Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelungs), also called the Ring cycle, is an opera tetralogy composed by Richard Wagner. Ever since this extraordinary work saw its world premiere in Bayreuth in 1876, it’s been counted among the greatest artistic achievements of Western culture. Not only has it reached cult status with its passionate fan base, it also continues to fascinate new audiences. The Ring takes you on a journey; rather than just telling you about fascinating places, it draws you right into the action.
Der Ring des Nibelungen will be staged in a new production, conducted by Hannu Lintu and directed by Anna Kelo. Creative team also includes Mikki Kunttu, responsible for visual design from lighting to video and set design, as well as Costume Designer Erika Turunen.
A truly transformational work of art
Wagner’s decision to write the Ring cycle transformed both opera arts and the composer’s life. He dedicated himself to the Ring for 26 years with unforeseen ardor. Besides writing the most extensive work of opera in history, he ensured the building of a new venue for the performances and secured the financing for a project of an unprecedented scale.
The staging must match the grandeur of Wagner’s music. Traditionally, the Ring is a story about love, revenge, power and greed. Behind the epic narrative, however, there are even greater themes: questions and answers about mythology, faith and consciousness. I want my direction to be as layered as the music.
– Anna Kelo, director
A journey to another realm begins
Part 1 of the Ring saga introduces the central characters and themes, which are developed further as the story continues. According to Wagner, Rheingold was “the preliminary evening of a stage festival play”. Alberich steals the gold guarded by the Rheinmaidens from the river Rhein. He renounces love and forges the gold into a ring, which will give its bearer unlimited power. Wotan, the ruler of the gods, however, also longs for absolute power.
Wotan is making Valhalla stronger, fathering Valkyrie daughters who gather the greatest war heroes to protect Valhalla. In a battle against the ruthless Hunding, Wotan swears an oath that he will sacrifice his son Sigmund to safeguard the order of the gods. The growing passion between Sigmund and Sieglinde tempers the chaos of conflict and war with nuances of great love. The story of the lovers gives rise to Siegfried, Part III of the Ring cycle.
Siegfried, born from sibling love, feels no fear. He fights to win back the ring forged from the Rheingold, standing in the way of Wotan, the lord of the gods. The mythical Siegfried is all-powerful: he forges an unbeatable sword, slays a dragon, understands birdsong, and wakes a sleeping beauty with a kiss. Siegfried’s fairy-tale story is set in today’s restless mental landscape, where the value of humanity is measured in the size of steroid-pumped muscles.
The curse that has plagued gods and humans will finally be lifted when the Rhinemaidens reclaim the coveted Ring. Götterdämmerung, the final part of Wagner’s epic tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen, takes place in a futuristic dystopia. The story weaves together the characters and plotlines of the three previous parts – Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, and Siegfried. Götterdämmerung is renowned for its orchestral interludes, and the recurring leitmotifs throughout the series add to the narrative quality of the music.
At the Finnish National Opera, Anna Kelo has worked first as an Assistant Director since 1994 and as the Chief Assistant Director since 1998. Kelo has previously directed for example Ice (2019) and Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (2014) to the Finnish National Opera.
In 2016–2017 Kelo supervised the stage direction of Götz Friedrich’s Ring tetralogy for the New National Theatre in Tokyo. Kelo graduated as a Musical Theatre Director from the Russian Academy of Theatre Arts in 1992.
Hannu Lintu’s passion for conducting was sparked by his visit to the Savonlinna Opera Festival at the age of 11. While watching the performance of Don Carlos with his family, the young cellist was mesmerised by what was happening in the orchestra pit rather than the events on the stage. His fascination with opera was already shaping his identity as musician back then.
Operas didn’t play a major role in the conducting degree programme of the Sibelius Academy, but soon after finishing his education, Lintu was mentored by Ulf Söderblom who gave him advice for several works. Lintu has listed Wagner, Verdi, Richard Strauss and Alban Berg as the opera composers closest to his heart.
As an opera conductor, Hannu Lintu wants to be involved in each production as early on as possible. He is keen to immerse himself in the director’s plans, enjoys participating in music and direction rehearsals, explores the sets, and aims to grow together with the production from the very start.
Kunttu has designed the lighting and visuals for a wide variety of dance, theatre and opera productions. He has worked with the Finnish National Opera and Ballet, Cirque du Soleil, the Norwegian National Ballet, the Royal Danish Ballet, Boston Ballet, Opéra de Lyon and Malmö Opera. Kunttu has collaborated with, for instance, Tero Saarinen, Jorma Uotinen, Carolyn Carlson, Jiri Kylian, Akram Khan, Kenneth Greve, Andonis Foniadakis and Jorma Elo.
Kunttu has also created lighting design and visuals for several Finnish television productions. For the Eurovision Song Contest, he has been in charge of lighting and digital screen content in Helsinki in 2007, and digital screen content in Malmö in 2013 and Stockholm in 2016.
Turunen was the Head of the Costume Department at the Finnish National Opera from 1995 to 2009. She has designed costumes for works such as the Snow Queen (2012), The Little Mermaid (2015) and Land of Kalevala (2017).
She has also designed costumes for Nederlands Dans Theater, Ballet de l’Opéra de Lyon, Royal Danish Ballet, Grand Théâtre de Genève and the Operas of Malmö and Gothenburg. The costumes of Turunen are said to be art in themselves, poetic and sculpture-like.