Regents Opera forge forward with the third instalment of their ambitious Ring cycle –
Peter Furlong stars as Siegfried alongside Catharine Woodward as Brünnhilde and Holden Madagame as Mime.
Ralf Lukas takes up the role of the Wanderer following the untimely passing of Keel Watson.
The story of the Ring continues in The Grand Temple, Freemasons’ Hall, Covent Garden, February 2024 – Sunday 4th, Wednesday 7th, Saturday 10th.
This innovative production is performed in the round and specially arranged for a 23-piece orchestra, conducted by Ben Woodward.
After the terrific success of last November’s production of Das Rheingold (review here) and May’s Die Walküre (review here), Regents Opera pushes forward into the second half of Wagner’s epic Ring cycle with their fresh take on Siegfried. A bold undertaking for a chamber opera company, Regents Opera has set out to perform every note of Wagner’s masterpiece in its entirety over the span of three years.
This cycle is conducted by the Opera’s Artistic Director, Ben Woodward, who has also helmed the hefty process of rearranging the mammoth score originally intended for 90 instruments, down to just 23.
The setting of this production in the round, and in the stunning surrounds of The Grand Temple’s Freemasons’ Hall, allows audiences a visceral closeness to the singers themselves, ensuring every audience member has a great seat to witness the epic drama and humanity of Wagner’s Ring cycle.
In the first two parts of this Ring cycle, audiences and critics were treated to stunning performances in the role of Wotan by bass-baritone Keel Watson, a long-term collaborator of Regents Opera. Watson was due to continue his role into the remaining parts of Regents Opera’s Ring, but sadly died recently.
On Keel Watson, Ben Woodward, Artistic Director of Regents Opera said: ‘The whole Regents Opera family were deeply saddened to learn of the recent passing of Keel Watson. Keel has been a part of our musical family since 2014, when, at very little notice, he came and rescued our production of Falstaff, bringing with him an hilarious air of pomposity and humour to the fat knight. Thanks very much to him, that production was then revived twice, at both the Arcola Theatre’s “Grimeborn” festival and also at Wilton’s Music Hall.
‘Following Falstaff, we asked Keel and director Daisy Evans what production they might enjoy next, and between them, they chose Der fliegende Holländer, in which Keel would play the title. This was to be the first of four Wagner roles Keel performed with Fulham – later Regents Opera.
‘In 2018, on hearing that we would be producing Don Carlo, Keel informed us that he would be playing King Philip II (!), and did so with tremendous class and joy opposite Philippa Boyle as his Elisabetta.
‘In 2019 we mounted Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, with Keel as Hans Sachs – widely regarded as the longest role in the Wagner canon. Keel was double cast, but his counterpart withdrew, and Keel ended up singing all four performances opposite different Walters and Evas.
‘It was, in a large part, for Keel that we decided to do the Ring cycle in 2022. More than anything else, we wanted to hear his Wotan. In the recent May 2023 Die Walküre, his was shown to be a remarkable interpretation of the role, as so many audience members, including seasoned Wagnerians left the Freemasons’ Hall in tears. He was to complete the set with The Wanderer in Siegfried in February 2024 and full Ring cycles later in the year. We’re all gutted that that is now not to be.
‘Keel met Ingeborg Børch whilst singing our Das Rheingold, and they were together just short of a year. Our hearts go out to her, and to all of Keel’s family and friends. We will all miss him terribly.’
For this production of Siegfried, the role of The Wanderer will now be performed by Ralf Lukas, who has been involved in five previous productions of the opera and sung in hallowed halls worldwide, most notably the spiritual home of the Ring, Bayreuth. Internationally renowned soprano Catherine Woodward continues in role as Brünnhilde, the eventual love interest of Peter Furlong’s Siegfried. Several characters from Das Rheingold also return: Holden Madagame and Oliver Gibbs as Nibelung brothers Mime and Alberich, Craig Lemont Walters as the dragon Fafner, and Mae Heydorn’s Earth god Erda. The cast is completed with Corrine Hart’s Woodbird.
The first instalment, Das Rheingold received a strong positive response, cited as a ground-breaking new interpretation and an ‘innovative’ spectacle that yielded ‘moments of magic’ throughout. The production was also praised for its accessibility and fair ticket pricing amidst the cost-of-living crisis, being named a ‘vital’ piece of fringe opera. The follow-up Die Walküre was called ‘imaginative and electrifying’ and ‘skilfully directed’ by Caroline Staunton, and Woodward’s orchestration praised for ‘proving that you don’t need a big orchestra to make that Wagner sound’. In their review of Die Walküre, The Stage also opined that ‘this may just be the best value Wagner going’.
Regents Opera’s Siegfried marks the last run of performances before they bring the cycle to its epic conclusion with all four operas and their first performances of Götterdämmerung.
Tickets for this penultimate instalment of Regents Opera’s Ring cycle are available now via Ticket Source (click here), and the opening performance of Siegfried is on Sunday 4th February 2024.
On the continuance of Regents Opera’s Ring cycle, Ben Woodward said: ‘We’re absolutely thrilled with how the first two instalments of our Ring cycle have gone, and the lovely reception we’ve had to both operas. It’s very exciting to now be getting into the real meat of the story with our performances of Siegfried in February.
‘We’re very proud to be bringing these monumental works to The Freemasons’ Hall in Covent Garden, where new audiences can experience them in more intimate ways that wouldn’t be possible in a major opera hall.’
Director Caroline Staunton joins Regents Opera for this cycle. Ben commented: ‘Her knowledge of opera is encyclopaedic, and her love of opera is total. Her desire for clarity of text, intention and expression is unsurpassed, and she adores this music. It’s terrifically exciting to be working with her.’
Caroline recently co-directed a new production of Wagner’s Tannhäuser with Kornél Mundruczó at Staatsoper Hamburg. Based in Berlin, she is a staff director at Staatsoper Berlin, regularly working with leading directors including Claus Guth, Dmitri Tcherniakov, David McVicar and Calixto Bieto, and is responsible for revival productions of the repertoire works.
Regents Opera (est.2011) specialises in the larger works of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, offering emerging and established singers a platform to perform major repertoire not often staged outside the major houses. Its critically acclaimed immersive productions include Wagner’s complete Der Ring des Nibelungen and Der fliegende Holländer, Verdi’s Falstaff, Simon Boccanegra and Don Carlo, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor and Johann Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus.
For more about Regents Opera click here.