Laurence Dale is the first director that we highlight in our series “The Non-Blatherskites”. In the Netherlands we know him as the director of a.o. Il Barbiere di Sevilla, Madama Butterfly and Ariadne auf Naxos. All these productions were applauded by both the public and the Dutch press. Il Barbiere had fine morbid and insidious traits, and saved us from the standard non-humour that in all sorts of not-so-different variations stem directly from Dario Fo.
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The last Barber at DNO (Dutch National Opera) was directed by Lotte de Beer, who poured a ridiculous, intellectualistic sauce over it: the French Revolution was dragged into the opera, an idiotic and utterly insane intervention to meet the demands of “groundbreaking Regietheater”. On the website, DNO wrote: “in the rushing rhythm of the great ensembles you can feel the turbulence of the eve of the French Revolution”; a phrase that largely surpassed the absurdity of the direction. The statement was considerably more comical than the opera itself, but above all an insult to the intelligence of the opera audience that was presented with this painful nonsense.
Another opera directed by Dale, Ariadne auf Naxos, a production by the Dutch Reisopera, was voted Opera of the Year by the Dutch opera public. Reisopera at number 1, DNO at number 2. Painful…. In other years, too, DNO could forget the first place. In 2014 OPERA2DAY won first prize, in 2015 the Reisopera was again number 1 with Orphée et Eurydice, in 2017 the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century won first place with La clemenza di Tito and in 2018 it was A Quiet Place by Opera Zuid that received the most votes. In 2019 the annual blame became too much for DNO and the clownish Stockhausen opera, Aus Licht, was pushed to the first place 1. In opera circles the homeric laughter took off even faster than the protagonists in this farce opera – the helicopters. The notaries who controlled this election only wanted to be photographed if their names were not mentioned. See below.
Laurence Dale is an example of a modern director whom we can never blame for idiocies à la Bieito. Dale’s directions express an intense understanding of the opera in general, and he does not have to take the Kalashnikovs, rapes, Nazi uniforms, wheelchairs, doubles and refrigerators as a starting point. His directions are always in the service of the music and of the two-unity composer-librettist. In blatherskite circles, in the midst of quasi-avantgardistic snobs, they soon speak of “old-fashioned”. However, Dale’s directing is far from old-fashioned or corny. Using video, among other things, in a functional way, he takes his liberties within the limits that the creators of the work of art leave him, and that results in beautiful theatrical images and well-considered directing of opera characters. We have attended several operas directed by Dale, and each time we were impressed, and this thought nestled itself in the centre of our mindset: THIS is real contemporary opera. Below Laurence Dale talks about Ariadne auf Naxos.
Dale’s background is that of a singer, and that’s usually an advantage for an opera director. The bad fashion to attract mainly play directors often ends in bizarre failures; Andrea Breth was a play director from 1980 to 2000, until she made the disastrous decision to interfere in the opera.
Laurence Dale studied singing at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. He performed leading roles in Princess Ida (Gilbert and Sullivan) and in La Cenerentola (Rossini). He was a sensational Tamino in the Mozart year 1991 in Salzburg, and achieved enormous success in this role in Vienna, Paris and Berlin. For Erato he recorded Rodrigue et Chimène (Debussy) and for Harmundia Mundi he performed the role of Claudio (Orfeo), conducted by René Jacobs. This is just a selection of his many recordings and performances.
Over the last twenty years, Dale has directed numerous operas all over the world. We attended La clemenza di Tito in the Oldenburgisches Staatstheater, a breathtaking, beautiful production.
Besides the mentioned Il barbiere di Siviglia (we reported about it HERE) and Ariadne auf Naxos at the Dutch Reisopera, he directed Carmen (Tiroler Landestheater, 2018), Agrippina (International Handel Festival Göttingen), a sensational Madama Butterfly at the Nederlandse Reisopera (with Annemarie Kremer, one of the very best Butterflies ever), Fidelio (Dorset Opera Festival), Venus and Adonis and Dido and Aeneas (Innsbrucker Festwochen) and Die Fledermaus (Den Norske Opera).
br-klassik.de wrote about Dale’s Carmen: “No disorienting Regietheater, but an opera night that is credible in every respect and perfectly put together”.
“An opera night that is credible in every respect and perfectly put together.” The fact that this is not self-evident says a lot about the lamentable Regietrash state in which the opera world currently finds itself.
Laurence Dale. Let’s cherish him.