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Volume 17 Issue 1 - September 2011

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ROBERT CARSEN continued from page 10Of course it takes a whole team of artistswith an array of talents to put on an opera.“I would not recommend working in opera toanybody who has a problem with collaboration.Opera is the most collaborative of all art forms.You have to be able to embrace the concept thatwhat you want is not necessarily what’s alwaysgoing to happen.” He emphasizes the need tobe able to adapt, because singers may not beable to do what you want, and conductors maynot want to. “Their viewpoints are as validas yours.”Then who is responsible for what? “Theconductor is responsible for the musical performance,that is to say, the orchestra and thesingers. If at a certain point someone has to saythat something is not going to work musically,that is the conductor’s job. My job is scenic,and that covers a lot. I’m responsible for howthe artists are interpreting their roles on stage.From a director’s point of view, you’ve beenhired to channel everything together, so thatis your responsibility.”But who is ultimately in charge? “In chargeof what?” Carson asks, pointing out that thestage and the pit are different domains. “Ofcourse there’s an important crossover, becausethe musical performance is going to be affectedto some degree by the staging.”And is the staging affected by the musicalperformance? “Sometimes I’ll put singers inparticular positions on the stage, when the conductorwould prefer to have them right at thefront, or at least much closer to him, or notmoving, or whatever … But conductors wholove the theatre, like Harry Bicket, who conductsOrfeo ed Euridice here, are really marvellousabout collaborating. He understandswhy I do something. If he has a problem, he’llsay, ‘We can’t hear the singers here, and I can’tget the orchestra to play any quieter. You’vegot them in a dead spot on the stage, so ifyou could move them over a metre, or do thisor that …’ Of course one is open to that kindof suggestion.”“But then you get other conductors who willjust look on stage and say, ‘Well, I can’t doit — that singer is too far away.’ That approachis not interesting for me. People are comingto the opera house for live theatre. They’renot coming for a concert performance, whichthey can get at Roy Thomson Hall. My worstexperiences on projects,” he says, careful notto mention any names, “have been when peopletry to get what they want by throwing theirweight about regarding who’s in charge. That’shorrible, really.”Bicket, an early music specialist who previouslyconducted Rodelinda and Idomeneo withthe COC, lead the premiere performances ofCarsen’s staging of Orfeo ed Euridice in Chicago.“What’s wonderful about working with someonelike Harry, is that he comes to all the rehearsals,so that he is part of the process from the verybeginning. Other conductors will just turn upwhen the orchestra starts playing. So you can’thave that collaborative experience with them ofmaking the piece work dramatically together.”In Orfeo ed Euridice, which was done withoutan intermission, every aspect of Carsen’sproduction worked seamlessly with every other,from the stark sets and costumes, the expressivemovements of the soloists and chorus, tothe propulsive orchestral playing. “You have tohave quite a clear narrative line to bring everyone— set and costume designers, technicians,stage management, props people, the chorus,supers, dancers — into the service of the storyyou are trying to tell.”“The way I direct, I feel like I’m the camera.Sometimes I need the audience to lookat a wide shot, and sometimes I need themto look at a closeup. That is, of course, in away impossible to do on the stage because therelationship of the audience to the stage alwaysstays the same. So I try to do it through the useof lighting and movement. I want the audienceto follow the story in a certain way.”Read the full interview online atwww.thewholenote.comUPCOMING PERFORMANCES IN TORONTOCarsen’s Iphigenia in Tauris for the Canadian Opera Company runsSeptember 22, 25, 28 and October 1, 4, 7, 12, 15.Harry Bicket leads the period instrument group, TheEnglish Concert, at Koerner Hall Friday October 21.Susan Graham returns in recital with pianist MalcolmMartineau, Koerner Hall, Saturday January 28.… AND COUNTING!Carsen Opera DVDs:Britten: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Daniels, Gietz,Sala; Gran Teatre de Liceu, Bicket (Virgin)Dvořák: Rusalka – Fleming, Urbanova, Diadkova,Larin; Opéra de Paris, Conlon (TDK)Handel: Semele – Bartoli, Remmert, Workman;Zürich Opera, Christie (Decca)Janáček: Katya Kabanová – Mattila, Dvorský, Gietz;Teatro Real, Bělohlěvek (FRA MUSICA)Lully: Armide – d’Oustrac, Agnew, Naouri, Les Arts Florissants; Théâtre desChamps-Elysées, Les Arts Florissants, William Christie, (FRA MUSICA)Monteverdi: L’Incoronazione di Poppea – de Niese,Coote, Davies; Glyndebourne, Haïm (Decca)Offenbach: Les Contes d’Hoffmann – Shicoff, Mentzer, Terfel;Opéra National De Paris, López-Cobos (Arthaus)Poulenc: Dialogues des Carmélites – Schellenberger,Aiken, Silja; Teatro alla Scala, Muti (TDK)Puccini: Manon Lescaut – Gauci, Ordonez; Flemish Opera, Varviso (Arthaus)Puccini: Tosca – Kaufman, Magee, Hampson;Zürich Opera, Paolo Carignani (Decca)Rameau: Les Boréades – Bonney, Agnew, Naouri; Opéra NationalDe Paris, Les Arts Florissants, Christie (Opus Arte)Strauss: Capriccio – Fleming, von Otter, Finley;Opéra National De Paris, Schirmer (TDK)Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier – Pieczonka, Kirchschlager, Hawlata;Salzburger Festspiele, Wiener Philharmoniker, Bychkov (TDK)Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin – Fleming, Vargas,Hvorostovsky; Metropolitan Opera, Gergiev (Decca)Verdi: Il Trovatore – Tanner, Tamar, Lucic, Cornetti;Bregenzer Festspiele, Rösner (Opus Arte)Verdi: La Traviata – Ciofi, Sacca, Hvorostovsky;La Fenice Opera, Maazel, (TDK)Boito: Mefistofile – Ramey, Benackova, O’Neill; SanFrancisco Opera, Maurizio Arena on VHS (Kultur) only(Though a recording of Handel: Alcina has not been released, Ah, mio coris posted on YouTube.)BOOKCharles Garnier: Un architecte pour un empire (Beaux-arts de Paris) –fully illustrated catalogue of the exhibition at the École nationale supérieredes beaux-arts in Paris last year designed by Robert Carsen– text in French.For a chance to win one of the four Carsen opera discs in thehighlighted Decca opera mini-pack, do our opera mini-quiz online.70 thewholenote.comSeptember 1–October 7, 2011

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