chapter  5
20 Pages

Reality overtakes myth: Ivo van Hove stages der ring des nibelungen

WithFrancis Maes

During four successive seasons, from Spring 2006 to Fall of 2008, the Flemish Opera (known as the Opera Ballet Vlaanderen from 2014 onwards) entrusted a production of Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen to Ivo van Hove and his stage designer Jan Versweyveld, who were supported by the conductor Ivan Törzs. The Flemish Opera was a production organization that served two historical opera houses in the Flemish cities of Ghent and Antwerp. Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, and Siegfried were presented in Ghent, Götterdämmerung in Antwerp. Owing to urgently needed restoration works, the Antwerp Opera House was unavailable to host the entire cycle which proved unfortunate timing as it was admirably suited for Wagnerian performances. The Opera House, opened in 1907, had been deliberately conceived to meet the standards of Wagnerian music drama. At this time, the Flemish-speaking community of Antwerp aligned itself with Germanic culture in order to counter the dominant position of the French-language Théâtre Royale Français in their native city. As a result, Antwerp developed a veritable Wagner cult illustrated, for example, by the standing tradition of annual performances of Parsifal during Holy Week that were maintained with very few interruptions until 1993. The fact that the ambitious Ring cycle, which marked the centenary of Wagner performances in Antwerp, had to be partially diverted to the acoustically inferior Opera of Ghent was a serious setback.