How to be a successful modern operatic producer!
Some thoughts written after the incompetent production by Doris Dörrie
of the planet of the apes, AKA Rigoletto, in Munich
Stage directing can be quite fun, and these days financially attractive as well. I think this may be why so many people with no education or
interest in opera are willing to drop whatever they are doing and come to the opera and stage a piece they have never even heard of before.
In order to enhance the joy of directing, there are a few tips to follow to assure that your staging will be a hit with the pub.... I almost
wrote "with the public" forgetting that no one in the opera world cares what the public thinks anymore. Here is a hand full of practical hints
for want-to-be stage directors.
1. Italian and Spanish tenors can't sing without their hands, so never hand cuff a star tenor to a balcony railing before he sings "La donna
è mobile" or he'll cancel the entire run of performances and fly home.
2. On the other hand, British tenors are quite happy to sing all tied up. This tends to help them keep their voices in line. It's not very
likely that one would be hired to sing the Duke in Rigoletto, though.
3. The typical German tenor tends to tie himself up, as he sings, no need for a director to interfere here.
4. Your French tenor... ha! ha!... sorry... little joke... there... what ...eh.
5. Not all sopranos like singing naked on stage. Really fat ones very rarely do.
6. If you hire three or four countertenors, you can fire all the mezzos in the house.
7. If you are planning to do Il trovatore, you will need one of those mezzos because I just don't see the countertenor in the role of Azucena.
Perhaps you should think of changing the opera to Don Carlo, I think we could get by here with the countertenor... sorry, I got a little
8. Let's take a look at the skill of singing "up stage". For those of you who are real new to stage directing or are European, I'll explain. "Up
stage" has three meanings: A. Singing with your back to the audience. B. The part of the stage that is the farthest from the conductor is "up
stage". C. Verb, placing oneself behind one's opponent, or I mean partner, causing them to have to sing looking away from the audience or take
the chance that you are doing lewd things behind their back. Back in the 1950s the job of a stage director was mainly to prevent this sort of
behavior, relegating him to a referee. Maybe that is why the job wasn't all that sought after back then.
9. Dark used to be undesirable on the opera stage. Some of the most advanced illumination was developed for the theater to dispel darkness.
These days darkness is being used more and more. The most common use is to draw attention away from the missing scenery. How can you miss a
stage set if you can't see it's not there?
10. Backlighting takes a lot of planning. Let's say you have a really fat soprano in a nightgown. I have witnessed this one myself and had to
flee the stage in hysterical laughter. There were other factors involved in this incident, but look out backlighting fat ladies.
11. The conductor's wish for constant contact with the singers has been totally undermined by technology. Monitors in every nock and cranny have
ended the need to ever look at the conductor. They do not take this advancement very well at all. This was a big win for the stage directors in
the fight for dominance in the theater, and left the best seats in the house in the "wings".
12. Woe unto the singer who falls into the hands of a tailor turned director... There are some out there. You're gonna have more costume
changes than scenes in the opera.
13. Wings, also known as off stage, are where you will find most of the new monitors. Most older singers suffer from directional orientation.
They tend to gravitate to the front of the stage when singing, ignoring this new high tech help. Young and inexperienced singers gladly take
advantage of the monitors. They quickly become well acquainted with the firemen sitting in the wings every evening.
I hope this little list will be helpful to you... If I have sent this to you by mistake and you are one of my friends who has not a clue
about theater, well, read it again, you'll get the hang of it.
Name withheld by request