New National Theatre commences epic ‘Ring’ cycle


Coinciding with Tom Cruise’s latest film, the New National Theatre Tokyo will next month perform the opera “Die Walkure” (“The Valkyrie”), part of “Der Ring des Niebelungen” (“The Ring of the Niebelung”), which is a cycle of four linked operas composed by 19th-century German Richard Wagner (1813-83).

The cycle, often referred to simply as “The Ring,” requires four nights to perform, with a playing time of about 15 hours — one of the largest and most ambitious works in the history of opera.

Based loosely on German and Norse mythologies, the story tells of complex conflicts among gods, giants, dwarves and humans, over a magical ring that grants control of the entire world.

The NNTT first performed all four parts of “The Ring” between 2001 and 2004, under the direction of Britain’s Keith Warner, which had a huge impact on the Japan opera scene.

The theater now plans to perform all four productions again from 2009 through 2010. “The Rhine Gold,” which played this month will be followed by “The Valkyrie,” a tale of adultery and incest between Siegmund and his long-lost twin sister Sieglinde and the chief god Wotan’s love and punishment of his daughter Brunnhilde — a Valkyrie, who, like her kind from Norse mythology, chooses the warriors who die in battle.

Far from the stereotypes of the grave Wagner, innovative stage settings, suggestive of American pop art and Hollywood films, and present Wagner’s epic work in a way that strikes a contemporary chord, which is likely to appeal to modern audiences.

Top-level Wagner singers worldwide, such as Finnish bass-baritone Jukka Rasilainen; German tenor Endrik Wottrich; and Austrian soprano Martina Serafin, will collaborate with Japanese talents, under the baton of emerging Israeli conductor Dan Ettinger.

The final two parts of the series, “Siegfried” and “The Twilight of the Gods” are scheduled for February and March 2010.

“Die Walkure” will be performed at the New National Theatre Tokyo in Hatsudai, Tokyo on April 3, 6, 9, 12 and 15 at 5 p.m. (April 6, 12 and 15 at 2 p.m.). Tickets are ¥5,250-¥26,250. Call (03) 5352-9999 or visit ent-nntt.pia.jp/