Saturday, October 29, 2011

theater of vagaries

Other thoughts on the subject of Michael Grandage's Don Giovanni from Charlotte Higgins @ The Guardian.  And linked in her article, but interesting enough to link again here, Mark Shenton's take.

Art is risk.


  1. Interesting...

    Have you seen it today? I just saw it, and it was sad. Both journalists say that the loss of Kwiecien was the most awful stroke of bad luck, but now with Kwiecien, the production is still extraordinary in its lack of ambition, even effort. I am truly surprised by it.

    Grandage should have known the work process at the Met before agreeing to do it--if that's what's behind this. But I think it's more serious than that.

    What happened with Grandage? He went all Richard-Eyre, that's what. Can't remember the last time I heard of a great Eyre production and he's been doing Hollywood films, Broadway musicals, West End theatre and opera at the Met. Success is bad for an artist; popularity is dangerous.

    And it's a very interesting think that Chiggi mentions at the beginning: foundering even though you have enormous resources. Seriously, I have been thinking that I'm beginning to discern an equation: if something is extraordinarily expensive, it will be shite. Almost inevitably. Inevitably. I am actively looking for counter-examples, but no. The rule keeps being reaffirmed.

  2. Nope, I go to the encores as tickets for day-of are not to be had in this neck. So I have no comment yay or nay, and am probably disqualified in my opinions anyway due to actually liking the 2003 Glimmerglass production.

    I suppose the question is was it particularly wise for him to jump from tiny Donmar to Opera Barn, no matter what his understanding of the Met's process was or was not? If his m.o. is interiority, that's almost bound to fail in a 4k seat theater with next to no rehearsal time. (And cf Bartlett Sher's comments on this issue also, and the resulting Act 2 of Hoffmann.)

    But in the end, if his Met debut doesn't deliver, that doesn't faze me. Given that, after a nearly 200 year drought, he's been a champion of Schiller on the English-language stage, my inner Don Carlos translator says he gets a pass, and would rather see him doing that stuff anyway.

  3. I wonder if theatre directors who start directing opera realize that we'll see their productions not in light of what they did before, but in the context of all other productions we've seen or heard about of the opera they're directing.

    Watching this Don Gio, I kept thinking, it looks like the director hasn't seen a single Don Gio production live or on DVD, ever. And I know it can't be true.

    It's uber-puzzling, given what you tell me about his other feats.

  4. That's an interesting question. Do directors who have mostly worked in traditional theater see opera as more of the same, and if so, in what ways is that a pitfall?

    On the other hand, is it any different from doing Shakespeare, or any other body of work which has a long performance history, where people will make the same kinds of comparisons?

    What you said before about the problem of success is also an argument, not necessarily about the money (though I tend to agree) but about the projects that start coming out of the woodwork. Consider before DG Grandage had Luise Miller (aka Kabale und Liebe) up at Donmar in July, and before that was King Lear. That's kind of a lot to cram into one year, it seems to me, over and above ending one's tenure as head of a key theater company.

  5. There's some of that probably.

    Though it's still inexplicable, its empty concept. As if it's been done on back of the paper napkin, in one day. "Lets have this big wall. Let's have a few doors on it, move it around in some scenes. We don't need anything else."

    Let me know when you finally see it.

    But do theatre directors bother watching opera a lot? I don't think so -- which is obviously unwise to us, but I really think it's what happens: that directors for the most part stay in their own disciplines. And it shows when the theatre directors start directing opera. (Somehow I don't read about the reverse movement that much. Though I think when Fassbaender retired, she started directing spoken theatre. Would be interesting to see that.)

  6. lol People will think I'm on Grandage's payroll, so I'll only say the Don G sets are maximal compared to what he usually does - his King Lear had a wall and a floor. And Donmar is 250 seats. So the Napkin Scenario is entirely plausible, as that's about the size of the stage he's been working with.