Wagner’s world of flawed gods, aspiring demi-gods, and power-mad dwarves presents a formidable challenge for modern sensibilities. So in mounting this production of Das Rheingold, I sought to connect Wagner’s mythical realm with the mysterious complexities of our technological era. The action takes place in a future where science and technology have caught up with nature, where the organic, the mechanical, and the digital have started to fuse. Indeed, the distinction between biological processes and industrial artifice has almost ceased to exist. Gods are part-man, part-machine, and dwarves aspire to reign supreme by mining the technology of the past – semiconductors and computers. Technology permeates all aspects of existence and identity, and status is measured by one’s degree of technological assimilation.
In putting Rheingold on the stage, I was inspired by Wagner’s philosophy of Gesamtkunstwerk – total work of art – and that accumulative notion informed the concept for this new production. The Ordway gave us the opportunity to integrate the orchestra into the scenic textures onstage, with the orchestra’s physical presence creating a musical-visual fabric. This freed us to use the split-level pit to represent the Rhine and the underworld of Nibelheim. As you’ll see, the singers and orchestra will be immersed in luminous projections, images that create a framework of backstories and enhance Wagner’s expansive compositional technique – leitmotifs – to support and develop the storytelling.
Wagner considered Das Rheingold a prelude (vorspiel) to the three operas that followed, making the complete Ring Cycle. In Rheingold we see the creation of the magic Ring and are introduced to the salient elements that propel the entire cycle. It’s an epic story that very much has the power to speak to our time.
– Brian Staufenbiel