1997 - 2014
A historical overview


In 1997, the WAGNER FORUM GRAZ, led by Heinz Weyringer and his deputy, Walter Bernhart, developed the idea of establishing a competition for the musical theatre which, in contrast to other competitions in the field, was assigned to concentrate on stage direction and stage design. Since then the RING AWARD has been held at mostly three-year intervals and has reached a wide-ranging international dimension through the participation of contestants and top-class jury members from all over the world.

The RING AWARD is organized in three competition stages, which – uniquely so – lead to actual stage performances at the finals. At the first stage, the high-quality international RING AWARD Jury examines all submitted concepts and chooses nine to twelve teams (each consisting of a stage director and a stage designer) to enter the next stage.

At the semifinals (second stage), these selected projects are presented to the Jury and a general public audience at the Assembly Hall of Graz Opera. Three to four teams are selected to enter the finals (third stage), where they realize an actual stage performances of the specified excerpts of the chosen competition opera. The teams of singers are sponsored by various European Richard Wagner societies as well as the Graz Opera (Opernstudio) and the Arts University of Graz. The contestants are judged not only on their conceptual projects but also on their practical ability of bringing their creative ideas to actual stage-life.

So far seven RING AWARD competitions have been held, with over the years increasing numbers of participants and represented nations. Due to its origin in the WAGNER FORUM GRAZ, the first two competitions were devoted to works by Richard Wagner: the Rhinemaiden’s scene from RHEINGOLD (1997) and sequences from Act 2 of PARSIFAL (2000). In later years the range of musico-theatrical challenges was significantly widened: further topics were the Antonia Act of LES CONTES D’HOFFMANN (2002), Act 2 of LE NOZZE DI FIGARO (2005), the final Act of RIGOLETTO (2008), Act 1 of the operetta DIE FLEDERMAUS (2011), and Act 2 of DER FREISCHÜTZ (THE MARKSMAN) (2014).

Measurable confirmation of the strong resonance and actual need of this singular competition comes from the fact that altogether already more than 1000 young artists from 49 nations have so far participated in it.

Both the Province of Styria and the City of Graz have been loyal supporters of the RING AWARD ever since its foundation, and they have sponsored the competition as a significant initiative of great international presence with the purpose of encouraging young artists and of strengthening the region’s position in the wider transregional contemporary cultural scene.

Facts & Figures

8th competition 2017

  • 89 teams (200 participants)
  • 24 nations
  • Gaetano Donizettis DON PASQUALE / Act 1

7th competition 2014

  • 91 teams (196 participants)
  • 29 nations
  • Carl Maria von Weber’s DER FREISCHÜTZ (THE MARKSMAN) / Act 2

6th competition 2011

  • 62 teams (138 participants)
  • 20 nations
  • Johann Strauß’ DIE FLEDERMAUS (THE BAT) / Act 1
  • experimental track “ring.award.off”

5th competition 2008

  • 62 teams (138 participants)
  • 20 nations
  • Giuseppe Verdi’s RIGOLETTO / final Act
  • experimental track “RIGOLATOR”

4th competition 2005

  • 89 teams (186 participants)
  • 26 nations
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s LE NOZZE DI FIGARO (THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO) / Act 2
  • experimental track “stageXplorer”

3rd competition 2003 (for the first time called RING AWARD)

  • 87 teams (176 participants)
  • 26 nations
  • Jacques Offenbach’s LES CONTES D’HOFFMANN (THE TALES OF HOFFMANN) / Antonia Act
  • new feature: experimental track “hoffmann.remixed”, a coproduction with European Capital of Culture Graz 2003
  • new feature: additional Press Jury and Managing Directors’ Jury at the finals

2nd competition 2000

  • 60 teams (121 participants)
  • 14 nations
  • Richard Wagner’s PARSIFAL / sequences from Act 2

1st competition 1997 

  • 33 teams (66 participants)
  • 8 nations
  • Richard Wagner’s DAS RHEINGOLD (THE RHINEGOLD) / Rhinemaiden’s scene