Witness the doom of a universe and the dawn of a new era, and share in a pilgrimage that millions have taken, as Pittsburgh Festival Opera transports you to Valhalla for its acclaimed Pittsburgh Ring Cycle.

Before Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, there was The Ring, an epic legend of Norse mythology set to music—one of the crowning achievements of Western civilization.

Our Ring is based on the internationally acclaimed version by composer Jonathan Dove which slightly condenses the orchestration and length of the works (none last longer than three hours) while retaining the authenticity of the original. It presents the entire scope of Wagner’s great dramas, making it the perfect version for newcomers as well as Wagner lovers.

Join us for a Wagner weekend from July 13-15 for lectures relating to Rhinegold, a Wagner scenes program, and parties to meet the artists.

Join the cast at the Opening Night Party with light fare immediately following the performance on Friday 13 July.


The intimacy of the venue in Shadyside makes it a personal experience, allowing ever-inventive director Jonathan Eaton to bring out details – including Wagner’s dark humor – often lost in full-scale productions.”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette



About the Opera

Sung in English with projected titles in English.

This production of Rhinegold is made possible through the generous support of the Ring Leaders.

This production of Rhinegold was originally commissioned by Birmingham Opera Company, and prepared by Jonathan Dove, John McMurray, and Graham Vick

Running time: 2 hours with no intermission. 




Production Credits

Music and Libretto   Richard Wagner
English Translation    Andrew Porter
Director    Jonathan Eaton
Conductor    Walter Morales
Pianist and Assistant Conductor   Stephen Variames
Pianist   Richard Masters
Scenic Design   Danila Korogodsky
Costume Design   Danila Korogodsky
Lighting Design   Bob Steineck 
Hair and Makeup Design   Jina Pounds
Assistant Director   Colter Schoenfish
Stage Manager   Katy Click
Assistant Stage Managers   Louise Brownsberger 
    Claire Durr 



Wotan   Kenneth Shaw
Loge   Robert Frankenberry
Alberich   Barrington Lee
Fricka   Mary Phillips
Erda   Demareus Cooper
Fasolt   Adam Cioffari
Fafner   Andrew Potter
Donner   Alexander Boyd
Freia   Brooke Dircks
Woglinde   Hanna Brammer Dillon
Wellgunde   Emily Hopkins
Flosshilde   Kathleen Shelton
Supernumeraries   Randi Daffner
    Jehlad Hickson
    Becky Merbler
    Jay Rockwell
    Dennis Sen
    Montaja Simmons
    Carolyn Smith
    Elizabeth Stamerra
    Peter Stamerra
    Russell Wilner


The Story

Scene One—The Riverbed of the Rhine
Albrerich the Nibelung lustily chases the Rhinemaidens, guardians of the Rhinegold. They tell Alberich that if someone should forswear all love, he would be able to forge a ring from the Rhinegold which would make him master of the world. They think Alberich would never forswear love, but they are mistaken. Mad with despair because he has been rejected by the Rhinemaidens, Alberich forswears love, steals the Rhinegold and flees.

Scene Two—An Open Space On a Mountain Top
Wotan (Chief of the Gods) has hired two giants—Fasolt and Fafner—to build him a fortress. He has promised the giants the Goddess of Youth, Freia, as payment. The giants appear; the fortress has been completed and they demand their payment. Freia tries to flee the giants and seeks Wotan for protection.

At that moment, Loge, the God of Fire, appears. He states that Alberich has stolen the Rhinegold and that through the power of the Ring he has acquired vast treasure. The two giants declare that they will accept Alberich’s treasure in exchange for Freia. Meanwhile, they take Freia as a hostage. Loge suggests that Wotan steal the Ring and leads him to Nibelheim, Alberich’s abode.

Scene Three—Nibelheim, Alberich’s Subterranean Realm
In Nibelheim, Alberich has forced his brother, Mime, to forge a magic helmet called the Tarnhelm, which enables its wearer to change shape and become invisible. When Loge and Wotan arrive, Alberich boasts of his great treasure with which he will dominate the world. Loge pretends disbelief in the Tarnhelm’s powers. To prove its might, Alberich dons the Tarnhelm and turns into a huge dragon. Loge pretends to be frightened and asks next whether Alberich could turn into something tiny to evade his enemies. Alberich turns himself into a toad. Loge and Wotan capture the toad, seize the Tarnhelm and leave Nibelheim with Alberich as their captive.

Scene Four—An Open Space On a Mountain Top
Wotan demands that Alberich turn over his entire hoard to pay his ransom. Alberich summons the Nibelungs who pile all his treasures before Wotan. Wotan demands the Ring as well. Crushed, Alberich places a powerful curse on it. Whoever possesses it shall be its slave and ultimately doomed. Alberich is set free as the giants return with Freia. They insist that the treasure fully cover Freia before they release her. When Fasolt claims he can still see Freia’s eyes, Fafner demands that the golden Ring on Wotan’s finger be added to the pile. When Wotan refuses to give up the Ring, the giants refuse to return Freia. At that moment Erda, Mother Earth, appears and warns Wotan to surrender it. She warns of a dark day dawning for the gods. Reluctantly, Wotan follows her advice and gives the Ring to the giants. Immediately, the giants begin to quarrel over dividing the treasure. In rage, Fafner kills his brother Fasolt and takes the treasure. As Wotan leads the gods into Valhalla, the Rhinemaidens’ lamentation over their lost gold can be heard in the distance.


Program Notes

Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung was originally conceived as a single opera detailing the death of the Germanic hero Siegfried. However, it became apparent that background was needed, since much of the source material was obscure even for Germans. Thus came into existence Siegfried, known originally as The Boy Who Set Out to Learn Fear. Then, ever expanding his vision, Wagner followed with Rhinegold and The Valkyrie.

The Ring was a work in progress for well over thirty years, during which time Wagner immersed himself not only in German and Norse mythology (including the Middle High German Song of the Nibelung, an elaboration of the saga), but also in the philosophy of Hegel, Feuerbach, and especially Schopenhauer. The conclusion of The Ring is dominated by Schopenhauer’s notion of the negation of the will, where Brünnhilde, enlightened by love, redeems herself from the endless succession of life—birth, anguish, death, and rebirth.

Wagner was equally engrossed in Greek drama, and sought to mold The Ring into a tripartite drama similar to Greek models. Although Rhinegold appears as the first of four operas in Wagner’s mammoth creation, Wagner persisted in calling The Ring of the Nibelung a trilogy with Rhinegold serving as a prologue.

Bayreuth Festspielhaus
Bayreuth Festspielhaus

At the insistence of King Ludwig II of Bavaria, Wagner’s headstrong but devoted patron, Rhinegold was performed for the first time in Munich’s National Theater on September 22, 1869, disjoined from Wagner’s yet-to-be-completed Ring of the Nibelung. Wagner’s intention had been to withhold it from the stage until the opening of a festival theater constructed for the production of his works in the town of Bayreuth. As might be anticipated, patronage outweighed aesthetic concerns, and Rhinegold finally made its intended debut at Bayreuth on August 13, 1876.

A word about Pittsburgh Festival Opera’s revival of The Ring. Seen here first in the 2005 and 2006 seasons, it is based on a Ring cycle created by Jonathan Dove for the City of Birmingham Touring Opera (now Birmingham Opera Company). The translation is by Andrew Porter. The present version will clock in at about nine hours rather than the sixteen which a full scale Ring demands, and the orchestra has been reduced, allowing the production to be presented in smaller venues. We hope that such an undertaking will introduce non-Wagnerians to the glorious music of The Ring, while devotees will be delighted to revel in its most glorious moments.

—Jerry Clack


Meet the Composer

Richard Wagner [22 May 1813–13 February 1883] was a German composer, theatre director, polemicist, and conductor who is chiefly known for his operas (or, as some of his later works were later known, "music dramas"). Unlike most opera composers, Wagner wrote both the libretto and the music for each of his stage works. Initially establishing his reputation as a composer of works in the romantic vein of Carl Maria von Weber and Giacomo Meyerbeer, Wagner revolutionised opera through his concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk ("total work of art"), by which he sought to synthesise the poetic, visual, musical, and dramatic arts, with music subsidiary to drama. He described this vision in a series of essays published between 1849 and 1852. Wagner realised these ideas most fully in the first half of the four-opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung).

Richard Wagner

His compositions, particularly those of his later period, are notable for their complex textures, rich harmonies and orchestration, and the elaborate use of leitmotifs—musical phrases associated with individual characters, places, ideas, or plot elements. His advances in musical language, such as extreme chromaticism and quickly shifting tonal centres, greatly influenced the development of classical music. His Tristan und Isolde is sometimes described as marking the start of modern music.

Wagner had his own opera house built, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, which embodied many novel design features. The Ring and Parsifal were premiered here and his most important stage works continue to be performed at the annual Bayreuth Festival, run by his descendants. His thoughts on the relative contributions of music and drama in opera were to change again, and he reintroduced some traditional forms into his last few stage works, including Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (The Mastersingers of Nuremberg).

Until his final years, Wagner's life was characterised by political exile, turbulent love affairs, poverty and repeated flight from his creditors. His controversial writings on music, drama and politics have attracted extensive comment, notably, since the late 20th century, where they express antisemitic sentiments. The effect of his ideas can be traced in many of the arts throughout the 20th century; his influence spread beyond composition into conducting, philosophy, literature, the visual arts, and theater.