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This book is a reissue in softbinding of the one that Gary Kahn published to accompany the first complete airing of Keith Warner’s production of the Ring at Covent Garden in 2007, with a very few additions. Half of it consists of interviews and conversations with the participants in the 2007 performances, with lots of illustrations; the other half consists of photographs from the actual production. Since they are all taken by Clive Barda, they are of the highest quality.

How valuable you find the book will depend to a large extent on how you responded to the production, whether as it emerged over four years, or in the complete cycles in 2007, or in the cycles which have just taken place. Warner has, of course, thought again about the great work, and there have been many small changes. He has also been working with a largely different cast. In 2007 Lisa Gasteen was Brünnhilde, usually. This time it has been Susan Bullock. Bryn Terfel notoriously withdrew from the 2007 performances, this year he did them all. There has been a new Siegfried, a new Fricka, and so on. Almost the only constant major presence has been the great Mime of Gerhard Siegel. That does mean that many or most of the photographs have, so far as the cast is concerned, only historical interest.

The first half of the book is therefore what most readers will concentrate on, and much of it is of great interest. Kahn asks all the questions one would wish to ask oneself, and in the case of Antonio Pappano he gets extraordinarily rewarding answers – Pappano is naturally discussing the work itself more than the production, though he does that too. His combination of enthusiasm, insight, intelligence and love makes for moving, illuminating reading. Keith Warner is more concerned to elaborate on his own views, some of them well worth pondering, some less so. Stefanos Lazaridis, the designer, now alas dead, has helpful things to say, and so, to a greater or lesser extent do the singers and the other interviewees. It is a fascinating and lavish book, a generous tribute to a controversial production.

Michael Tanner Read the full review on Agora Classica


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