28 March 1911
The Ring Cycle
(Music and libretto) Richard Wagner
The Yorkshire Post's Herbert Thompson kept a running commentary on the arrival of 'The Ring Cycle' in Leeds - including this article noting his surprise that the city was receptive to a performance of the full cycle
Leeds Grand Theatre
New Briggate Street
Leeds Grand Theatre in the late 19th century
The 'Ring Cycle' arrives in Leeds for the first time - the first performance in England outside London
The first Leeds Ring Cycle was the work primarily of one man – Ernst Denhof.
Denhof was a music teacher from Edinburgh who was inspired by the 1908 Ring Cycle at London’s Covent Garden Theatre. With great ambition and talent, Denhof managed to produce the first Ring Cycle in the UK outside of London, in Edinburgh in 1910.
Boyed by its success, he developed plans with his newly minted Denhof Opera Company to bring the Ring Cycle to wider audiences across the UK.
The dates were set for 28 March to 1 April 1911, with Leeds being the first stop on the tour.
Denhof had hired an orchestra of 82 players, most of whom were from the Scottish orchestra, and a cast of leading British singers, many of which had performed in the Covent Garden Ring on 1908, and Denhof’s performances in Edinburgh in 1910. The scenery and costumes from the Edinburgh performance – estimated to have cost Denhof £10,000 – were also to be re-used for this tour.
The arrival of the Ring Cycle in 1911 was a marker that Leeds was able to host, and find an audience, for the greatest heights of dramatic opera.
Audiences in Leeds had to wait a little while before seeing the Ring Cycle again, however in both 1975 and 1976, English National Opera performed full cycles at Leeds Grand Theatre.
The Valkyries from Denhof's 1911 production
Sadler's Wells first Ring Cycle in Leeds in 1975
The Ring Cycle
The Ring Cycle is made up of four operas by Richard Wagner – Das Rhinegold, Die Walkure, Siegfried, and Gotterdamerung. In brief, it concerns the battle over an all powerful ring that has the potential to enable its owner to take control over the entire world.
Following the premiere of the full Ring Cycle in 1876 in Bayreuth, Germany, it quickly established its reputation as the pinnacle of operatic ambition and achievement.
The return of Denhof's RIng Cycle in Leeds 1913 was beset by financial difficulties - Denhof wouldn't produce an opera tour again
Sir George Solti is one of the 20th century's most celebrated Wagner conductors.
This mammoth Decca recording features all four Ring Cycle operas.
Leeds Corn Exchange, Leeds Libraries, Leeds Museums, University of Leeds, West Yorkshire Archive Service
The Original Chinese Conjuror (Northern Opera Group, August 2018)
credit: Pelly & Me Photography