First, a Ring without words. Now, a Ring without musicians.

First, a Ring without words. Now, a Ring without musicians.


norman lebrecht

June 03, 2014

Not sure whether to laugh hysterically, or weep.

A man called Charles M. Goldstein is trying to raise money for a Ring cycle in Hartford, Connecticut. It’s an economy Ring with a digital orchestra. Says Goldstein:  My digital instruments come from the Vienna Symphonic Library and are basically from the players of the Vienna Philharmonic and other Viennese orchestras.’

In whose dreams? Listen to this clip. If you think it sounds like Vienna, check in with the nearest ENT specialist.

So far, the project has raised exactly $0.00.


connecticut ring

Press release:

Hartford Wagner Festival, Inc.- Newest Opera Company to Present Wagner’s Ring Cycle

The Hartford Wagner Festival, Inc. is pleased to announce its inaugural season of presenting Richard Wagner’s monumental “Der Ring des Nibelungen” with their new production of “Das Rheingold” on August 8, 9 & 10, 2014 at the Roberts Theater of the Kingswood Oxford School in West Hartford, Connecticut.

Utilizing a state-of-the-art Digital Orchestra, “Das Rheingold” will be the first production of the “Ring” of the new opera company. Following each year, the Hartford Wagner Festival will add the next installment of the “Ring” cycle until in 2017 they will begin presenting two complete “Ring” cycles each year.

Employing the talents of the Digital Orchestra’s creator, Charles M. Goldstein, the Hartford Wagner Festival has hired Jonathon Field, Head of the Opera Department at Oberlin College and a noted “Ring” Stage Director, to produce an entirely new multi-media production of the “Ring” for HWF. Eight artists from the Metropolitan Opera have been engaged to sing as well as giving young artists the opportunity to perform in some of the smaller roles.

Michael Chioldi, noted Metropolitan Opera Baritone, will make his first foray into Wagner as Wotan in “Das Rheingold.” Robert Brubaker will sing the role of Mime which he has sung for the Met. Sondra Kelly, also a Met alumnus, sings the role of Fricka and Adam Herskowitz (another Met artist) will sing Froh. Alberich will be sung by Met artist Philip Cokorinos and Cindy Sadler will perform as Erda. Joel Sorenson reprises his Met role of Loge. Newcomers Jeremy Milner (also a Met Artist) and Matthew Anchel sing Fasolt and Fafner with Met artist Ross Crolius as the second cast Fafner. Resident Artist’s Sydney Anderson, Caitlin Mathes and Ema Mitrovic’ will be the Rhinemaidens. Conducting will be Charles M. Goldstein.

Full Cast details can be found here.


  • Mark Powell says:

    The Kickstarter video above implies we are listening to MET singers. Is this the case?
    There’s a conductor, but he seems to be following a tempo that won’t change.
    So, is this just karaoke writ large?

  • Paul Murphy says:

    The sound in the video seems pretty bad to me – certainly not worth using in a professional production. It’s not jus that bad sounds from the electronics, but I also agree with the previous comment that the tempo seems mechanical and unmoving. I assume that the tempo can be modulated by the conductor in someway, but it doesn’t seem like that’s what’s happening here…at least not in a musical way.

    The whole thing just seems ridiculous, but I guess time will tell whether people would show up for this or not.

  • Alexander says:

    Take a look at the Vienna Symphonic Library website for more of an idea of what is going on here: My understanding is that the Library consists of recordings of instruments and voices which can then be programmed to perform music. It is quite possible that some of the individual recorded notes were performed by members of the Vienna Philharmonic, but that does not mean that the result will sound anything like the Vienna Philharmonic. It seems to be a potentially useful tool for students or amateur composers who want to have some idea of what their work would perhaps sound like but who do not have the resources available to commission a performance by a real orchestra. The website has samples of pieces of music performed by the recorded sounds available in their Library. It’s quite interesting as a novelty. However, I think that listening to an entire Ring Cycle performed by digital recordings of real musical instruments would be a fairly unsatisfying experience.

  • Sixtus says:

    I would be much more interested in this if the “orchestra” were reimagined in purely electronic terms, without trying to make each line sound like a standard orchestral instrument. The latter path will lead to all sorts of frustrations. Something along the lines of Wendy Carlos’ Switched-On Bach might be more successful. But that requires true musical brilliance, something woefully lacking throughout the video.

  • Musiker says:

    Singers’ German is unrecognizable as such.

  • Andrys says:

    I guess the tempo was “pre-modulated” by the conductor. Here are details on how the music is done:
    And the Kickstarter announcement that talks about what’s been done so far and what any funding (if ever) would cover: .

  • Nicole says:

    Mark, they do appear to have engaged Met singers. Trouble is, I could see two or three actual Met productions for a single ticket ($99)…maybe they would be up in the nosebleeds, but it would be something worth sitting in the nosebleeds for. This is just highway robbery.

  • James Bee says:

    I found it quite interesting. With the limitation of budget, this is quite something to have. Maybe next time they can try to replace human singers and hire a real orchestra. I bet this will cost less.

  • Michael Hurshell says:

    I am horrified, esp. by remarks that suggest this is a “coming trend.” This is a travesty. Quite apart from how the “digital orchestra” actually sounds, a real performance is a combination of interaction between stage and pit. The Ring as “music minus one” – absurd. (As for the cost… apart from the programming – hardly done pro bono, I imagine – I wonder if there are licensing fees, to be paid to the Viennese orchestras…?) Let’s all hope the supporters of this sorry project quickly realize just how embarrassing this idea is, and just how silly they must appear to anyone who knows the metier.

  • Andrys says:

    You can be less horrified now — the Met’s singers page (full cast and history) at leads now to another page with a statement by the Festival people .

    The Met singers won’t be singing live for these Connecticut folks, who can continue driving long distances instead to hear them and listen from the upper reaches or even “better” listen to the lovely sounds of compressed FM radio opera broadcasts thru’ one’s speakers for the Met’s sounds as most of us have done for decades (I’m on the west coast).

    The other page with a statement is at that will “relieve” many is on

    And if any reading here were interested enough to follow a link to see how the sounds were being created and how they’d be reproduced (whether even worse or somewhat better than feared), some of the remarks about what the sound would have been like wouldn’t have been so out of touch with the digital sounds used today.

    There’s definitely a big downside to pre-fab tempi, even if developed by the conductor. Sponaneity has a lot to do with drama and emotion, but I also know, as one who lives in a big town and who sang in two acts of an opera for Boris Godonov as one of the revolutionaries, FEW interested in classical ever get to hear really powerful Wagnerian (or less high-volume) singers in person. Luckily I was able to do this a few times a week in standing room for years.

  • Andrys says:

    The first link I gave today was wrong – that was to the statement. The met singers info (those who had signed contracts) is at

  • Andrys says:

    New York Times on this:
    1. “A Digital Orchestra for Opera? Purists Take (and Play) Offense”
    (About threats made to the singers who’d contracted for it)

    Some comments mentioned being intrigued by what it would be like to hear the effect of 24 speakers, each positioned and putting out sound specific to its recorded area from the same place the instruments would be and whether the live singing in a small space (a school auditorium) might mitigate the inherent problems. Also mentioned is that after the sampled notes were all entered for the specific instruments with basic dynamics and sustain/release programmed, the conductor and singers were to work together on what was wanted with regard to tempi etc.

    2. “Ring’ Cycle With Digital Orchestra Is Postponed”
    “One email, signed by the “musicians of the Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra,” warned them that if they did not resign, “the live musicians of this country will remember you for the rest of your career and treat you as a traitor to our art form. That letter, it turned out, was written by a cellist in the orchestra who said in an interview last week that he did not speak for the entire ensemble.)”