His performances in the tetralogy's first two operas, Das Rheingold and Die Walk‹re, at Covent Garden in 2004 and 2005 were cheered by audiences and critics alike. The upcoming cycle was to have featured Terfel's role debut as Wotan/the Wanderer in Siegfried, and his appearance in the central male role of the complete cycle had been hotly anticipated. According to the London Times, Covent Garden's Ring has been completely sold out for more than a year.
In a statement released yesterday, the Royal Opera "expressed shock and surprise at Bryn Terfel's cancellation, acknowledging the disappointment it will bring to audiences who were looking forward to seeing him perform in a complete Ring cycle for the first time" — unusually strong language for an official press release in the opera world.
According to The Independent, Terfel evidently attended one nine-hour set of rehearsals before deciding to pull out of the production. Fellow cast members and musicians, and company music director Antonio Pappano in particular, are said — unofficially — to be furious at the baritone's withdrawal, according to the paper.
Terfel, in a statement issued by his agent and released by the Royal Opera, attributed his decision to family concerns: "I am deeply sorry that I feel it necessary to cancel my performances at Covent Garden this autumn. I have had a particularly stressful family situation involving one of my children this summer which has affected the time I had put aside to prepare for this challenging role. Having begun rehearsals it is clear to me that I would not be able to perform at the standard I would wish to, and rather than progressing through rehearsal in the hope that I might make it, I feel it is better for The Royal Opera and the fantastic team working on this epic production that I withdraw at this stage."
Veteran bass John Tomlinson, who has sung Wotan in the Covent Garden Ring's individual operas over the past three years and was scheduled to share the role with Terfel in the complete cycle, has agreed to take the part for all scheduled performances. The winner of a special Olivier Award earlier this year, Tomlinson has sung the role of Wotan all over Europe and the U.S. and has performed the role more times at the Bayreuth Festival than any other singer.
Tomlinson had also been scheduled to sing the role of Hagen in G‹tterd‹mmerung. Kurt Rydl will take that part on October 1 and November 2; casting for October 9 and 24 will be announced later.
The Royal Opera's complete Ring cycle, conducted by Pappano and directed by Keith Warner, opens with Das Rheingold on October 2 and concludes with G‹tterd‹mmerung on November 2. Among the other cast members are Lisa Gasteen as Br‹nnhilde, Rosalind Plowright as Fricka, Peter Sidhom as Alberich, Plšcido Domingo and Simon O'Neill sharing the role of Siegmund, Eva-Maria Westbroek as Sieglinde, John Treleaven as Siegfried, and Mihoko Fujimura as Waltraute. More information is available at www.royaloperahouse.org.