Ringside: Film, Music and Adventure Inspired by Richard Wagner

ringsideTo celebrate the Mariinsky Opera’s upcoming performance of the Ring Cycle at the Birmingham Hippodrome, a series of special events were held over the weekend, each inspired by Richard Wagner’s iconic work. Across Saturday and Sunday, visitors were invited to enjoy a wide range of free and cheap performances around Birmingham’s Southside area.

Saturday’s Ringside programme kicked off at 11am with One of Our Singers is Missing, an interactive show that took the form of a kind of treasure hunt or murder mystery game, suitable for kids and grown-ups of all ages. Every 15 minutes throughout the day, small teams were sent off to search for a purportedly missing Mariinsky Opera singer named Albert. All was not what it first seemed, however: a simple walk round Southside soon turned into an epic adventure, that saw participants encounter a range of otherworldly beings who assisted them in the discovery of an all-powerful ring. A fun, free way to pass a Saturday afternoon with friends and family, One of Our Singers is Missing also offered a great opportunity to get to know Southside and perhaps to visit somewhere new.

DSCF3348[1]At 4pm, dramatist, author, musician and composer Neil Brand discussed the impact of Wagnerian opera on film music through the ages in the theatre’s Patrick Centre. His engaging two-part talk, Film Music and the Ghost of Wagner, explored explored the emotional and psychological effects of soundtracks on audiences, and how styles and dramatic structures first used by Wagner have always played an important part in making the movies what they are. Using examples ranging from early silent films to contemporary superhero blockbusters, Brand offered a fascinating and enlightening insight into the relationship between sound and pictures. In addition to examining the work of some of his favourite film composers, Brand also demonstrated how subtle changes in music can completely alter our perception of a story by playing two different versions of an accompanying score alongside silent footage of a shipwreck.

Neil Brand (credit TOM CATCHESIDES)The talk was immediately followed by a free concert in the theatre foyer, with students and former students of the Birmingham Conservatoire performing the “Siegfried Idyll”, a beautiful melody based on one of Brunnhilde’s songs from Der Ring des Nibelungen, thought to have been composed by Wagner as a sort of love letter to his wife. The Conservatoire played the piece perfectly: it was magnificent to listen to, and a great taster for the Ring Cycle itself, which will be staged from Wednesday through to Sunday this week. The evening then rounded off with cabaret from Kit and McConnel, who performed their opera-inspired comedy show The Fat Lady Sings.

Conservatoire SIEGFRIEDOn Sunday afternoon, The Electric Cinema played host to a special screening of Fritz Lang’s Siegfried, widely acknowledged as a masterpiece of the silent era. The film was accompanied by a live piano score from Neil Brand, who played throughout the film (over two hours) with an unflagging energy. The movie itself is a really interesting take on the myth that makes some significant changes to the story, notably that Brunhild is actively scorned by Siegfried rather than him being tricked into forgetting her. It also features an amazingly impressive dragon that actually breathes fire and smoke, which must have been some feat of engineering!

788px-Nibelungen_film1Ringside continues on Saturday 8th November with Brunch with the Brunnhildes: a brunch discussion with sopranos Susan Bullock and Catherine Foster who will discuss their experiences of performing in the Ring Cycle with Front Row‘s Matthew D’Ancona. For more information, click here.

Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen begins on Wednesday 5th November with Das Rheingold (The Rhinegold), and concludes on Sunday 9th November with Götterdämmerung (Ragnarök). For more information and to book, visit the Birmingham Hippodrome website.

Neil Brand photo by Tom Catchesides.

Ringside – Special Events Inspired by Wagner’s Ring Cycle

ringside

To coincide with its full run of Wagner’s Ring Cycle in November, the Birmingham Hippodrome is presenting a series of special, themed events from 25th October until 8th November. Called Ringside, the diverse programme encompasses everything from film to cabaret, concerts to family friendly adventure games.

Kicking things off in The Patrick Centre on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th October, Reel Access will be screening a film titled Twilightofthefreakinggods, adapted from a play by Stan’s Café, which is in turn based on Wagnerian opera. All in black and white, this striking, wordless movie features a stunning original soundtrack. Twilightofthefreakinggods begins at  6.30pm on the Saturday and 2.30pm on the Sunday, with tickets priced at £6. Check out the Stan’s Cafe website for more information and clips, or click here to book.

Then, on Saturday 1st November, a packed schedule starts at 11am with One Of Our Singers Is Missing, a real-life, interactive game open to all. Participants will be sent to search for a missing opera singer, following clues to save the star and bring them safely back to the Hippodrome. This free adventure will be taking place every 15 minutes until 4pm. To join in, you’ll need to book a place via the Birmingham Hippodrome Website.

At 4pm, Neil Brand, presenter of BBC4’s acclaimed Sound of Cinema – The Music that Made the Movies series, will be discussing modern film scores and searching for elements of Wagner within them. Film Music and the Ghost of Wagner will be taking place in the Patrick Centre with tickets priced at £10. Click here to book.

Then from 5.30pm, students from the Birmingham Conservatoire will be taking over the Hippodrome foyer to play Wagner’s much-loved Siegfried Idyll, conducted by David Purser. Based on one of Brunnhilde’s melodies from The Ring Cycle, the song was written by the composer as a birthday present to his wife. This event will be open to all with no advance booking required.

This beautiful free concert will be followed by an evening of cabaret with West End stars Kit and McConnell, who will be offering their own irreverent take on the opera repertoire in The Fat Lady Sings. A veteran of Radio 4’s Just A Minute, Kit Hesketh Harvey is also well known for his work as one half of comedy duo, Kit and the Widow. The Fat Lady Sings will take place in the Patrick Centre from 7.30pm. Tickets cost £18 and can be booked online here.

On Sunday 2nd November, Birmingham’s Electric Cinema will be running a special screening of Fritz Lang’s Siegfried at 11.30am. One of the classics of early cinema, this 1924 film will be accompanied by an authentic live piano score played by Neil Brand. Tickets cost £10-16.50 and can be booked via The Electric’s website.

Nibelungen_film1

Finally, on Saturday 8th November, leading soprano singers Susan Bullock and Catherine Foster will discuss the challenges of performing in a five-hour-long opera in Brunch with the Brunnhildes at 11.30am in the Patrick Centre. Hosted by Spectator journalist and presenter of Radio 4’s Front Row, Matthew D’Ancona, the event will cost £25 to attend with brunch included in the ticket price. Menu and booking details can be found on the Hippodrome website.

The Ring Cycle will run at the Birmingham Hippodrome in four parts, presented on Wednesday 5th, Thursday 6th, Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th November. Each show will be conducted by Valery Gergiev and performed by the Mariinsky Opera. More information is available here.