In this beautiful, passionate second part of her essay, the author has captured one of the water-shed moments of opera, not just Wagnerian opera, when opera entered modern psychological and cinematic sensibility with Patrice Chéreau's Bayreuth "Ring." It's worth repeating here what she says: "The éclat that Peter Hofmann occasioned when he burst upon the Heldentenor scene in the Patrice Chéreau Centennial Ring at Bayreuth in 1976 was nothing short of cataclysmic. The production with its bold, sweeping staging, brought Wagnerian music-drama into the living present, and it introduced a whole new generation of singers who transformed opera into communicative speech-song, replacing grand theatre with cinematic reality. Of these none made a greater impression than Peter Hofmann as Siegmund. His voice which possessed true heroic proportions and uniquely beautiful coloration, coupled with the white heat of his acting did for the Heldentenor tradition what Maria Callas did for bel canto."
Callas had Visconti as a guide; Hofmann (and all the other superb cast members) had Chéreau. Without him, this break-through might not have happened. Thankfully, the extraordinary Ring production is preserved in a DVD that shows the genius of the French director, who was also a cinematographer. It preserves the unusually androgynous, erotic presence of Peter Hofmann as Siegmund and his look-alike incestuous twin sister Sieglinde (Jeannine Altmeyer) -- a casting and performance that would have made Wagner's most ardent dreams come true (and brought tears to the eyes of Thomas Mann.) Thanks to Bayreuth 1976, we can enjoy an operatic evolution with actors/singers like Jonas Kaufmann or Anna Netrebko (see the review of Euene Onegin in the same issue) and with live in HD opera productions at the Met that have taken up the cinematic challenge at a surprisingly high level of consistent excellence.
read Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold's article