Television programmes tend to be short, and often aimed at those with an attention span that can be measured in seconds rather than hours. So Sky Arts announcement that it is broadcasting Wagner’s Ring Cycle in full over two consecutive nights on 30 and 31 July is a bit out of the ordinary.
Recorded at Bayreuth Festival in Germany, the UK transmission includes interviews with the cast and and crew by Stephen Fry – himself a huge Wagner fan. Sky Arts subscribers in Italy, Germany, Austria and Ireland will also have access to the programme, with the Saturday night performance repeated on Sunday morning. In total, over 21 million people subscribe to Sky Arts.
Wagner founded Bayreuth Festival in 1876, and adapted the design of the event’s Bayreuth Festspielhaus himself. The result is a hall uniquely adapted to Wagner’s large-scale works. It has also proved a huge challenge for conductors over the years, as the reverberation characteristics (and the fact the orchestra sit in near total darkness) make it hard to coordinate the players and singers.
‘I look forward to the cooperation with Sky and really appreciate its commitment,’ said Katharina Wagner, director of the Bayreuth Festival and great-granddaughter of Richard Wagner. ‘Many people can enjoy the performances and I believe it’s in the spirit of Richard Wagner to reach as many arts fans as possible.’
Das Rheingold and Die Walküre will be broadcast at 21:00 and 23:30 on 30 July, followed by Siegfried at 11:00 on 31 July. Götterdämmerung will then be broadcast live at 15:45, also on 31 July.