We're opening Il Trovatore
this Saturday night. This has been an exercise in taking a perfectly respectable opera and schmucking it all up, courtesy of this hack we have for a director. His name is Stephen Lawless, and he's supposed to be a big deal, but googling him didn't turn up much, not like if you google someone like say, Lotfi Mansouri. the most remarkable thing I found on Lawless was a group interview of production people who've worked with him before. Their biggest consensus was on how they waited 24-48 before trying to implement any of his ideas, because they often turned out to be not feasible. they actually called it the "Lawless Law".
What he's done to this production is an apparent attempt to break it away from its reputation as a "park and bark" opera by twisting the story completely. The famous Anvil Chorus is now the Swordfight Chorus, for all intents and purposes - that's all that takes place during the chorus. The clanging normally associated with hammers on anvils is being puctuated by clashing swords. I don't know how that will be reconciled with the translation displayed on the supertitles, because the lyrics are clearly about working in the mines. There are other areas in the opera where what is going on on stage has nothing whatsoever to do with what is being sung. In the Soldier's Chorus, which is a musically and vocally demanding piece, he has the enitre male chorus doing a "sword ballet". We wave around 4ft aluminum claymores in synch while singing. 45 guys. And the coup de gras, IMO, is what he's done at the end of the show. The women in the chorus are finished singing at the end of the second act, but they have to stick around until the end of the show now, in costume, so they can play dead in a tableaux at the very end of the opera. The men sing a miserere chorus off stage, then lay down berhind some "guillotine" doors on upstage right. the doors slide up to show more dead bodies, then go back down. The men then get up and scurry over to upstage left to repeat the process when the stage left guillotine doors open and close.
We've taken to calling the staging "intuitive", and the setting "period post-modern".
And then there's Wozzeck
Men singing a capella chords built on adjacent white keys? This piece is referred to as possibly the greatest composition of the 20th century?!
I guess the 20th didn't have a lot to offer...