this ‘preliminary evening’ of the cycle – surely the most generous curtain-raiser in the history of the theatre – can be seen as a musical representation of the act of Creation itself, or perhaps of the birth of consciousness. For his ‘artwork of the future’ Wagner devises a new kind of musical declamation and we learn the true dramatic and structural purpose of the leitmotifs.

3. Die Walküre: The guilty god and his favourite daughter (18th May)

Wotan’s anguished moral dilemmas are ours too, while Brünnhilde brings hope. We look at the ideas of Wagner’s favourite philosophers Feuerbach and Schopenhauer to penetrate to the core of the Ring: the end of a world order governed by God or gods, and the transformation into a new humanistic one in which love is prized over power and material possessions.

4. Siegfried: Dragon-slayer and child of nature (25th May)

‘Mythical figure of light’ or ‘overgrown boy scout’? Why is it sometimes difficult to empathise with Wagner’s fearless Siegfried? His role, as sun god and free hero, was to re-establish the long-lost harmony between nature and human conduct. But does his emotional immaturity render him unfit for the task? Was Wagner’s hero always doomed to failure?

5. Götterdämmerung: The fall of the gods (1st June)

The culmination of Wagner’s monumental cycle is a paradox: while a magnificent peroration to the project initiated a quarter of a century earlier, it also contains some of Wagner’s most stylistically regressive music. The ideas of social revolutionaries such as Rousseau and Proudhon can be traced alongside those of Feuerbach, but the question remains whether the ending should be seen as optimistic or pessimistic.

Register for the webinar series for £65


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