The Blatherskites, a two-part mini-series, sequel of The Non-Blatherskites.
It is self-evident that Regietheater “genius” directors are not all of a kind. On the contrary, the most professional, original and intelligent among them (there are some – in our opinion, directors often are conceited, narcisistic and maybe a bit lunatic, but not usually stupid) are very different from one another. But they do have something in common: a total disrespect for the operas they stage, and for their authors. “Puccini is dead”, we were informed by someone very close to one such director’s (one we won’t even name). This was after his awful staging of Madama Butterfly at the Teatro San Carlo, where – among other things – said director had been on stage all the time, reading a poem, distracting endlessly with this or that fastidious and downright useless little gesture or other movement and disturbing even the wonderful “Coro a bocca chiusa”.
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So as to further clarify this point, let us consider, in this and the next episode of The Blatherskites a presentation from each of three such major “producers” (as they like to call themselves nowadays), namely Graham Vick, Calixto Bieito and Damiano Michieletto.
Zauberflöte according to Michieletto. Pay attention, children!
Damiano Michieletto is probably the most self-centered of our trio. He is mainly interested in creating a story out of his own phantasy. Indeed he was heard declaring outright in one interview that he regarded any opera he was about to “produce” as akin to “a white canvas” on which to paint his own picture.
So when he staged The Magic Flute, he relocated the plot into a school (maybe even an elementary school, since the singers are mostly dressed as children, with short trousers and big ribbons), with Monostatos as an evil bully, harassing all his peers, especially Pamina (whom he scares with a rubber snake). Not-so-obviously, Papageno is the janitor!
Bullyheads in Michieletto’s Faust
It is worth mentioning that bullying seems to be a favourite Michieletto device, since also Jemmy, William Tell’s son, is bullied by other village boys, who even break his bow and arrows. Not to mention that he is ill-treated and reproached by his father, while his mother defends him. (We think no previous spectator of the opera in the last two centuries ever suspected anything of the sort!)
Then there is the young Faust (in Berlioz’s La damnation de Faust) who is tormented by his schoolfellows, compelled to stand on a table while being stripped of his trousers. And if three clues can be deemed evidence, one might wonder about a certain director’s own schooldays’ experiences.
Carmen according to Bieito
Calixto Bieito, a Spanish “avant-garde” director, has a completely different approach. His aim is not just to invent his own story (they all do that) but even better, to shock the audience, mostly with scenes of sex and/or blood and violence. Indeed at some opera houses, like La Fenice in Venice, for instance, audiences were warned in advance about the crudeness of some scenes in Bieito’s Carmen.
Opera director Bieito’s charges against Trump
One of his favourite themes is “power” in all its evil. His latest Scarpia even wears a Trump-like blue suit, red tie and yellow wig! But that’s not all. In this Tosca, Puccini’s characters are completely forgotten. Cavaradossi and Tosca are two street artists, fighting for the liberty of art. That is supposedly why in the first act Cavaradossi draws a madonna on the floor, as yards and yards of white tape are slowly stretched across the stage, creating a sort of spider‘s web. In the end Cavaradossi – after being bloodily tortured – is not shot, but completely wrapped in the same tape like a mummy. And for the icing on the cake, Tosca kills Scarpia in a particularly gruesome way, stabbing him in the neck with his own spectacles (whilst she pretends to yield to his blackmail, having sex with him on the floor). And even then, maybe she doesn’t manage to kill him, as is not made entirely clear.