To direct an opera is certainly a mess! You have to deal with a “text and music” system, then with musicians, singers, light, settings, the past… all this with a vision, right?
I read an interview of Claus Guth who directed a La Bohème (Puccini) in Paris this winter. Here are his ways :
- Two years before the opera, he takes the book, reads it, takes some notes, and… put it back in the drawer for resting.
- He listens to the music in loop, for days. He’s happy to not understand the words (he’s German, Puccini Italian), and writes the ideas he gets : irrationally, emotionally, viscerally.
- Then he works : searches about the opera the composer the writer the historical backgrounds…
- After months of thinking about it, he gathers his team to talk around a table, to get ideas. A concept emerges…
- One year before the opera, they try things with scenery, settings.
- Then he retires, alone, for a few weeks.
- He begins to work with singers and confront them with what he wants to do. Some play along rapidly, some have to be guided… to be creative.
- According to him, the main thing is the music. If the text is good but he doesn’t like the music, he can’t do anything. But if the text is weak but the music good (which happens often in operas), he will work on it, on elevation…
- He likes to keep rehearsals secret, wanting the audience to be surprised at the premiere.
La Bohème is about poor artists in Paris in the 1830s. For me it’s the best opera ever! Therefore I’m never annoyed by directing transpositions in other styles, the fifties, or other countries, etc. It can be ugly, but it’s most of the time interesting. I really think that we can do anything with a masterpiece : you’ll never hurt it really. Playing with archetypes, putting’em into other universes, it’s often amazing!
I have to say that I already watch dozens of La Bohème happening in the streets of Paris and in frozen attic rooms (2nd picture). Guth decided to put it in space (!) (1st picture), in a lost spatial station, playing with a game of souvenirs, double characters, etc…
As they say in Libération, the French newspaper, it was “sidereally staggering” ( http://next.liberation.fr/theatre/2017/12/07/une-boheme-siderale-et-siderante_1615146 )
“we were flabbergasted (under the scream and catcalls) because we were suddenly seeing the bohemian lifestyle, from 1840 or 2017), on stage, all naked : artistically battybonkers, suicidal, not looking for approval, desesperate and sparkling like in a dream plunge to escape the misery of life”…
It’s true that the idea of Bohemian life (being a poor artist, with casualness and freedom (and parties and alcohol) it implies) is a problem : there’s a lie, a too big differences between your ideals and the reality…
I wrote this article to throw a few tools on my little table :
- In Art, one pleasure is to compare readings, interpretations of a same piece.
- It’s maybe creative to take a long time to work on something, with weeks or months of rest between work. Simmering.
- Explore a masterpiece casually – without holding all the cards, just to see what it triggers in you. Then explore, read, and watch how what you fiund weaves with what you imagined.
- Collaborations and conversations : sources of ideas.
- Strength given by pauses alone. Watch things grow into you.
- Find from where you can grow things (here : music) when a system in not entirely satisfying.
- Keep things secret to have more impact.
These tools are somewhat obvious. Where will we apply them? Poetry? Photography? Couple? Teams? Companies? Literature?
Thanks for reading, and sorry for my English…