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One ring performance to rule them all
When it comes to outstanding opera pieces, there is one that rules them all - Wagner's The Ring Cycle.
And when it comes to performing opera, the Mariinsky company in Russia is a name that sparks excitement around the world.
So it's no wonder that an upcoming tour to Birmingham is being billed as an unmissable event for fans of the music genre as it is renowned Mariinsky Opera, led by conductor Valery Gergiev, performing Wagner's epic Ring Cycle.
Conductor Valery Gergiev of the Mariinsky Opera which is performing at Birmingham Hippodrome
The tour is groundbreaking as it is the first full production of Wagner's work by a Russian company since 1914, and Russia's first to be sung in the original German. It is also the first fully-staged Ring Cycle in Birmingham in decades.
Visiting Birmingham Hippodrome for the first time in its history, the Mariinsky gives four performances over five nights in November 2014.
Götterdämmerung from the Ring cycle to be performed in Birmingham
The Ring - it's full title being Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung) - was written by famed German composer Richard Wagner. It was based on dramas involving the Norse gods and became Wagner's life work, taking 26 years to complete the whole cycle.
It features four operas - Das Rheingold (The Rhine Gold); Die Walküre (The Valkyrie); Siegfried; and Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods).
The story revolves around the theft of magical gold from the depths of the River Rhine, which is then made into a ring. However, this act ends up corrupting the world and in order to put things right in the end, there must be an act of selfless love.
Scenes from the Ring cycle
The tour, sponsored by BP, coincides with the UK-Russia Year of Culture in 2014 and will be the largest Midlands event in the programme.
It is such a large production that it involves more than 250 artists travelling with conductor Gergiev from St Petersburg in Russia to Birmingham, along with 10 trucks of scenery.
Gergiev, who has been music director of the Mariinsky for more than 15 years, said: "I'm delighted to be bringing our Ring Cycle to Birmingham. In Ossetia, where I come from, our own folk tales parallel the myths that inspired Wagner.
I believed that we could create a new visual approach to the Ring that had an international resonance."
Das Rheingold will be performed by the Mariinsky Opera
The Mariinsky Orchestra is one of the oldest musical institutions in Russia that is housed in St Petersburg's famed Mariinsky Theatre. Wagner himself, along with Russian composer Tchaikovsky, are among some of the leading musical figures to have conducted the orchestra in their time.
Stuart Griffiths, Chief Executive of Birmingham Hippodrome, expressed excitement at the forthcoming tour and said: "Wagner's Ring Cycle is probably the greatest operatic work ever written and, in the UK, is rarely performed in its entirety.
"This production has only ever been performed in the UK twice before."
Wagner's Ring Cycle
Birmingham Hippodrome - November 5 - 9, 2014
Wednesday 5 November 2014 - Das Rheingold - 7.30pm - running time 2h 40mins with no interval.
Thursday 6 November 2014 - Die Walküre - 5pm - running time 5h with two intervals.
Saturday 8 November 2014 - Siegfried - 5pm - running time 5h 50mins with two intervals.
Sunday 9 November 2014 - Götterdämmerung - 5pm - running time 5h 25mins with two intervals.