This renowned series of four operas, a 16-hour telling of the Norse saga the “Der Ring des Nibelungen” (“The Ring of Nibelung”), is Wagner’s story of the end of the world and the dawn of a new one. As international audiences flock to Seattle to witness this epic production for the 38th consecutive year, the production will include the National Music Museum exhibit, “Wagner, Verdi, and the Search for Orchestral Color,” celebrating the bicentennial anniversaries of both Richard Wagner (1813-1883) and Giuseppe Verdi (18-13-1901). According to Cleveland Johnson, director of the National Music Museum, Verdi and Wagner guided instrument builders in devising new musical instruments to reflect the sounds of their imaginations.

“Few of these instruments found a permanent place in the orchestras of today,” Johnson said. “They are, however, witnesses to the fact that the human search for innovative new sounds is not unique to our own time.”

The centerpiece of the exhibit is an early “Wagner tuba,” built in Berlin around 1877. The instrument came to the National Music Museum badly damaged and, prior to last year, was in storage at the National Music Museum. Ana Silva, a Portuguese student in the master’s degree program for the history of musical instruments, restored the instrument for her thesis project. The Wagner tuba, along with the other rare instruments in the exhibit, will return to South Dakota and be part of the National Music Museum’s permanent collection.

For more information about the National Music Museum, please visit, which includes a virtual tour of the facility. The National Music Museum is located on the campus of USD at 414 East Clark Street and is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and Sundays from 2 to 5 p.m. The NMM’s summer schedule includes extended evening hours until 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays.

A photo of the restored Wagner tuba is available for download at A “before” image of the damaged tuba can be found at

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