The Greek National Opera presents, for the first time in its history, Wagner’s Walküre

John Fulljames will direct the co-production with the Royal Danish Opera, Wagner specialists Catherine Foster and Stefan Vinke will lead the excellent cast and Roland Kluttig will conduct. The premiere takes place on March 10 in Athens.

It is one of the most popular operas in the repertoire: Richard Wagner’s masterpiece Die Walküre. It will be staged at the Greek National Opera for the first time in its history, in six performances in the Stavros Niarchos Hall. The production is made possible by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) to enhance the Greek National Opera’s artistic outreach.

Die Walküre (The Valkyrie) is the first of Wagner’s works to be presented in Greek National Opera’s new home at the SNFCC. It is the second part of the tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen(The Ring of the Nibelung) by Richard Wagner and, most certainly, the most popular one. Quite often Die Walküre is presented independently, as it features fascinating and enchanting music of the highest quality, being regarded as a moving yet dramaturgically condensed work. The composition of this colossal opera, fashioned after Aeschylus’ Oresteia trilogy, preoccupied Wagner for many years. It sprang from the ideological ferment that held sway in the Germanic sphere during the mid-19th century, in which the composer was enmeshed from 1841 through until 1849, while living in Dresden.

Drawing his inspiration from northern European legends, Wagner –who also penned the libretto– wanted to critique the early-industrial society of his time, the institution of marriage, and power relations through his Ring cycle. In music terms, Die Walküre is an intensely dramatic work that introduced many musical innovations; it would shape the future course of the art form and influence generations of composers to come. The “Ride of the Valkyries” remains famous to this day – a piece used by Francis Ford Coppola in his 1979 feature film Apocalypse Now.

The Greek National Opera entrusted the direction of its first production of Die Walküre to distinguished British director, John Fulljames, who had previously directed GNO’s productions of Don Giovanni and Gianni Schicchi. Following the completion of his term as artistic director of the Royal Danish Opera, Fulljames took over the position of Director of the Humanities Cultural Programme at Oxford University. He has directed at the world’s leading opera houses, such as La Scala in Milan, Covent Garden, Teatro Real in Madrid, Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, etc. The director notes about the production: “We set the opera in a fictional universe which holds in balance the mythic and the real. This world resonates with today without being tied down to a time and place. The central character of this opera is really Wotan – as he comes to terms with the consequences of his choices, realising his grand scheme will collapse and that he must abandon first his son and then his daughter, and face forward to his death. The death though is not just his own – there is also a broader ecological context as the world he has exploited faces a death. We see him as holding 21st-century power – so not a 19th-century industrialist, as he has so often been seen, but instead a creative entrepreneur; perhaps an architect or the leader of a vast media empire.”

The creative team comes complete with associate director Johanne Holten, set and costume designer Tom Scutt, associate set designer David Allen, and lighting designer D. M. Wood.

Directing the orchestra is the distinguished German conductor Roland Kluttig, known for his expertise in the Wagnerian oeuvre. Roland Kluttig conducts operas and concerts with a wide-ranging repertoire worldwide. A particular focus of his work are the compositions of Schumann, Wagner, Berg, Debussy, Janáček, and Sibelius. After the very successful productions of Dukas’ Ariane et Barbe-Bleue and Szymanowski’s Król Roger at the Graz Opera, he served as principal conductor there from 2020 to 2023. During his time as General Music Director at the Landestheater Coburg (2010-2020), the productions of Wagner’s Lohengrin and Parsifalattracted national interest. He was nominated as Conductor of the Year by Opernwelt magazine for his conducting of Beethoven’s Fidelio. Since 2000, he has enjoyed a close collaboration with the Stuttgart State Opera. He has also been invited as a guest conductor at the Frankfurt Opera, Salzburg Festival, Hamburg State Opera, Leipzig Opera, Mannheim National Theatre, Opéra Nice Côte d’Azur, and Opéra national du Rhin. Moreover, he has worked with many prestigious orchestras in concerts all over the world and has an extensive collection of recordings.

The Greek National Opera has secured world-class leading Wagnerian singers for the exceptionally demanding main roles in the work.

Performing as Siegmund will be Stefan Vinke, one of the most acclaimed German tenors of our time. He has sung all the great Wagnerian tenor roles, and since 2006, when he made his debut with the Cologne Opera as Siegfried in Der Ring des Nibelungen, he has performed this role more than 30 times in productions of the opera of the same title, and over 25 times in Götterdämmerung. He has performed numerous times in Der Ring’s tetralogy in the world’s greatest opera houses, including the Bayreuth Festival, Paris Opera, Royal Opera House in London, New York Metropolitan Opera, Gran Teatre del Liceu, Teatro Real in Madrid, Vienna Opera, Berlin Opera, Opera Australia, etc.

The celebrated Greek bass Petros Magoulas, who will perform as Hunding, has sung at esteemed venues in Greece and abroad, including the Royal Opera House in London, Kiel Opera House, Welsh National Opera, Bilbao Opera, and the Israeli Opera, portraying a diverse range of characters such as Méphistophélès (Faust), Sarastro (Die Zauberflöte), Osmin (Die Entführung aus dem Serail), Don Giovanni and Commendatore (Don Giovanni), King Heinrich (Lohengrin), Daland (Der fliegende Holländer), etc. He has also performed a wide range of concert works and pieces of religious music. His recordings include internationally awarded renditions of Handel’s works under the baton of George Petrou.

The role of Wotan will be performed by Finnish baritone Tommi Hakala. He was a member of the Nürnberg Opera ensemble, where he performed many leading roles. In the years he was working with the Leipzig Opera, he gained further acclaim portraying characters such as Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro and Chorèbe in Berlioz’s Les Troyens. From 2008 to 2013 he was member of the roster of the Finnish National Opera, where he expanded his repertoire with roles such as the Wagnerian Amfortas in Parsifal and Kurwenal in Tristan und Isolde. He has an impressive repertoire that spans across Wagner, Verdi, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and more. He has also taken the stage at renowned opera houses such as the New York Metropolitan Opera, Teatro Real in Madrid, Dutch National Opera in Amsterdam, and other venues in Strasbourg, Montpellier, Turin, Essen, etc. After his appearance in Athens at the GNO, he will make his way to Australia to portray Wotan in November 2024.

In the role of Sieglinde we encounter the exceptional British dramatic soprano Allison Oakes, whose repertoire includes a wide range of roles that require diverse vocal and acting skills, such as Leonora in Il trovatore, Marie in Wozzeck, the Wagnerians Brünnhilde, Sieglinde and Isolde, Strauss’ Salome and more. She has successfully performed as Sieglinde in the Dresden and Rome opera houses. She often performs in the world’s most illustrious opera houses, in America, Italy, Portugal, Japan, Korea, and Germany, where she is based.

Catherine Foster has been established as one of the best Brünnhildes in the world today and she has excelled in the Wagnerian repertoire like very few performers have. Following her successful Greek debut in the Callas at the Herodium Gala in September 2023, the great dramatic soprano now returns to the Greek National Opera as Brünnhilde. Foster has showcased outstanding renditions of dramatic roles such as Elektra, Turandot and Isolde, making her mark in the world’s top opera houses, in Barcelona, Madrid, Bologna, Amsterdam, Washington, Budapest, Berlin, Hamburg, Dresden, Helsinki, Tokyo, Shanghai, etc. She has been considered as one of the leading protagonists of the Richard Wagner Opera Festival in Bayreuth over the last ten years. During the 2022/23 season, she made her debut with the Victorian Opera in Australia as Elektra, the San Carlo Theatre in Naples as Isolde, and the Royal Opera House in London as Turandot.

Mezzo-sopranos Marina Prudenskaya and Hanne Fischer will be alternately performing as Fricka.

This will be the fifth production where the Russian mezzo-soprano Marina Prudenskaya will be singing this role. In 2018 she performed Fricka at the Bayreuth Festival in a production directed by Frank Castorf and conducted by Plácido Domingo. She made her debut at the Stanislavski Theatre in Moscow and then starred in productions at the world’s most prestigious opera houses, such as the Paris Opera, Royal Opera House in London, Teatro Real in Madrid, the Zürich and Berlin Operas, the Aix-en-Provence Festival, etc.

The multi-awarded Danish mezzo-soprano Hanne Fischer, who first appeared as Fricka in Strasbourg in 2008, performs a particularly wide repertoire, spanning from baroque to Wagner and present-day music. She often performs at the Royal Danish Opera and other European opera houses, such as the Kiel Opera House, whose roster she had joined in the past, and the Berlin, Hamburg, Antwerp, Ghent Operas, etc.

Katherina Sandmeier will be performing as Helmwige, Violetta Lousta as Gerhilde, Taxiarchoula Kanati as Ortlinde, Nefeli Kotseli as Waltraute, Dimitra Kalaitzi-Tilikidou as Siegrune, Fotini Athanassaki as Roßweiße, Anna Tselika as Grimgerde, and Chrysanthi Spitadi as Schwertleite.


Richard Wagner: Die Walküre

First staging by the Greek National Opera
Co-production with the Royal Danish Opera
10, 13, 16, 19, 24, 31 March 2024
Starts at: 17.30

Running time: 5 hours and 15 minutes, with two intermissions included

Stavros Niarchos Hall of the Greek National Opera – SNFCC


Conductor: Roland Kluttig
Director: John Fulljames
Associate director: Johanne Holten
Sets, costumes: Tom Scutt
Associate set designer: David Allen
Lighting: D. M. Wood

Siegmund: Stefan Vinke
Hunding: Petros Magoulas
Wotan: Tommi Hakala
Sieglinde: Allison Oakes
Brünnhilde: Catherine Foster
Fricka: Marina Prudenskaya (10, 13, 16, 19/03/2024) / Hanne Fischer (24, 31/03/2024)
Helmwige: Katherina Sandmeier
Gerhilde: Violetta Lousta
Ortlinde: Taxiarchoula Kanati
Waltraute: Nefeli Kotseli
Siegrune: Dimitra Kalaitzi-Tilikidou
Roßweiße: Fotini Athanassaki
Grimgerde: Anna Tselika
Schwertleite: Chrysanthi Spitadi

With the Orchestra of the Greek National Opera

Ticket prices: €15, €20, €35, €55, €60, €70, €80, €120
Students, children: €15
Restricted view seats: €10


Production sponsor: PIRAEUS BANK

Lead Donor of the GNO & Production donor: THE STAVROS NIARCHOS FOUNDATION

Photo: Andreas Simopoulos B

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