Vasily Petrenko conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in concert at the Royal Albert Hall, with the audience in darkness to their right
© Frances Marshall

On Wednesday 13 March the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performed Wagner's Grand Festival, part of our Icons Rediscovered series in Royal Albert Hall with Music Director Vasily Petrenko, exploring the power of the human voice.

Inspired by the original 8-concert festival that took place in the Royal Albert Hall in 1877, put on by the composer himself, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Vasily Petrenko, along with soloists Rebecca Nicholls, Peter Wedd and Derek Welton, performed some highlights from Wagner's epic Der Ring des Nibelungen.

Read on to view more photos and reactions from the evening.

All photos © Frances Marshall

The concert opened with Wagner's Huldigungsmarsch, written in 1864 as a birthday gift for King Ludwig II of Bavaria, a fan of Wagner who would later patronise the Bayreuth Festival and Festspielhaus. 

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Following was the Prelude to Act I of Die Meistersinger and the aria Was duftet doch der Flieder with bass-baritone Derek Welton.

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"Welton’s voice is that of a bass on first encounter, so rounded and full is his lower range, but his upper, baritone register is full and powerful, too."
Classical Explorer

Derek also sang the part of Wotan king of the gods in the aria Abendlich strahlt der Sonne Auge from Das Rheingold, the first opera in Wagner's behemoth Ring Cycle. This was followed by iconic Ride of the Valkyries and Wotan's Farewell from Die Walkure, the second opera in the cycle, which ends with Brünnhilde, a Valkyrie, being turned into a mortal woman by Wotan and is imprisoned by a circle of fire that only the bravest of heroes can cross.

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After the interval was music from Götterdämmerung,  with tenor Peter Wedd and soprano Rachel Nicholls singing the romantic Duet between Brünnhilde and Siegfried at the beginning of the opera. This was followed by Siegfried's Death and Funeral Music and Brünnhilde's Immolation and Finale, where she rides into Siegfried's funeral pyre to join him in death. This leads into the much-prophesied fall of the gods as the Rhine breaks its banks and sky is lit by fire as the Ring Cycle comes to its apocalyptic conclusion.

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"The RPO, crowned with two sets of timpani, rip-roaring brass and a good substitute anvil, pushed the boat out."
The Times

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"Petrenko and the orchestra were a perfect shadow to their soloist – giving just enough brightness and depth to cover her voice when the music demanded it."
Opera Today

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"A fascinating evening... all credit to the RPO for giving their all throughout."
Classical Explorer

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"Fabulous night. RPO at its usual perfection, Petrenka on fire and phenomenal singers. A night of utter joy."

"Was great to be there."

"Loved it, orchestra and singers were superb."

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