HANDOUT - 23.07.2022, Bayern, Bayreuth: Fotoprobe: Arnold Bezuyen (Mime) mit Schülerstatisten in "Das Rheingold" während der Bayreuther Festspiele 2022. Fortsetzung der Bayreuther Festspiele mit einer Neuinszenierung von Richard Wagners «Rheingold», Inszenierung von Valentin Schwarz. Foto: Enrico Nawrath/Festspiele Bayreuth/dpa - ACHTUNG: Verwendung im Internet nur bei max. Größe 1000 x 1000 Pixel - honorarfreie Verwendung nur mit vollständiger Nennung des vorstehenden Credits +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

Pack fights, Pack gets along – just not. The fact that the young director Valentin Schwarz is creating the new “Ring des Nibelungen” in Bayreuth, which has been postponed twice because of Corona, as a family saga is already made abundantly clear with the first bars of the “Rheingold” evening before. Even before the sub-contra-low E flat of the double basses rises from the depths of the orchestra pit, this primal abyss of all “Ring” motifs and all the light and black album figures in Wagner’s tetralogy, the curtain rises and one sees – yes, what? A DNA double helix? Corals on the bottom of the Rhine, where this cursed pot of gold is also?

No, an umbilical cord can be seen on the XXL video, or more precisely: two. Twins in the womb appear, while gradually the Wagnerian waves, contoured quite soberly by Cornelius Meister on the podium, break in with formally spelled out triad breaks. The twin fetuses also look more like computer simulation than video art. They gently tumble around each other, but soon they’re being kicked and boxed. violence, prenatal.

Fratricidal war, fratricidal murder: Valentin Schwarz wants the cycle to be understood like a Netflix series – the announcement had upset Wagner fans. He was only interested in the moment of tension, the addiction factor.

The fact that he interprets the main opponents, the father of the gods Wotan and the love-hungry and power-hungry underworld Alberich, in the “pilot film” as twin brothers – and the Rheingold robbery as revenge of the neglected – is what the audience finds out most quickly when it reads the QR code in the program booklet makes use of it and listens to the audio file with the beginning of Schwarz’s “Ring” narrative recited by Jens Harzer.

The brother motif certainly comes from Wagner himself, since Alberich enslaves his dwarf brother Mime, and the giant Fafner kills Brother Fasolt.

The highlight of the 33-year-old Austrian, who is staging Wagner for the first time: Alberich doesn’t steal a gold treasure when the Rhinemaidens humiliate him – here are the nannies at the pool of the Wotan estate – but the youth. The future of the dynasty, in the form of a group of children, is also having fun at the pool. This is not about capitalism, materialism and greed for profit as in Patrice Chereau’s “century ring” or most recently with Frank Castorf, but rather about family traumata, about clinches and wars in the widely ramified Wälsungen clan.

Help, the dwarf has kidnapped the children: The main hostage, a boy in a baseball cap (costume: Andy Visit), turns out to be already traumatized in the way he bullies and hits. Children, create something new! No, counters Schwarz: Children don’t create anything new, they continue the old patterns.

Since then people have been puzzling in Bayreuth: is the boy Klein-Hagen, Alberich’s son, who will later murder Siegfried? But why does the dwarf kidnap his own offspring? Is it perhaps rather little Siegfried, who is cared for by Mime together with the kidnapped girls with blond braids (the still childish Valkyries?)? That would not correspond to the chronology of events, but it would correspond to Wagner’s libretto insofar as Mime actually raises the hopeful hero in “Siegfried”, part 3 of the cycle.

It doesn’t matter, since when are family series (chrono-)logical? The bigger problem is that Schwarz’s psychological thriller has so little to do with Wagner’s music. It runs more alongside. The festival orchestra, conducted by Cornelius Meister, who stepped in for the sick Pietari Inkinen, sounds contained, with striking action moments, but without magical mixed sounds, with a low color and volume spectrum.

Even the action is harmless: Wagner literally set the early industrial era to music, when forging and toiling took place in the Nibelheim factory. Here it’s just the clatter of cutlery from the kidnapped kids in the after-school care center – a silly sound compared to Wagner’s radical realism.

In the second act, the Wotan clan gathers in their bungalow living area (stage: Andrea Cozzi) when the lackluster, capricious family lawyer Loge (Daniel Kirch, with a liking for caricatures) shows up in the salon to ask for payment for the architects of the extension, Fafner and Fasolt (experienced: Wilhelm Schwinghammer, Jens-Erik Aasbø). Here the protagonists are more likely to stand around on the stage than create an obvious network of relationships. Wotan (statuary: Egils Silins) appears in golf dress. Donner (Raimund Nolte) swings the golf club instead of the hammer, which gives him lumbago and a few laughs in the evening.

Fricka (Christa Mayer) and Freia (Elisabeth Teige) are sipping espresso on the sofa, Erda is somehow there from the start.

It is the appearance of Okka von Damerau as primal mother who suddenly sweeps away the salon parlando, which itself reappears at the end to the aching Valhalla music (the Götterburg is nothing more than a simple designer lamp). A singer with a powerful, nuanced voice, a woman with natural, furious authority, warns the upper class of doom and puts a stop to carelessness. One of the strong moments of the evening. The others are thanks to Olafur Sigurdarson’s Alberich, whose theatrical and vocal intensity of expression deserves the most applause, followed by Christa Mayer’s Wotan wife, who also urgently admonishes, but also strikes subtle tones. This Fricka is not a type, but a human being, hurt, angry, rebellious.

In the online magazine “Van”, the long-standing “Opernwelt” editor Albrecht Thiemann recently called for a “Ring” moratorium, a pause for thought for maybe ten years. 900 “Ring” evenings since 1896 alone on the Green Hill, currently almost 30 productions worldwide, every note, every scene, every character has been explored.

It is true that Bayreuth is no longer the aesthetic Wagner measure of all things, and for the time being it does not look as if that will change this year. Even if the audience in the jam-packed Festspielhaus is enthusiastic, apart from a few boos – the pounding also shows gratitude that Bayreuth is once again taking place without restrictions. But the 15-hour cycle, fully explored? Why not ask the generation question and fade the tetralogy into the present of the climate crisis and “Fridays for Future”?

What will it be like when the next evening of the “stage festival” begins on the world ash, that damaged, dying tree? What happens when the children grow up, the betrayed, cheated of their childhood, possibly the last generation? The second audio file of the “Ring” narration, read by Martina Gedeck, will only be released when the curtain rises on “Valkyrie” this Monday. That’s how it is with series: You want to know what’s going to happen next.