How to Direct Opera the German way
This wonderful piece of satire in list form (our favourite form!) was posted in an internet forum by the manager of Copenhagen Opera. I tried to get him to tell me who wrote the list, but he didn’t seem to want to reveal his source. I like to think that he actually wrote it himself to piss off some of his German colleagues. In any case, thank you, Kasper!
1) The director is the most important personality involved in the production. His vision must supercede the needs of the composer, librettist, singers and especially the audience, those overfed fools who want to be entertained and moved.
2) The second most important personality is the set designer.
3) Comedy is verboten, except when unintentional. Wit is for TV watching idiots.
4) Great acting is hyperintensity, with much rolling on the ground, groping the wall and sitting on a bare floor.
5) The audience’s attention must be on anything except the person who is singing. A solo aria, outmoded even in the last century, must be accompanied by extraneous characters expressing their angst in trivial ways near, on or about the person singing the aria.
6) Storytelling is anathema to the modern director, like realistic “photographic” painting is to the abstract painter. Don’t tell the story, COMMENT on it! Even better, UNDERMINE IT!
7) When singing high notes, the singer must be crumpled over, lying down or facing the back of the stage.
8) The music must stop once in awhile for intense, obscure miming.
9) Sexual scenes must be charmless and aggressive. Rolling on the floor a must here.
10) Unmotivated homosexual behavior must be introduced a few times during the evening.
11) Happy endings are intellectually bankrupt. Play the opposite. Insert a sudden murder if at all possible.
12) Avoid entertaining the audience at all costs. If they boo, you have succeeded.
13) Rehearse it until it’s dead. Very important.
14) Any suggestion of the beauty and mystery of nature must be avoided at all costs! The set must be trivial, contemporary and decrepit! Don’t forget the fluorescent lights! (Klieg lights also acceptable.)
15) The audience must not know when to applaud or when the scene/act ends.
16) Historical atrocities such as the Holocaust or the AIDS epidemic must be incorporated and exploited as much as possible. Also the lifestyle of the audience must be mocked.
17) Colors are culinary. Black, white and gray only!
18) The chorus must be bald, sexless, faceless and in trench coats.
19) If the audience is bored, this is art.
20) Props are items of junk piled in a corner of the set. They must be overused pointlessly, then dropped on the floor, hopefully when the music is soft. Be careful to keep dangerous objects at the lip of the stage so the blindfolded dancers can kick them into the pit.
21) All asides must be sung next to the person who is not supposed to hear them.
22) The leading performers faces must be painted as a white mask to ensure no individuality or variety of expressions, as opera singers can’t act anyway. They just want to pose and make pretty sounds.
23) Preparation is important. Try to read the libretto in advance to make sure it doesn’t interfere with your staging ideas. Not much harm in listening to the CD once, though that’s not really your job.
24) Make the conductor feel useful, though he’s really a literal minded hack.
25) The stage director must avoid any idea that is not his own, though that idea will surely be on this list already.
26) A costume must serve at least two of the following criteria: a) Make the singer look unattractive b) Obscure his vision c) Make hearing the orchestra difficult d) Impede movement d) Contradict the period in which the opera is set (hardly worth mentioning) —–
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