Wagner's 200th anniversary gets an oil-themed "Ring"

Thu Jul 25, 2013 12:54pm EDT
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By Michael Roddy

BAYREUTH, Germany (Reuters) - The sometimes staid audience for the annual Wagner festival in the Bavarian opera house he built was bracing this week for a new production of his mythic "Ring" cycle inspired by American TV, Hitchcock's "Psycho" and the pursuit of oil.

For a new production for the 200th anniversary of Wagner's birth, Berlin theatre director Frank Castorf said "Rheingold", the first in the four-opera cycle, was set in Texas and opened at a motel on Route 66 - the road that snakes through America.

"It's a place where you would meet a figure like Jim Morrison," the late lead singer of rock group "The Doors", Castorf said.

At a press conference on Thursday, with Wagner's great-granddaughters Eva Wagner-Pasquier and Katharina Wagner in attendance, Castorf said he had also drawn inspiration from film director Quentin Tarantino, big American cars and Coca-Cola.

The production, which will have its premiere on Friday night, has already prompted speculation in the German press that it could cause a scandal, but Katharina Wagner was unfazed.

"It's not about whether I think the 'Ring' is good or bad, it's important that it's exciting and people talk about it," she told reporters.

Castorf said he had also incorporated Mount Rushmore, the monument to U.S. presidents in South Dakota, into the production but had replaced their heads with those of Stalin, Lenin, Marx and Mao.

The switch showed the interplay between capitalism and communism and both systems' dependence on oil, he added.   Continued...

Sculptures of German composer Richard Wagner are seen outside the Gruener Huegel (Green Hill) opera house in Bayreuth July 25, 2013. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle