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Regie comments on work/life balance


With more overtime I might be able to afford my own flat…

The Aix-en-Provence Le nozze di Figaro has been around for a few years now but I just remembered that, in this production, Figaro and Susanna live in the office. Not only is that a comment on overtime but possibly on the precarious access to housing we’re facing nowadays. We’ve come a long way!

Newsflash: Arthus too obscure for regie

If this were an opera as well known as Carmen or Tristan und Isolde, then perhaps such an approach could be more easily justified. Such familiar works demand to be rethought for the 21st century, and audiences will often understand the point that is being made in such productions. But with a piece like Chausson’s, this is impossible, since the overwhelming majority of the audience will never have heard, seen or studied the work. (Guardian)

Bollocks to that.

ffwWhether Graham Vick’s production works or not I don’t know since I didn’t go see this it – though I pondered the possibility for 2 1/2secs as an unusual chance to go to Paris had briefly opened up (and then closed again) the week before. To say it simply couldn’t have worked is irritatingly reactionary. Enough with this anti-regie bile. Anything, even something suspiciously flowery-scented and pastel-coloured found tomorrow under a pile of Roccocco furniture, could work given a sensitive/intelligent regie production. To think that something as ingrained in public imagination as the arturian legend couldn’t is moronic. In any case, it’s not possible to start thinking about it even in a roundabout way as this chap doesn’t say anything beyond:

Men in modern casual dress wield broadswords in a cheap flatpack construction house with a garish plastic sofa and a vase of flowers.

Neither does he say much about the singing:

Jordan and his forces do Chausson proud and Alagna, in particular, gives a remarkably impressive performance which deserves to give his career a huge boost.

Proud? Impressive? What do they actually do? Come on, this is our once in a generation moment to find out and we weren’t there. But there are three five (5!) noodling paragraphs about how the staging sucked. Nothing is described further than the modern dress, broadswords, construction house, garish sofa and flowers bit.

Better only are the comments:

I too am amazed at the Guardian allowing Martin Kettle to write at some length about a staging in Paris of an obscure opera. An excellent, thoughtful review covering the general and the specific. No rushed waffle. So many points made and supported.

And how! (from the same comment:)

It would have been so easy to edit out the reference at the end to the Covent Garden Mathis der Maler for being too obscure. It’s relevant – it does work.

Me too, me too, I love references to other “obscure” operas with my obscure opera reviews. It warms the snobbish cockles of my own heart. But I’m especially glad someone underlined the point that the reference was rather obscure. I know, it’s a tough day when the Guardian’s editors get something we thought was arcane. Maybe they were in a rush and skipped that bit.

There’s one common sense comment. Of course, it can’t be about the production since nothing concrete was said:

The intro is nonsense. Opera houses … depend financially on a finite corpus of enduringly popular works from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Yes, they do, except that the 18th century should also be included so as not to leave out Mozart.

But Kettle goes on: So it is strange that they mostly make … little effort to unearth less well known treasures from this … productive period.

Not strange at all because, when opera houses stray from the enduringly popular works, they suffer financially. So they don’t stage operas of which the punters are ignorant, be those works from the productive period or be they not.

All around article fail. Still:

I hope Mr. Kettle does more of this kind of thing. I got a lot out of it.

I, on the other hand, hope he doesn’t. All I got was 5 paragraphs of anti-regie whinging. Cheap commodity, that.

…And the plastic chair shall be king

I’m not going to lie, I enjoy a good cliche when I see one (remember the Reactor of Doom staircase? I want one for my lounge). This blog would be more picture happy had we but media library space enough and time (or at least less laziness). Today I’m neither lazy nor pressed for time, so –

I’ve noticed (regie) opera directors have a weak spot for plastic chairs. Here are some examples off the top of my head, although I bet there’s much more (and even more compelling and statement-making) out there:


Rinaldo (Glyndebourne) – I think this one is the Granddaddy of them all, as it’s not simply chairs, but classrooms elevated to the status of compelling spaces. I’m iffy on the production but man, I wish Goffredo, Armida and Argante could’ve been summoned in my history class! The Physics teacher needed some hissing angui d’Aletto coming out of her drawer(s).


Idomeneo (Theater-an-der-Wien) – the kingdom has gone bankrupt whilst Idomeneo was away so we’ve learned to make the most out of our chairs. Fear our metallic legs, Neptune!


Orphee et Eurydice (Munich) – Orphee and Eurydice surprise looters on returning home unannounced. Eurydice was so upset with Orphee’s negligence, she decided to return to the Elysian Fields. Channeling Offenbach.

So what did we learn? The plastic chair makes a compelling statement. Of some sort1.

  1. Earlier this week I went to see the Malevich exhibit at the Tate Modern (who doesn’t like the Black Square, eh?). One of the canvases was painted on both sides. Why do you think he did that? asked my ex and fellow art lover. Knowing Malevich’s cerebral bent, I pondered the endless possibilities. Hold on, my ex said, it says here he was skint.