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Wagner in a car park: Berlin opera adapts to COVID-19

Wagner's "Das Rheingold" performed on a makeshift stage in a car park in the German capital.
Wagner's "Das Rheingold" performed on a makeshift stage in a car park in the German capital. Copyright Euronews
Copyright Euronews
By Jona Källgren
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The German Opera in Berlin has found an unusual way of bringing one of Wagner's masterpieces back to the nation while respecting social distancing measures.


"Das Rheingold" is part of Germany’s cultural DNA. The dramatic opera written by Richard Wagner tells the story of gods and goddesses, giants and dwarfs, stolen gold, love and hate.

It is usually played in extravagant theatres, but because of COVID-19, that’s no longer possible. Coronavirus restrictions in Berlin include a ban on large gatherings in closed public spaces such as cinemas, theatres and nightclubs.

So the capital's main opera house, the Deutsche Oper, got creative -  staging an open-air, socially distanced performance on the building's outdoor car deck.

"At the start, it was an emergency solution. But in an emergency, you get inventive. And then, in the end, you find it fits perfectly, it’s exactly right," Dietmar Schwarz, director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, told Euronews.

The normally two-and-a-half hour piece, which is a part Wagner’s four-act Ring cycle, has been condensed down to 90 minutes.

In this version, only 22 musicians are on stage and they keep at a distance from each other.

It was an artistic challenge, says South African born director Neil Barry Moss.

"We got this amazing space. With this amazing history. Which gives you the opportunity to do a weird version that no one else has done. What are you supposed to say about the piece, the piece is so famous? For me, this was completely obvious," Moss said.

It’s only the second time a performance has been staged on the opera’s parking deck. The last time was in 2014 – but the acoustics still came as a surprise.

"We had actually forgotten this, but the acoustics are actually quite good here. It’s pretty good without any amplification. Not ideal for sure, but pretty good," said Schwarz.

German authorities may eventually allow smaller performances and concerts in theatres later in the summer.

But, since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, this is the only opera that’s been performed in front of an audience in Germany.

"I think it is very essential. Culture is something that you take for granted. But without it, you can’t function. It is a basic human right, I think, to take part in culture," Moss said.

Only 800 tickets were available for the five performances scheduled in the car park. They all sold out in 12 minutes.

Watch Jona's report in the video player above.

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