Nineteen fifty-seven was a very good year, and part of the evidence is that Peter Sellars turns fifty today, about midway between Jonathan Bellman's birthday and mine. This is as good a moment as any to mention my first encounter with the Sellars genius, at a now-legendary production.
He was at Harvard when I was at Brandeis. In May of 1979, a friend found a review of a condensed Ring performance being staged, improbably, at Harvard's Loeb Theater. The review said something about puppets. The friend suggested we go, and a bunch of us got tickets.
We walked in and found that the Loeb was in its theater-in-the-round configuration, but with only three-quarters of the seats in place. No orchestra was in sight. The lights went down, a trap in floor opened, and in the dark we heard the Rheingold prelude emanating from speakers. Spotlit sheets of mylar, manipulated by the fully-visible stage crew, rippled below floor level.
It was pure magic: the perspective was right, the music was Solti.
The prelude reached the entry of the Rheintochterin.
"Weia! Waga!" sang the bright green muppet puppet playing Woglinde. "Woge, du Welle,walle zur Wiege! Wagala weia! Wallala, weiala weia!"
That nicely punctured the reverent mood. The rest of the production was marked by just that balance of cheekiness and affection for the Ring. The giants were macrame, and you could see them only from the hips down, hung from the flies on the proscenium stage. The galloping Valkyries were children's hobby-horses, the magic provided by the best use of a disco ball I've ever seen in my life.
It was a great introduction to the Ring on stage. I wish I could see it again, or that I could find a more complete description of the proceedings.
Thank you for that, Peter, and other productions since and to come.