Small picture of Donizetti



Wagner's  Rienzi

Oper Leipzig,  2007- 2010.

Photographs by Andreas Birkigt, courtesy of Oper Leipzig

This Leipzig production was first mounted in 2007.  The comments here refer to the performance of April 19th, 2010.


The Team


Cola Rienzi - Stefan Vinke

Irene - Marika Schönberg / Carola Glaser

Steffano Colonna - Miklós Sebestyén

Adriano - Chariklia Mavropoulou

Paolo Orsini - Jürgen Kurth

Raimondo - Roman Astakhov

Baroncelli - Timothy Fallon

Cecco del Vecchio - Thomas Oertel-Gormanns

Friedensbote - Jean Broekhuizen


Musikalische Leitung  - Matthias Foremny

Inszenierung - Nicolas Joel

Bühne, Kostüme - Andreas Reinhardt

Choreinstudierung - Sören Eckhoff


Chor und Zusatzchor der Oper Leipzig

Damen des Jugendchores



At first glance, some may find it a little odd to find a Wagner opera included on the site but it should be remembered that Wagner launched his operatic career in the 1830's with the, then, unperformed Die Feen (1833) and Das Liebesverbot (1836) (see here for photographs from the 2008 Glimmerglass Festival production). This was followed by Rienzi, premiered in 1842 in Dresden.  All three operas reflect Wagner's efforts to find success within the accepted operatic forms of the day, including bel canto opera, before striking out on a new path.

Wagner was in Paris at the same time as Donizetti but there is no evidence of them meeting, although Wagner, as ever in need of money, was forced to accept a commission, "shameful labour", making arrangements of parts of Donizetti's La Favorite for various instruments,

In Rienzi, with a text by himself based on Edward Bulwer-Lytton's novel,  Wagner sought to create the grandest of grand opéra with the Paris Opéra as his immediate goal and Spontini and  Meyerbeer as his models, giving rise to Hans von Bülow's quip that it was Meyerbeer's best opera. Even so, certain later Wagner traits are evident: the sheer scale, the isolated tenor hero, the soprano anguishing over him, the importance of the orchestra and, notwithstanding extensive cuts and the lack of a definitive score, an unfolding of the drama that retains a focus and credibility that many operas of the day lacked.

The original production in 1842 was very successful but its length was unmanageable which led Wagner to revise and reduce it a number of times. It was the most performed of Wagner's operas in his lifetime, to his considerable chagrin as it did not conform to his later principles. However, it gets comparatively few performances today, not least because its lack of emotional variety becomes somewhat unrelenting, a sense of being constantly sung at.

The Leipzig production from Nicolas Joel if anything emphasised the unremitting quality of the opera by occasionally having Rienzi standing on the prompt box addressing the audience as his crowd but that aside, he gave a clear, ungimmicky, exposition of the plot that included some arresting images, such as the women at prayer in Act 3 (2nd photograph below).  Andreas Reinhardt's design with its metre high buildings (see below) was an ingenious solution to the potentially expensive staging problems and worked well but lacked impact in the final scene with the firing and collapse of the Capitol (final photograph). 

Stefan Vinke sang Rienzi with an appropriate forthrightness and authority, but a few more moments of repose, such as he found at the start of his big aria, “Allmächt'ger Vater”, would have been welcome and thrown the strident tone of the majority of the role into better relief. Unfortunately, Marika Schönberg was unable to sing the part of Irene but acted it with Carola Glaser singing the part from the side of the stage. Chariklia Mavropoulou, as the trouser part Adriano, sang well, including a moving “Gerechter  Gott”, but her too obviously womanly figure did not always look that credible in some scenes.  However, overall, it was a tremendous and exhilarating performance with strong support from the other soloists and chorus all underpinned by glorious sound from the Gewandhausorchester  under Matthias Foremny.


The initial confrontation with the nobles


Irene and the women pray as Rienzi goes to battle against the nobles




 Rienzi and Irene at his excommunication


The end of the opera