We have received a press release from the Hartford [CT] Wagner Festival, announcing a new production of Das Rheingold in August 2014 at the Roberts Theater of the Kingswood Oxford School in West Hartford, CT. The plan is to mount one drama each summer and to present two complete Ring Cycles each year beginning in 2017.
Several aspects of the plan are noteworthy. One is that, although two conductors are named (Doris Lang Kosloff and Charles M. Goldstein), the production will feature “a state-of-the-art Digital Orchestra.” Created by Mr. Goldstein, the Digital Orchestra is not otherwise described or explained, and a Google search for Mr. Goldstein comes up bare. Nevertheless, just as Wagner himself created instruments and stage effects that had not existed because his story needed them, so the Hartford Wagner Festival seems to be treading in the Master’s footsteps.
Another odd aspect of the press release is its mistaken setting of the context of the project. It says:
Until now, the only two places in the world that you could see Wagner’s “Ring” every year were in Seattle, Washington and Bayreuth, Germany. Hartford, CT will now become the third location where the Cycle can be seen on a yearly basis.
It is troubling that the folks behind this ambitious project seem unaware that, in fact, the Ring is seen only periodically at Seattle and Bayreuth, and that no house produces the Ring every year. (At least as far as I know….)
Still, I am a great believer in going where the action is and supporting new and ambitious productions of this great work. The stage director of this production is Jonathon Field, head of Oberlin’s Opera Department (whose web page says he will be directing Walküre, not Rheingold, in 2014). I fully intend to be there and enjoy whatever show they decide to mount. Tickets go on sale March 1 (according to the press release) or March 15 (according to the web site), and I will nab a few. While there, I plan to visit Mark Twain’s house and museum, located in Hartford, and ponder the wisdom of his precautions on seeing Parsifal in Bayreuth:
The entire overture, long as it was, was played to a dark house with the curtain down. It was exquisite; it was delicious. But straightway thereafter, or course, came the singing, and it does seem to me that nothing can make a Wagner opera absolutely perfect and satisfactory to the untutored but to leave out the vocal parts. I wish I could see a Wagner opera done in pantomime once. Then one would have the lovely orchestration unvexed to listen to and bathe his spirit in, and the bewildering beautiful scenery to intoxicate his eyes with, and the dumb acting couldn’t mar these pleasures, because there isn’t often anything in the Wagner opera that one would call by such a violent name as acting; as a rule all you would see would be a couple of silent people, one of them standing still, the other catching flies. Of course I do not really mean that he would be catching flies; I only mean that the usual operatic gestures which consist in reaching first one hand out into the air and then the other might suggest the sport I speak of if the operator attended strictly to business and uttered no sound.