Das Rheingold (from The Mariinsky Ring)
Das Rheingold (from The Mariinsky Ring)
Remember, remember the fifth of November. That's the date a year from now when the nation's Wagner enthusiasts will descend on Birmingham for one of the big events of the UK-Russia Year of Culture: a visit to the Hippodrome by Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Opera for a performance in four evenings across five nights of the complete Der Ring des Nibelungen. More than 250 musicians and crew will be heading from St Petersburg to the Midlands for Birmingham's first fully-staged Ring cycle in decades.

It is not, though, the first time the Mariinsky Opera's current Ring cycle has been seen in the UK. All four of Wagner's operas – Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung – visited the Wales Millennium Centre in 2006 and later the Royal Opera House in 2009, where they enjoyed a mixed reception. WhatsOnStage reviewer Simon Thomas described the cycle as "a disgrace", although others were more favourably disposed.

Gergiev, a conductor whose career brings controversy in its wake wherever he works, has collaborated with set designer George Tsypin on a colourful interpretation that draws on Russian, Caucasian and Scythian folk mythology.

Wagner's four-part work, which runs for some 15 hours (excluding intervals and overnight breaks), weaves an almost unbearably powerful spell as it delves into Teutonic mythology and lot more besides. For anyone who hasn't sampled its wonders, it is a demanding but overwhelming and rewarding experience.

This cycle coincides with Gergiev's recording of all four operas on the company's own Mariinsky label, two of which have already appeared. Reviewing Die Walküre in April, BBC Music Magazine wrote that "so far this recalls, and must rank with, the great Rings of the 1960s".

- Booking for the Mariinsky's staging of Der Ring des Nibelungen, whose visit is supported by BP, opens in this month with a priority period for Friends of Birmingham Hippodrome. Information can be found here.