Let’s Talk About Regietheater
Just imagine if you were taking an opera virgin to
see his or her first opera. You thought “ooh, La Traviata.
That is a good one.
Anne told me so (Is Opera for You)“.
You set yourself into your seats. You are excited to hear those beautiful melodies. You are excited to share this with someone who has never heard it. The curtain rises and instead of 19th century Paris you see 1970’s New York. OK, you can stretch your mind, but before you know it, Violetta is masturbating during her aria (full nudity, mind you!), Alfredo and later his father rape her as she covers herself in blood during the 2nd act (fully nudity, mind you!), and instead of dying of consumption, Violetta is suddenly transported back in time to a concentration camp and is killed in the gas chamber. You leave the theater not with beautiful melodies in your head; all you and your friend can remember is blood, nudity, and violence.
You, my friend, have just experienced Regietheater. I know this may sound ridiculous, but this sort of thing happens more often than you may think.
So what is “Regietheater” or “Director’s Theater” anyway?
Here is a short explanation, taken from Wikipedia:
(German for director's theater) is a term that refers to the
modern (mainly post-World War II) practice of allowing a director freedom in devising the way a given opera or play is staged so that the creator's original, specific intentions or stage directions (where supplied) can be changed, together with major elements of geographical location, chronological situation, casting and plot. Typically such changes may be made to point a particular political point or modern parallels which may be remote from traditional interpretations. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regietheater
I for one am tired of seeing yet another opera classic, be it
a Boheme, Carmen, or Fidelio
L forced to be something it is not.
Now, believe me: I am 100% for art being provocative, even ugly,
difficult, and dirty if it needs to be.
I firmly believe that one of art’s highest purposes is
to help us stretch our perceptions. I also do not
believe that every staging needs to be “traditional”- there are,
indeed, many ways to tell a story and I do not want to see
(or perform) the same production of Don Giovanni
over and and over again.
What bothers me about this trend is not all of those on stage shock tactics, it is this: we cannot deny the musical language of an opera. The composer wrote the music for a specific story, in a time and place. Mozart set in 1995 is still going to sound like Mozart. Yes, I know there are universal, timeless themes and yes, I understand that sometimes the point is to show that no matter how much things change, the more they stay the same. Yet denying the musical voice or even completely disregarding it is disrespectful in two ways: it is disrespectful to the composer who wrote it and it is disrespectful to all the brilliant modern composers out there who could and would gladly write the next great opera.
Why is there so much emphasis on Regietheater instead of on creating new works?
I strongly believe that if a director wants to do a piece about police brutality in Detroit or the horrors of the oil industry, he or she should find a composer to create something that has that sound. Why not complete the idea by having something that not only looks a certain way but sounds that way, too?
We have so many stories to tell, so let’s create something new instead of warping what has already been written. Let’s get those crazy and inspired directors paired up with some crazy and inspired composers and librettists. I for one am ready to experience the next great classic.
Anne Wieben is a freelance operatic soprano, currently residing in Vienna, Austria. For more information, check out her HELLOSTAGE profile
or visit her website: www.annewieben.com!