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Risky Regie: Musings on the Nazi Tannhäuser

Hello, opera people of the world! I have been away for quite a while, haven’t I?

Image courtesy of Opera21.tumblr.com

Well, I’m back today with my opinions and musings on that controversial production of Tannhäuser from Dusseldorf that was set in a concentration camp. My article about it is published here, in the May issue of an online magazine called Opera21.

Take a look at my article and leave your opinions in the comments section below! Thanks!

P.S. In the table of comments, they have me listed as “Griffin Candey”. That was just an editorial mistake, so rest assured that it is actually me!


One comment on “Risky Regie: Musings on the Nazi Tannhäuser

  1. Everyone, of course, is entitled to personal preference and opinion, but I feel you are not accurately defining Regietheater. Regietheater is not theater (or opera) where a director can put “anything” on the stage. A director’s responsibility is to make sense out of every beat (a theatrical moment) in a script or score. In Regietheater, the director is not trying to avoid or go against the original intention, but rather to reinterpret it or abstract it. The essential idea is (or should be) the same. In other words there are many different ways to tell the same story with a different picture, and there are many different ways to say the same thing.

    What you are witnessing when this doesn’t work for you, isn’t that an opera company hired someone to just throw any bizarre interpretation up on the stage. There is too much money at stake in opera production. Believe me, the director had to sell the company on the idea, and the director had to have every bit of his new interpretation or abstraction carefully thought out.

    The problem is, what works on paper doesn’t always work on the stage. When the new interpretation works, it can be really wonderful and you can learn new things about an old piece. You see it anew through new eyes. When it doesn’t work, it is usually because the director’s abstraction of an idea isn’t universal enough to be recognized by the majority of the audience, so they get lost and it doesn’t make sense.

    I am a director, and was the Music Director of the Baltimore Opera Company for several years many years ago. I have directed many successful productions that were “concept” productions (which is what Regietheater really is). As an example, I once directed a production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth (not the Verdi opera) and my “concept” was to set it in a futuristic weapons arsenal/museum. It was a time of peace where weapons and war were banned. And a celebration/festival took place to re-enact the story of Macbeth as a way of remembering in the past why weapons and war no longer existed. There were many other reinterpretations of the characters and specific moments in the play as modern day or futuristic parallels, but believe me every tiny little details was meticulous thought out before the production began rehearsal so that I felt that the audience would not only understand Shakespeare’s Macbeth, but hopefully be even more enlightened by the themes and messages it contains.

    On another “note”, I believe that what you are actually witnessing is just a bad director. He didn’t work his “concept” out enough to make it work. And there are just as many bad directors who direct traditional productions that don’t work either.

    Hope this is helpful. I do enjoy reading your blog and it is inspiring to see a young man such as yourself so passionate about my favorite art form!

    Gary Madison

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