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10 transformative opera marathons

As the London Marathon takes place, take a look at the longest works in the operatic repertory.

By Rose Slavin (Former Assistant Content Producer)

24 April 2016 at 9.55am | 2 Comments

This weekend, thousands will push the limits of their endurance at the London Marathon. Long distance runners often claim that feats of stamina are transformative events, something that will resonate with opera fans who relish the power of the repertory's lengthier works.

In tribute to both groups' dedication, we've dug out the stopwatch to determine opera's longest works:

Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Licht cycle: 29 hours

The German composer spent 27 years composing the Licht cycle of operas, completing the work in 2003.

Robert Wilson's The Life and Times of Joseph Stalin: 15 hours and 15 minutes

The piece was performed in seven acts at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1973 and listed by the Guinness World Records as the longest single opera ever performed.

Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle: 15 hours

A cycle of four music dramas inspired by Norse mythology, Wagner's masterpiece took 26 years to write. They are often performed on consecutive nights.

Richard Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: 5 hours and 30 minutes

Wagner's only comedy, Meistersinger explores the relationship of art and artists with society. Kasper Holten makes his farewell as Director of The Royal Opera with a new production of Wagner’s comic opera in Spring 2017.

Phillip GlassEinstein on the Beach: 5+ hours, with no interval

Glass’s non-narrative opera breaks all operatic convention. Taking place over five hours, in its recent staging at the Barbican, audiences were allowed to enter and exit when they pleased during the performance.

Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde:  4 hours 55 minutes

Richard Wagner described Tristan und Isolde as ‘the most audacious and original work of my life’.

George Frideric Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto: 4 hours 45 minutes

Handel wrote many of his works for the first theatre on the Royal Opera House’s Covent Garden site.

Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser: 4 hours 30 minutes

Based on two German legends,Tannhäuser centres on an epic struggle between sacred and profane love. The opera is currently on stage at the Royal Opera House, with tickets still available.

Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier: 4 hours 30 minutes

One of Richard Strauss' best-known works, Der Rosenkavalier is at first glimpse a comic opera, but look closer and deeper themes emerge. The Royal Opera's new production starring Renée Fleming has its premiere in Winter 2017.

Giuseppe Verdi’s Don Carlo: 4 hours 30 minutes

Based on the 1787 dramatic poem by Friedrich Schiller, Verdi’s Don Carlo dangerously intertwines politics and religion and love in 16th century Spain. Nicholas Hytner’s acclaimed Royal Opera production returns to the Covent Garden in Spring 2017.

By Rose Slavin (Former Assistant Content Producer)

24 April 2016 at 9.55am

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged Der Rosenkavalier, Don Carlo, Einstein on the Beach, length, London Marathon, opera, Philip Glass, Richard Wagner, Ring Cycle

This article has 2 comments

  1. Geoff responded on 24 April 2016 at 9:54pm Reply

    Typo: Don Carlo returns in Spring 2017 not 2016

    • Rose Slavin (Former Assistant Content Producer) responded on 25 April 2016 at 9:53am

      Thanks for spotting Geoff! I've amended.
      All best wishes,

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