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'A ring for everyone': Opera North tours Wagner's epic Ring Cycle with a host of special events


  • Special events for children and families, including over 1000 schoolchildren taking part in the Opera North Big Sing
  • A deeper insight for audiences into Wagner’s work with talks and debates in every city


Few works loom as large in Western culture as Richard Wagner’s monumental Ring (Der Ring des Nibelungen, or The Ring of the Nibelung) a cycle of four operas comprising more than 15 hours of music, usually performed across four days. The story, which Wagner devised based on ancient Nordic and German legends, is an epic tale of heroes and gods, giants and dragons, beginning with music that evokes the dawn of time, and ending with the cataclysmic destruction of the world of the gods.

As Leeds-based national opera company Opera North prepares to perform six complete cycles of the Ring in cities across the country, audiences of all ages can look forward to a series of events illuminating Wagner’s astonishing and unparalleled achievement.

Under the baton of conductor and Opera North music director Richard Farnes, the awe-inspiring dramatic power of Wagner’s music takes centre stage in a Ring like no other. Staged and designed by Peter Mumford, minimal costumes and lighting enhance the performances, with a triptych of screens providing subtle video projection and text. This compelling and visceral format places the orchestra on stage with the singers addressing the audience directly, to thrilling effect.

The Ring cycle is among the greatest artistic and logistical challenges which any opera company can undertake, requiring vast musical forces and lengthy rehearsals. Preparations for Opera North’s performances include:

- Four operas      - Over 600 hours of rehearsals     - 175 rehearsal sessions
- 113 players in orchestra      - 44 singers in chorus      - 28 principal singers


The full programme of work around the performances of the Ring includes activities for children and families, workshops, concerts, live broadcasts and talks, designed both to enhance the experience of those attending the performances of the Ring, and also to encourage new audiences to engage with Wagner’s work in a range of ways.

Find out more about Opera North’s Ring at, or download the press release for full details of cast, all performance dates, and more information on the four operas in the Ring cycle - Das Rheingold (The Rhine gold), Die Walküre (The Valkyrie), Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods).


  • Engaging children and families

The Nordic folklore which captivated Wagner and inspired the Ring informs performances of Myths and Legends by the Opera North Children’s Chorus. The children, aged between 8 and 14 years, are taking to the stage in Leeds, London and Gateshead to perform a sequence of traditional folksongs from Iceland, Sweden, Finland and Estonia. Over the course of the concert, the story of the world’s creation will unfold with the help of gods, giants, dwarves and some strange mythical creatures.

Meanwhile, over 1000 schoolchildren are taking part in Opera North’s Big Sing, learning a newly-composed song cycle based on the same folk tales, to be performed with the Chorus of Opera North at venues including Hexham Abbey and Nottingham’s historic Albert Hall.

(IMAGE:Opera North’s production of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung (2014)
Jo Pohlheim as Alberich and Mats Almgren as Hagen
Conductor Richard Farnes, Concert Staging, Design Concept and Lighting / Projection Designer Peter Mumford.
Photo Credit: Clive Barda)


Photo Credit: Clive Barda

To introduce younger families to the Ring, a specially-designed indoor tent is popping up to host Gold, Gods and Giants. Through music and interactive storytelling, everyone will be encouraged to explore Wagner’s work with the help of actor Anthony Haddon – who portrays a selection of characters from the Ring in spellbinding, and often surprising, fashion - and musician Sylvia Hallett. Performances will take place in Leeds, Salford, Gateshead and London.


  • New commissions

Travelling further afield is a new film and sound installation by Emma Critchley, inspired by the opening bars of Das Rheingold, the first opera in the Ring cycle. Commissioned by Opera North Projects, The Water Sinks Down with Them acts as an immersive metaphor for the evolution of life itself, a journey from a pre-conscious animalistic age to conscious humanity. The film is set in the Rhine, a timeless, unending yet ever changing cosmos, and the underwater space where Wagner chose to open and close the Ring. Critchley’s installation will premiere at Leeds Central Library in May before touring to London’s Southbank Centre and the Baltic, Gateshead.


Photo Credit: Clive Barda
  • Apocalypse season in the Howard Assembly Room

The Howard Assembly Room at Opera North joins in the Ring celebrations with a thought-provoking season titled Apocalypse, during which audiences will be treated to several intriguing responses to the end of the world, in association with the University of Leeds.

Acclaimed critic George Monbiot will expand on the themes he explores in his latest book How Did We Get into This Mess? in a talk on Wednesday 18 May, to be followed by two apocalyptic film screenings: Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (in surround sound) on Friday 20 May and Lars von Triers’ Melancholia starring Kirsten Dunst, on Saturday 21 May.


(IMAGE: Opera North’s production of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung (2014)
Sarah Castle as Flosshilde, Madeleine Shaw as Wellgunde and Katherine Broderick as Woglinde
Conductor Richard Farnes, Concert Staging, Design Concept and Lighting / Projection Designer Peter Mumford.
Photo Credit: Clive Barda)


For Inside Opera: The Ring, Philip Kitcher, Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University and co-author of Finding an Ending: Reflections on Wagner’s Ring, will draw out the philosophical significance of Wagner’s work in a subtle exploration of the problems of meaning and ending. Philip will be joined at the Howard Assembly Room by Dr Martin Pickard, formerly Opera North’s Head of Music, who will discuss the music of the Ring with singers involved in the performances. Further Inside Opera: The Ring events will take place in Djanogly Recital Hall, Nottingham, and the RNCM in Manchester, to coincide with the Ring in each city (speakers vary).






Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Leeds Town Hall                                                     LIMITED TICKETS
Cycle 1
Sat 23 April 2016 7.30pm Das Rheingold
Sat 30 April 2016 5.00pm Die Walküre
Sat 14 May 2016 5.00pm Siegfried
Sat 21 May 2016 3.30pm Götterdämmerung

Cycle 2                                                                       SOLD OUT
Tue 24 May 2016 7.30pm Das Rheingold
Wed 25 May 2016 5.00pm Die Walküre
Fri 27 May 2016 5.00pm Siegfried
Sun 29 May 2016 3.30pm Götterdämmerung




Concert: Opera North Big Sing
Children from across the North join forces to sing a newly composed song-cycle with the Chorus of Opera North in these special concerts

Tue 28 June 6.00pm Howard Assembly Room, Leeds £4.00


Concert: Myths and Legends
Traditional folksongs from northern climes performed by Opera North Children’s Chorus

Sun 26 June 4.00pm Clothworkers Centenary Hall, Leeds £8.00


Storytelling: Gold, Gods and Giants
An interactive storytelling performance for families in Opera North’s special pop-up tent

Sat 28 May 10.30am Leeds Central Library £4.00
Sat 28 May 11.45am Leeds Central Library £4.00
Sat 28 May 1.30pm Leeds Central Library £4.00




Concert: LoveDeath: Music and Words
A celebration of the work of Wagner and visual artist Bill Viola currently exhibiting at YSP, curated by cellist Matthew Sharp.

Sat 9 April 7.30pm Yorkshire Sculpture Park £15.00
Sat 9 April 9.00pm Yorkshire Sculpture Park £15.00


Installation: The Water Sinks Down with Them
A new sound and film installation by Emma Critchley exploring the beginning of life and consciousness, based on the opening bars of Wagner’s Ring.

Mon 16 to Thu 26 May Leeds Central Library Free




A chance to explore various visions of the apocalypse through film and words

Talk: George Monbiot: How Did We Get Into This Mess?
One of today’s most eloquent critics discusses the state we are in: the devastation of our environment, the crisis of inequality and our obsessions with growth and profit, developing solutions to challenge a politics of fear.
Wed 18 May 7.45pm Howard Assembly Room, Leeds £7.50


Film: Apocalypse Now
In Surround Sound

(Dir. Francis Ford Coppola, USA 1979, 153 mins. Cert. 15)
An unforgettable, hallucinatory and harrowing depiction of men at war, conceived on an epic visual scale, with legendary sequences set to music including Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries.
Fri 20 May 7.15pm Howard Assembly Room, Leeds £5.00


Film: Melancholia
(Dir. Lars von Trier, Denmark/Sweden/France/Germany 2011, 136 mins. Cert. 15)
A beautifully shot apocalyptic disaster movie starring Kirsten Dunst, underscored by the prelude to Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.
Sat 21 May 7.15pm Howard Assembly Room, Leeds £5.00


Thought-provoking insights into the significance of Wagner’s seminal work from Opera North’s music staff and guest speakers.

Inside Opera: The Ring
With Philip Kitcher, Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University and co-author of Finding an Ending: Reflections on Wagner’s Ring
Thu 26 May 2.00pm Howard Assembly Room, Leeds Free, booking essential



Full listings for other events in the Southbank Centre’s Power of Power festival can be found here.