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A scene from Götterdämmerung, part four of the Ring Cycle, in the centenary production at the Bayreuth Festival, conducted by Pierre Boulez and staged by Patrice Chéreau, with Gwyneth Jones as Brünnhilde
  • 1976 (1976)
  • 1977
  • 1978
  • 1979
  • 1980

The Jahrhundertring (Centenary Ring) was the production of Richard Wagner's Ring cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen, at the Bayreuth Festival in 1976, celebrating the centenary of both the festival and the first performance of the complete cycle. The festival was directed by Wolfgang Wagner and the production was created by the French team of conductor Pierre Boulez, stage director Patrice Chéreau, stage designer Richard Peduzzi, costume designer Jacques Schmidt and lighting designer André Diot. The cycle was shown first in 1976, then in the following years until 1980. It was filmed for television in 1979 and 1980. While the first performance caused "a near-riot" for its brash modernity, the staging established a standard, termed Regietheater (director's theater), for later productions.


Festival director Wolfgang Wagner selected the composer Pierre Boulez as the conductor for the centenary celebration of Wagner's most complex work, which had been first performed at the first Bayreuth festival. The conductor's first choice for a stage director was Ingmar Bergman. When he refused,[1] Boulez recommended as stage director Patrice Chéreau.[2] Chéreau brought in the team of stage designer Richard Peduzzi, costume designer Jacques Schmidt and lighting designer André Diot,[3][4] with whom he had collaborated already in his first theatre, the Public-Theatre in the Parisian suburb of Sartrouville, from 1966.[5]

The French team revolutionised the understanding of Wagner in Germany, as music critic Eleonore Büning wrote in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.[2] Unprecedentedly, the scene was set in the Industrial Revolution, "dressing the gods as capitalists at war with the Nibelung proletariat".[6] Set at the time of the composition, it took a critical view of the time's capitalism, industrialism and spiritual background.[2][6] The Rhinemaidens appeared as 19th-century cancan dancers and Wotan as a banker in a frock coat. Siegfried enters the hall of the Gibichungs dressed in the "ragged clothes of a mythical hero" and meets Gunther wearing a dinner jacket, visualising how alien the hero is to the world. The director's approach was described as a mix of "a vague sense of 19th-century melodrama with Shaw's messianic socialism and Strindberg's psychodrama.[1]


The singers for the production had to act as much as to sing, especially for the filming in 1980.

The following table shows singers from the first year 1976 to the last year, when it was filmed. The parts of Wagner's stage work are abbreviated R for Das Rheingold, W for Die Walküre, S for Siegfried, G for Götterdämmerung.

Singers in Jahrhundertring
Role In part Singer 1976 Singer 1977 Singer 1978 Singer 1979 Singer 1980 All
Wotan R W S Donald McIntyre[3] Donald McIntyre[7] Donald McIntyre[8] Donald McIntyre[9] Donald McIntyre[10] *
Donner R Jerker Arvidson Martin Egel Martin Egel Martin Egel Martin Egel
Froh R Heribert Steinbach Siegfried Jerusalem Siegfried Jerusalem Siegfried Jerusalem Siegfried Jerusalem
Loge R Heinz Zednik Heinz Zednik Heinz Zednik Heinz Zednik Heinz Zednik *
Fricka R W Yvonne Minton Eva Randová Hanna Schwarz Hanna Schwarz Hanna Schwarz
Freia R Rachel Yakar Carmen Reppel Carmen Reppel Carmen Reppel Carmen Reppel
Erda R S Ortrun Wenkel Hanna Schwarz Ortrun Wenkel Ortrun Wenkel Ortrun Wenkel
Alberich R S G Zoltán Kelemen Zoltán Kelemen Zoltán Kelemen Hermann Becht Hermann Becht
Mime R Wolf Appel [de] Wolf Appel [de] Helmut Pampuch Helmut Pampuch Helmut Pampuch
Fasolt R Matti Salminen Heikki Toivanen [de] Heikki Toivanen [de] Matti Salminen Matti Salminen
Fafner R S Bengt Rundgren Matti Salminen Matti Salminen Fritz Hübner Fritz Hübner
Woglinde R G Yoko Kawahara Norma Sharp Norma Sharp Norma Sharp Norma Sharp
Wellgunde R G Ilse Gramatzki Ilse Gramatzki Ilse Gramatzki Ilse Gramatzki Ilse Gramatzki *
Floßhilde R G Adelheid Krauss Cornelia Wulkopf Marga Schiml Marga Schiml Marga Schiml
Siegmund W Peter Hofmann[11] Robert Schunk[12] Peter Hofmann[13] Peter Hofmann[14] Peter Hofmann[15] *
Hunding W Matti Salminen Matti Salminen Matti Salminen Matti Salminen Matti Salminen *
Sieglinde W Hannelore Bode Hannelore Bode Hannelore Bode Jeannine Altmeyer Jeannine Altmeyer
Brünnhilde W S G Gwyneth Jones Gwyneth Jones Gwyneth Jones Gwyneth Jones Gwyneth Jones *
Gerhilde W Rachel Yakar Carmen Reppel Eva Johansson Carmen Reppel Carmen Reppel
Ortlinde W Irja Auroora Astrid Schirmer Lia Frey-Rabine Karen Middleton Karen Middleton
Waltraute W Doris Soffel Gabriele Schnaut Silvia Herman Gabriele Schnaut Gabriele Schnaut
Schwertleite W Adelheid Krauss Patricia Payne Hitomi Katagiri Gwendolyn Killebrew Gwendolyn Killebrew
Helmwige W Katie Clarke Katie Clarke Eva-Maria Bundschuh Katie Clarke Katie Clarke
Siegrune W Alicia Nafé Cornelia Wulkopf Linda Finnie Marga Schiml Marga Schiml
Grimgerde W Ilse Gramatzki Ilse Gramatzki Uta Priew Ilse Gramatzki Ilse Gramatzki
Rossweisse W Elisabeth Glauser Elisabeth Glauser Hebe Dijkstra Elisabeth Glauser Elisabeth Glauser
Siegfried S René Kollo[16] René Kollo[17] René Kollo[18] Manfred Jung[19] Manfred Jung[20]
Mime S Heinz Zednik Heinz Zednik Heinz Zednik Heinz Zednik Heinz Zednik *
Waldvogel (forest bird) S Yoko Kawahara Norma Sharp Norma Sharp Norma Sharp Norma Sharp
Siegfried G Jess Thomas[21] Manfred Jung[22] Manfred Jung[23] Manfred Jung[24] Manfred Jung[25]
Gunther G Jerker Arvidson Franz Mazura Franz Mazura Franz Mazura Franz Mazura
Hagen G Karl Ridderbusch Karl Ridderbusch Karl Ridderbusch Fritz Hübner Fritz Hübner
Gutrune G Irja Auroora Hannelore Bode Hannelore Bode Jeannine Altmeyer Jeannine Altmeyer
Waltraute G Yvonne Minton Yvonne Minton Yvonne Minton Gwendolyn Killebrew Gwendolyn Killebrew
First Norn G Ortrun Wenkel Patricia Payne Patricia Payne Ortrun Wenkel Ortrun Wenkel
Second Norn G Dagmar Trabert Gabriele Schnaut Gabriele Schnaut Gabriele Schnaut Gabriele Schnaut
Third Norn G Hannelore Bode Katie Clarke Katie Clarke Katie Clarke Katie Clarke

Alternate singers were in 1976 Hans Sotin as Wotan and Karl Ridderbusch as Hunding, Roberta Knie as Brünnhilde in Götterdämmerung and Bengt Rundgren as Hagen. In 1977, Patrice Chéreau acted the part of Siegfried in one performance of Siegfried, because singer René Kollo had broken his leg. In 1978, Astrid Schirmer performed Sieglinde in Walküre, Jean Cox sang the part of Siegfried in one performance of Siegfried.


The Ring production was initially met with controversial reactions,[26] provoking "a near-riot", due to its controversial setting of the saga in the Industrial revolution, with the Rhinemaidens as prostitutes.[6] Later it was understood as "a thoughtful allegory of man's exploitation of natural resources".[6] Winifred Wagner, the then elderly matriarch of the Wagner dynasty, disliked the production but asked rhetorically "isn't it better to be furious than to be bored?".[27] After its final performance in 1980 the production was celebrated in a 45-minute standing ovation.[28][29] It set a standard for productions of the Ring Cycle to follow.[2] Called the beginning of Regietheater (director's theater), the production influenced directors and designers.[6]

The production was filmed for television in 1979 and 1980.[30] Die Walküre was shown in the ARD on 28 August 1980.[31] The cycle was shown completely in 1983, in commemoration of the composer's death, and also presented in the cinema internationally.[32]

While a DVD review of the BBC criticized Boulez's "ruthless tempi" and "pervasive lack of expressiveness",[33] James Leonard noted: "... more controversial than Chéreau's dramatic conception was Boulez's musical execution. With startlingly clear textures, spectacularly bright colors, and stunningly light tempos, Boulez obtains a Wagner sound like no other. And for those with ears to hear, it works. Wagner's music doesn't have to be murky to be metaphysical or massive to be overwhelmingly moving and Boulez gets playing from the too-often turgid Bayreuth Festival Orchestra that makes the music crackle and blaze with musical and dramatic meaning."[34] Edward Rothstein wrote for the New York Times: "Aspects of the score emerge with unexpected clarity. In the opening of 'Die Walküre', he deliberately understates the bass line, giving the music's aggressive restlessness an eerie disembodied character. Throughout 'The Ring', filigree and details are crisply articulated without undue stress on the leitmotifs; nothing is made sentimental or obvious. Particularly drawn to the intricately shifting sound world of the late, last opera, Mr. Boulez gives it a dramatic sweep along with a crystalline gleam."[1]


  1. ^ a b c Rothstein, Edward (16 April 1993). "Worthy Versions Of 'The Ring': A Critical Selection; Pierre Boulez". New York Times. New York. Retrieved 19 October 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d Büning, Eleonore (8 October 2013). "Nachruf auf Patrice Chéreau / Erschütterer der Opernwelt". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German). Frankfurt. Retrieved 11 October 2013.
  3. ^ a b "Das Rheingold" (in German). Bayreuth Festival. Retrieved 17 August 2020.
  4. ^ Kirkup, James (9 October 2013). "Patrice Chéreau: Film, theatre and opera director hailed for his Bayreuth Ring Cycle and for La Reine Margot". The Independent. London. Retrieved 11 October 2013.
  5. ^ "L'homme de théâtre Patrice Chéreau est mort" [Dramatist Patrice Chéreau dead]. Le Figaro (in French). Paris. 7 October 2013. Retrieved 11 October 2013.
  6. ^ a b c d e Wise, Brian (7 October 2013). "Patrice Chéreau, Iconoclastic Opera Director, Dies at 68". New York City: WQXR-FM. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
  7. ^ "Das Rheingold 1977". Bayreuth Festival.
  8. ^ "Das Rheingold 1978". Bayreuth Festival.
  9. ^ "Das Rheingold 1979". Bayreuth Festival.
  10. ^ "Das Rheingold 1980". Bayreuth Festival.
  11. ^ "Die Walküre 1976". Bayreuth Festival.
  12. ^ "Die Walküre 1977". Bayreuth Festival.
  13. ^ "Die Walküre 1978". Bayreuth Festival.
  14. ^ "Die Walküre 1979". Bayreuth Festival.
  15. ^ "Die Walküre 1980". Bayreuth Festival.
  16. ^ "Siegfried". Bayreuth Festival.
  17. ^ "Siegfried 1977". Bayreuth Festival. Archived from the original on 29 December 2017. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  18. ^ "Siegfried 1978". Bayreuth Festival. Archived from the original on 21 July 2018. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  19. ^ "Siegfried 1979". Bayreuth Festival.
  20. ^ "Siegfried 1980". Bayreuth Festival.
  21. ^ "Götterdämmerung". Bayreuth Festival.
  22. ^ "Götterdämmerung 1977". Bayreuth Festival.
  23. ^ "Götterdämmerung 1978". Bayreuth Festival.
  24. ^ "Götterdämmerung 1979". Bayreuth Festival.
  25. ^ "Götterdämmerung 1980". Bayreuth Festival.
  26. ^ "Der Ring-Kampf von Bayreuth". Der Spiegel (in German). Hamburg. 2 August 1976. Retrieved 13 October 2013.
  27. ^ Driscoll, F. Paul (April 2014). "Patrice Chéreau". Opera News. Vol. 68, no. 10. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  28. ^ Kozinn, Allan (7 October 2013). "Patrice Chéreau, Opera, Stage and Film Director, Dies at 68". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
  29. ^ Millington, Barry (8 October 2013). "Patrice Chéreau and the bringing of dramatic conviction to the opera house". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 11 October 2013.
  30. ^ Braun, William R. "Berg: Wozzeck". operanews.com. Retrieved 11 October 2013.
  31. ^ "Diese Woche im Fernsehen Freitag, 29. 8.". Der Spiegel (in German). Hamburg. 25 August 1980. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
  32. ^ "Ein Maskenball zum Tod in Venedig". Der Spiegel (in German). Hamburg. 7 February 1983. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
  33. ^ Tanner, Michael. "Michael Tanner's Guide to audio recordings of Der Ring des Nibelungen". BBC. Retrieved 19 October 2013.
  34. ^ Leonard, James. "Bayreuth Festival Orchestra / Pierre Boulez / Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen". Allmusic. Retrieved 19 October 2013.

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