Das Rheingold is an incredibly innovative opera; characters changing into animals, Rhinemaidens swimming on stage, and dramatic scene changes are just some of the imaginative techniques used by Wagner.
The instrumentation used by Wagner for the opera was also ground-breaking. Bass trumpet and contrabass trombone, seven harps and the incredible sound of 18 anvils beating out the hammer strokes of the Nibelungs to create a unique sound world.
Perhaps the greatest innovation was the creation of a brand new instrument which we now call the ‘Wagner Tuba’. Wagner wanted to use a group of instruments that would fit in the sound gap in between horns and trombone for the opera to provide a solemn, dignified and heroic sound. These instruments are played by a quartet of horn players and are notated in Wagner’s score as a pair of Tenor Tubas and a pair of Bass Tubas which often combine with the Contrabass Tuba (our modern day tuba) to form a quintet.
BPO’s Wagner Tuba section in rehearsal for Das Rheingold
These instruments feature throughout Das Rheingold, in particular the noble Valhalla theme at the start of Scene 2, the sinister theme of the serpent in Scene 3, and the joyful Rainbow Bridge theme at the end of the opera.
To hear these instruments in all of their glory, join the Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra for our concert performance of Das Rheingold on 13th October 2019 in Birmingham’s Symphony Hall.
Tickets can be purchased from the Symphony Hall website, from the Symphony Hall box office, or from BPO members.