The Blatherskites, a two-part mini-series, sequel of The Non-Blatherskites.
Last, but certainly far from least, let’s say a few words about the British director Graham Vick. He too, has his favourite issue, and that is the Church (any Church) and religion, which, to his mind, are the root of all evils. So, when he was offered to stage the story of a priest – Stiffelio – we suppose he took advantage of the opportunity to display his own entire repertory. Now, most who know the opera believe that Stiffelio’s original story – rather simple and, in our opinion, surprisingly modern – is about a pastor who preaches integrity, love and forgiveness. When he discovers his beloved wife has cheated on him with a young scoundrel, he is faced with the choice as to whether to give vent to his hurt, humiliation and rage, or to stick to his beliefs and forgive her.
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Well, nothing of this kind interests Mr.Vick in the least. His Stiffelio becomes an ambitious, hypocritical preacher who likes his fame and neglects his wife (apparently he even dislikes having sex with her). Moreover, Mr. Vick inserts into his production all kinds of issues which have nothing to do with the meaning of the story, such as women’s and gay rights, homophobia, gender, family, and even euthanasia. An awful and senseless melting pot of topics completely unrelated to Verdi’s opera. And, by the way, please note that scenes of sex (mainly gay sex) and violence (against gays and “Femen”), take place right in the middle of a mixed crowd of audience, chorus and supers. In fact, the audience are all standing around in the wide space of the Parma Teatro Farnese, only to find themselves much more involved in the action than they had no doubt expected to be. But above all they are puzzled, shocked and entirely distracted from the real performance, since all this mess happens while the singers are wonderfully progressing with their work, standing upon mobile platforms almost two yards above the floor.
Opera (Stiffelio) according to Mr. Vick
Hopefully the aforesaid examples illustrate our point sufficiently. Namely, that each Regietheater “producer” has his own approach and temperament, but what they have in common is their worst and most dangerous trait: they hate opera. They are not interested in studying opera. They do not know, or do not care, or conveniently forget that the music and the libretto are born together, that the music has been written to suit that one story, that one scene, certainly not solipsistic interpretations such as theirs.
Of course, “producers” are fully entitled – as anyone is – to have and to express their opinions about society, religion, sex and whatever else they feel it right to think and talk about. They are totally free to write their own operas, comedies, tragedies or whatever, and to stage them in front of an audience. No problem there.
What they don’t have any right to do is to steal other authors’ music, and then pass off their own “inventions” under the titles of already-existing works, created by the hands, hearts, minds and souls of other creators, even if they lived a century or more ago.
Don Giovanni according to Mr. Vick
So, a producer wishes to stage a story about a Scottish “thane” who killed a king and took his place? Very well. The great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa did so, creating an unforgettable movie, sat in ancient Japan, Throne of Blood. But what an opera or theatre director cannot do is title his show Macbeth (Shakespeare’s or Verdi’s), using other authors’ texts or music to accommodate his own story. That’s too easy. Too lazy. And above all, it is an insult to audiences, who are entitled to see and hear the “real thing”. And also, to the singers and musicians, who in turn are entitled to the audience’s undivided attention.