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Opera fans and newcomers will find something in Ringside
For many, composer Richard Wagner is the king of the opera world with the mammoth Ring Cycle his crowning glory.
Birmingham Hippodrome is welcoming the renowned Mariinsky Opera and conductor Valery Gergiev to perform the full Ring Cycle over five nights in November - and to mark these special performances, there will be a series of events inspired by the composer.
Will One of our Singers is Missing leave you running rings around the clues?
Ringside is aimed at opera newcomers and fans of Wagner alike and features film, cabaret, a free adventure game and talks in celebration of Wagner, his unusual narrative style and the often magical stories and memorable creations in his timeless operas.
Events (listed in full below) take place in the Hippodrome foyer, the nearby Patrick Centre studio and The Electric Cinema in Birmingham city centre, which is the UK's oldest working cinema.
Opera officiados will be thrilled to attend Brunch with the Brünnhildes. This sees leading Wagnerian sopranos Susan Bullock and Catherine Foster, who have both sung the role of Brünnhilde, talk to Spectator journalist and BBC Radio 4 Front Row presenter Matthew d'Ancona.
Ringside coincides with performances of The Ring by the Mariinsky
Brunch is included for the audience as the women reveal the secrets of what it takes to perform this demanding role, some tricks of the operatic trade and what it feels like to bring the whole of the Ring Cycle to an end with one of opera's most iconic passages, Brünnhilde's Immolation Scene.
On November 1, Film Music and the Ghost of Wagner is discussed by Neil Brand, who presented the BBC4 series Sound of Cinema - the Music that made the Movies. He looks at whether dramatic music scores in modern action films is a legacy of Wagner, using excerpts to prove his point. It is billed as making sure you "will never hear blockbuster movies the same way again!".
Neil Brand returns for a rare screening of Fritz Lang's silent movie epic Siegfried at the historic Electric Cinema, in Station Street. The film is accompanied on live piano by Neil Brand, the world's leading silent movie pianist.
Pianist Neil Brand features heavily in Ringside events
Famous for his later hit Metropolis, Lang's black and white cinema masterpiece is adapted from the same myth that Wagner drew on for The Ring Cycle.
One of the other Ringside highlights is another screening, this time at the Patrick Centre, of TWILIGHTOFTHEFREAKINGODS. This film has been created by Reel Access from a play by theatre company Stan's Café, who in turn looked to an opera by Richard Wagner.
Birmingham-based Stan's Cafe created a visionary rendering of Wagner's Götterdammerüng story. Reel Access shot 24 hours of video footage over the two performances and through a process of time shifting and layering, they produced an extraordinary film that both documents the original production and is also a work of art in its own right.
In the style of Fritz Lang, the film is black and white and wordless, with a rich original soundtrack by Nina West.
Have brunch with talented Susan Bullock and Catherine Foster
Also at the Patrick Centre on November 1 is The Fat Lady Sings - a hit opera cabaret performed by Kit and McConnel who enjoyed a sold-out tour with the late Joan Rivers.
This hilarious evening is an irreverent romp through the hilarities of the opera repertoire created by cabaret legend Kit Hesketh Harvey, best known as one half of comedy duo Kit and the Widow and Radio 4's long-running comedy show Just a Minute.
There are also many free events to enjoy during Ringside.
A performance of Siegfried Idyll by Birmingham Conservatoire students takes pace in the Birmingham Hippodrome Foyer. The music is based on one of Brünnhildes' lilting melodies from The Ring and was also Wagner's romantic birthday present to his wife Cosima. She woke up on Christmas Day in 1870 to be serenaded by music from around a dozen musicians, crowding along the staircase to her bedroom, playing this piece of beautiful music.
While for those who like to have their wits tested, there is an adventure game - One of Our Singers is Missing.
Free to take part (although advanced booking is essential - see details below), it sees participants fathom out clues in order to trace an opera singer who has gone missing at Birmingham Hippodrome.
Paul Kaynes, Director of Creative Programmes at Birmingham Hippodrome, said: "The Ring Cycle is very rarely performed in full so to coincide with this we wanted to provide audiences with the chance to get under the skin of Wagner exploring how other art forms have been influenced by his work.
"Ringside offers alternative events and performances for all ages from Brunch with the Brünnhildes hosted by BBC Radio 4's Front Row presenter Matthew d'Ancona, The Fat Lady Sings - An Opera Cabaret, starring cabaret legend Kit Hesketh Harvey, to a real life adventure game that can be played by all the family."
Tickets for Siegfried are available from The Electric Cinema box office on 0121 643 7879 or through the cinema website.
Saturday 25 October 6.30pm and Sunday 26 October 2.30pm
Birmingham Hippodrome's The Patrick Centre – Tickets £6
ONE OF OUR SINGERS IS MISSING
Saturday 1 November 11am
Free to take part in this adventure game but booking is essential by calling the Box Office on 0844 338 5000 or booking online.
FILM MUSIC AND THE GHOST OF WAGNER
Neil Brand – An Illustrated talk
Saturday 1 November 4pm
The Patrick Centre – Tickets £10
Saturday 1 November 5.30pm
Birmingham Hippodrome Foyer – FREE
A performance by students from Birmingham Conservatoire, conducted by David Purser.
THE FAT LADY SINGS
Saturday 1 November 7.30pm
The Patrick Centre – Tickets £18
Sunday 2 November - Doors 11.30am
The Electric Cinema – Tickets £10 standard; £14 front row sofas; £16.50 back row sofas
To book call the Electric Box Office on 0121 643 7879 or online at the Electric Cinema website.
BRUNCH WITH THE BRUNNHILDES
Saturday 8 November 11.30am
The Patrick Centre – Tickets £25 including brunch