Richard Wagner Bicentenary Special
Wagner’s Ring Cycle iPad app

Featured in ‘20 best’ Guardian Apps Blog

Step into the Ring! The groundbreaking Wagner’s Ring Cycle iPad app is aimed at anyone with an interest in Wagner’s monumental operatic achievement Der Ring des Nibelungen (‘The Ring of the Nibelung’). Whether you are intimately acquainted with the cycle or a newcomer to it, you can enjoy a clearly and beautifully presented outline of the work’s so–called ‘leitmotifs’. These musical calling–cards are woven in a sophisticated web throughout all four operas – Das Rheingold (‘The Rhinegold’), Die Walküre (‘The Valkyrie’), Siegfried and Götterdämmerung (‘Twilight of the Gods’): here is the chance to get to grips with them, refresh your memory, and enhance your listening experience.


Of course the Ring is about more than motifspotting, and there is plenty of background material here as well:

• 130 audio clips: 65 different leitmotifs isolated from the operas.
• Extended audio clips: eight tracks, two from each opera.
• An explanation of each leitmotif example.
• Each leitmotif example in musical notation.
• Biographical text about Richard Wagner.
• Clear synopses of the operas.
• Information about the operas in performance.
• Comments from renowned tenor, Simon O'Neill.
• Further Reading
• Photographs

Comprising four separate operas, Wagner’s visionary Der Ring des Nibelungen took 25 years to complete. Centred around a ring of power and the attempts of various people to acquire it, the Ring cycle explores the relationship between love and earthly power and the themes of yearning and loss, all within a setting of medieval legend.
Das Rheingold (Ring Cycle 1)
Die Walküre (Ring Cycle 2)
Siegfried (Ring Cycle 3)
Götterdämmerung (Ring Cycle 4)

"Lothar Zagrosek offers a masterclass in the art of swift but sonorous Wagnerian conducting." – The Independent

"Lothar Zagrosek’s shaping of the score is unerringly vivid." – BBC Music Magazine

Richard Wagner (1813–1883) was a remarkable innovator in both the harmony and structure of his work, stressing his own concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk, the ‘total work of art’, in which all the arts were brought together into a single unity. As a man he was prepared to sacrifice his family and friends in the cause of his own music and his overt anti–semitism has attracted unwelcome attention to ideas that are remote from his real work as a musician. In the later part of his career Wagner enjoyed the support of King Ludwig II of Bavaria and was finally able to establish his own theatre and festival at the Bavarian town of Bayreuth. He developed the use of the leitmotif (in German Leitmotiv– ‘leading motif’) as a principle of musical unity, his dramatic musical structure depending on the interweaving of melodies or fragments of melody associated with characters, incidents or ideas in the drama. His prelude to the love tragedy Tristan und Isolde led to a new world of harmony.

Wagner won his first operatic success in Dresden with the opera Rienzi, based on a novel by Edward Bulwer–Lytton. This was followed a year later, in 1843, by Der fliegende Holländer (‘The Flying Dutchman’), derived from a legend recounted by Heine of the Dutchman fated to sail the seas until redeemed by true love. Tannhäuser, dealing with the medieval Minnesinger of that name, was staged in Dresden in 1845. Wagner’s involvement in the revolution of 1848 and subsequent escape from Dresden led to the staging of his next dramatic work, Lohengrin, in Weimar, under the supervision of Liszt. The tetralogy The Ring–its four operas Das Rheingold, Die Walküre (‘The Valkyrie’), Siegfried and Götterdämmerung (‘The Twilight of the Gods’)–is a monument of dramatic and musical achievement that occupied the composer for a number of years. Other music dramas by Wagner include Tristan und Isolde, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (‘The Mastersingers of Nuremberg’), and his final work, Parsifal.

The best known of Wagner’s orchestral compositions is the Siegfried Idyll, an aubade written for the composer’s second wife, Cosima (illegitimate daughter of Liszt and former wife of Wagner’s friend and supporter Hans von Bülow). His early works also include a symphony.

At the root of Wagner’s drama of forbidden love, Tristan und Isolde, was his own affair with Mathilde Wesendonck, wife of a banker upon whose support he relied during years of exile in Switzerland. The five Wesendonck–Lieder are settings of verses by Mathilde Wesendonck.