RYCHTARIK, WASLAV RICHARD (20 July 1894-10 July 1982) worked in Cleveland as an artist and scenic designer from 1922 to 1944. Born in Chocen, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), Rychtarik studied painting and architecture in Prague, where he designed sets for plays and operas at the National Theater. He emigrated with his wife Charlotte to the United States in 1924 and settled in Cleveland, where he had already done some designs for the CLEVELAND PLAY HOUSE. During the 1920s his work was regularly exhibited in the Cleveland MAY SHOW, and he and his wife corresponded frequently with the poet HART CRANE. When the CLEVELAND ORCHESTRA was planning to build Severance Hall, Rychtarik unsuccessfully lobbied ADELLA PRENTISS HUGHES to let him design a facility suitable for both opera and concerts.
During the 1930s, however, Rychtarik was called upon to design the sets for more than a dozen staged productions including Verdi's Otello, Wagner's Die Walkure, and Strauss' Elektra. A highlight of the series was the American premiere of Shostakovich's controversial Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. From Severance Hall Rychtarik's Lady Macbeth sets went to New York for a single performance at the Metropolitan Opera. For the GREAT LAKES EXPOSITION in 1936, Rychtarik designed the SHERWIN WILLIAMS music shell and 150 buildings and facades for the popular Streets of the World attraction. He also partnered with Boris Goldovsky of the CLEVELAND INSTITUTE OF MUSIC to provide sets for the Civic Opera Company, beginning with Smetana's The Bartered Bride, and taught at the Institute and Cleveland College of WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY.
In 1941 Rychtarik fulfilled his life's ambition to design sets for the Metropolitan Opera, beginning with Gluck's Alceste and including Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor and Mozart's The Magic Flute. Among other assignments were designs for the American premiere of Britten's Peter Grimes at Tanglewood and Verdi's Falstaff at La Scala.
Sometimes criticized for his use of multi-leveled sets, Rychtarik pointed out that in opera all singers on stage had to be able to see the conductor. He rounded out his career as chief designer for CBS television. Charlotte having died in 1950, Rychtarik was survived by his second wife Gertrud (Trude) and daughter Ann Trayna.