Illustrating Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung

Archives and Special Collections

Illustrating Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung, curated by Rare Music Curator Jen Hill, is currently on display in the Baillieu Library’s ground floor. The exhibition is timed to coincide with performances in Bendigo of the composer Richard Wagner’s complete Ring cycle by Melbourne Opera, the first time it has been heard live in regional Australia. Referencing the four operas of The Ring, the exhibit devotes one cabinet to each opera (a line drawing by Arthur Rackham relevant to each opera heading each cabinet). It draws on the Rare Music, Rare Books and Prints collections and includes illustrative title pages from published scores; book illustrations; illustrated libretti (or “books of words”) for the operas; and photographs. The illustrators are German, English, French and American and their work spans just 1887-1910; each illustrative work post-dates Wagner’s own life.  

The exhibition’s graphic elements are the work of PracticeLab, a student-led graphic design studio based at the Victorian College of the Arts. PracticeLab’s brief is to engage in “real-world, research-based design projects”. With support from Senior Lecturer Danny Butt, student designers Ethan Tsang, Mia Murone and Georgia Hodgkinson responded to a brief from Archives and Special Collections, extending elements of the Rackham illustrations to create a greater immersive impact for the display.

Photos by Riva Charles.