Europe’s first Samoan arts collective, Gafa, has announced ambitious plans to present Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen in its four opera entirety as a series of concerts in London this autumn. The performances will take place at St Mary’s Church in Putney on 30 October, and 6, 13 and 20 November.
The series, named RingGafa – the power of love of power, will present one performance, in German, of each of the four operas that comprise the Ring Cycle. It will combine the Nordic narrative with Samoan elements through traditional movement and ritual, exploring each opera’s themes of power, greed, love and the curse of the coveted ring, along with Pacific mythology and history, drawing parallels between different cultures.
The new production is by Gafa’s co-founder and creative director, Sani Muliaumaseali’I. “Gafa – pronounced ‘nga-fah’ – means connection in Samoan, and our Ring Cycle will connect Nordic and Pacific mythologies,” he commented, and demonstrate “the back and forth between love, power, sacrifice and corruption.”
All four operas that comprise Wagner’s epic cycle will be performed. The showing of Das Rheingold (1869) takes place on 30 October, with Die Walküre (The Valkyrie, 1870) on 6 November, Siegfried (1876) on 13 November and Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods, 1876) on 20 November. The first gives the background to the events that drive the main dramas of the cycle. It recounts the dwarf Alberich’s theft of the Rhine gold and his fashioning of the all-powerful ring, followed by the seizure of the ring by father of the gods Wotan.
In Die Walküre, twins Sieglinde and Siegmund, separated at childhood, meet and fall in love. This angers the gods, who demand that Siegmund must die. Sieglinde and the couple’s unborn child are saved by Wotan’s daughter Brünnhilde, the valkyrie of the title, who is punished with imprisonment by her father.
Siegfried’s eponymous hero forges a mighty sword to slay the dragon Fafner. He comes into possession of the cursed ring and frees the sleeping Brünnhilde. The final drama in the series, Götterdämmerung, sees the tragic betrayal of Siegfried and Brünnhilde, as they become victims of Hagen, Alberich’s son.
Gafa’s commitment to offering artists from all backgrounds is demonstrated by the diversity of the cast. Muliaumaseali’iI reprises his acclaimed Siegfried; he is joined by British soprano Nadine Benjamin performing her first Sieglinde. Latvian bass-baritone Pauls Putnins tackles the role of Wotan, while Madagascar-born Canadian soprano Yannick-Muriel Noah takes on that of Brünnhilde. The cast also includes Hong Kong-born British bass-baritone Freddie Tong, New Zealand soprano Aivale Cole and Finnish-born baritone Aleksi Koponen. Music comes from the Rosenau Sinfonia, conducted by maestro Stephen Anthony Brown.
Muliaumaseali’iI, who has been singing Wagner for more than 15 years and who studied with the great Wagnerian Sir Donald McIntyre, said of the new production: “Wagner’s Nordic saga of power, greed, love and the curse of the coveted ring intertwines like the Rhine with Pacific mythology and history.”
Tickets for all four performances are on sale now, and start from £40. Go to Gafa’s website for further details.
Gafa is the UK’s first Samoan art collective; it produces theatre, dance and opera in new and innovative ways. “Our work is primarily focused on Samoan art practice and culture reflecting our ancestral roots,” Muliaumaseali’iI commented. “We seek truth, innovation and discovery. We are a cross-cultural and disciplinary group of London-based artists. We are in collaboration to share our skills and our experiences in order to create a unique art view.”
Samoan arts collective Gafa is set to hold concert performances of all four operas that comprise Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle in London this autumn.