Opera North is about to embark upon a four-year climb to the summit of that everest of music dramas Wagner's Ring. As they prepare the Prologue of the cycle - Das Rheingold - Edward Seckerson talks to the company's music director Richard Farnes and Michael Drueitt, who plays Wotan in the first opera, about the journey ahead: the decision to mount the company's first Ring cycle as a series of elaborately mounted and atmospherically lit concert performances where virtue can be made of necessity by bringing the Opera North Orchestra - as important a character as any in Wagner's music drama - out of the pit and on to the platforms of some of the North's best concert halls.

Drueitt talks about Wotan as the Tony Soprano or Godfather of opera and Farnes contemplates the impact that Wagner, the man, might have had in today's media obsessive climate. According to both men, the buzz within the company is one of eager anticipation with many seasoned players admitting that they have waited years for the chance to tackle "the big one".

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