Hartford Wagner Festival Postponed Amid Controversy

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Richard Wagner in 1871. (Wikimedia Commons.)

Richard Wagner in 1871. (Wikimedia Commons.)

A brief statement appeared on the Hartford Wagner Festival website today, announcing a yearlong postponement of their production of “Das Rheingold” in response to “vicious and coordinated attacks” by the American Federation of Musicians.

The attacks, the statement says, allegedly led to resignations of its music director and two performers. (You can read the full statement here.) The nature of the attacks remain unspecified, but a New York Times article quoted AFM Local 802 president Tino Gagliardi, who said, “For some reason, they think an acceptable presentation of grand opera would not include the musicians.”

The production of “Das Rheingold” was to take place at the Roberts Theater of the Kingswood-Oxford School in West Hartford, Conn. from Aug. 8-10 of this year. Tickets for the performances were said to be $99, but that information has been removed from the website.

Area musicians were angered upon learning that the Hartford Wagner Festival would be using a digital orchestra rather than employing live musicians. A Facebook group called “Musicians Against Hartford Wagner Festival” was created in recent weeks. It currently has more than 500 members.

Charles M. Goldstein, the festival’s organizer and the creator of its digital orchestra — the reason for the recent bad press — could not be reached for comment. An email request for further information was returned with the exact statement that appears on the website.

It’s unclear whether or not the resignations included Jonathon Field, who was hired to produce “an entirely new multi-media production of the ‘Ring’ for HWF,” according to a recent press release. That same notice mentions eight singers who were “engaged to sing” from the Metropolitan Opera. The New York Times stated that Met singer Robert Brubaker, a tenor, was to have sung the role of Mime.

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