THE ANCIENT, IRONCLAD TRADITIONS OF THE MODERN OPERA STAGE DIRECTOR
“In art, all things change except the avant-garde.” Professor Levitan of Brandeis
“The Germans are so intent upon finding the hidden meaning that they miss the moment entirely.” GOETHE
1) The director is the most important personality involved in the production. His vision must supercede the needs of the composer, librettist, singers and especially the audience, those overfed fools who want to be entertained and moved.
2) The second most important personality is the set designer.
3) Comedy is verboten, except when unintentional. Wit is for TV watching idiots.
4) Great acting is hyperintensity, with much rolling and the ground, groping the wall and sitting on a bare floor.
5) The audience’s attention must be on anything except the person who is singing. A solo aria, outmoded even in the last century, must be accompanied by extraneous characters expressing their angst in trivial ways near, on or about the person singing the aria.
6) Storytelling is anathema to the modern director, like realistic “photographic” painting is to the abstract painter. Don’t tell the story, COMMENT on it!Even better, UNDERMINE IT!
7) When singing high notes, the singer must be crumpled over, lying down or facing the back of the stage.
8) The music must stop once in awhile for intense, obscure miming.
9) Sexual scenes must be charmless and aggressive. Rolling on the floor a must here.
10) Unmotivated homosexual behavior must be introduced a few times during the evening.
11) Happy endings are intellectually bankrupt. Play the opposite. Insert a sudden murder if at all possible.
12) Avoid entertaining the audience at all costs. If they boo, you have succeeded.
13) Rehearse it until it’s dead. Very important.
14) Any suggestion of the beauty and mystery of nature must be avoided at all costs! The set must be trivial, contemporary and decrepit! Don’t forget the fluorescent lights! (Klieg lights also acceptable.)
15) The audience must not know when to applaud or when the scene/act ends.
16) Historical atrocities such as the Holocaust or the AIDS epidemic must be incorporated and exploited as much as possible. Also the lifestyle of the audience must be mocked.
17) Colors are culinary. Black, white and gray only!
18) The chorus must be bald, sexless, faceless and in trench coats.
19) If the audience is bored, this is art.\
20) Props are items of junk piled in a corner of the set. They must be overused pointlessly, then dropped on the floor, hopefully when the music is soft. Be careful to keep dangerous objects at the lip of the stage so the blindfolded dancers can kick them into the pit.
21) All asides must be sung next to the person who is not supposed to hear them.
22) The leading performers faces must be painted as a white mask to ensure no individuality or variety of expressions, as opera singers can’t act anyway. They just want to pose and make pretty sounds.
23) Preparation is important. Try to read the libretto in advance to make sure it doesn’t interfere with your staging ideas. Not much harm in listening to the CD once, though that’s not really your job.
24) Make the conductor feel useful, though he’s really a literal minded hack.
25) The stage director must avoid any idea that is not his own, though that idea will surely be on this list already.
26) A costume must serve at least two of the following criteria: a) Make the singer look unattractive b) Obscure his vision c) Make hearing the orchestra difficult d) Impede movement d) Contradict the period in which the opera is set (hardly worth mentioning)
27) Tradition is all important in opera production. Never waver from these Rules.
28) Boredom is a sign of Great Art.
29) Emphasize or create a negative side to the title character. The audience
should have no one to root for.30) Make sure no one remembers who the singers were.
31) Don't worry about the critics. The more confused they are by your rape of the opera, the more frightened they shall be to admit the emperor has no clothes. They'll find meaning in your perversities that even you never dreamed of.