In defence of Robert Lepage

I am getting well pissed off with people taking ill informed shots at Robert Lepage based solely on his Ring cycle at the Metropolitan Opera. For three decades Lepage has been one of the most brilliant minds in the dramatic arts. His oeuvre spans straight theatre, film, circus, opera, multimedia performance art and stuff I don’t even know how to categorize. He acts, he directs, he designs. He also takes risks. In the nature of risk taking, sometimes they don’t come off and, frankly, I don’t think his Ring works. That said I think it shows the height (or depth) of poor taste and ignorance to launch ad hominem attacks on Lepage based on that one production and ignore all the things that have succeeded. The list is long; Elsinore and The Seven Streams of the River Ota would top my list but there have also been award winning opera productions such as Erwartung, Duke Bluebeard’s Castle and The Nightingale and other Short Tales along with a dozen movies, a Cirque du Soleil show that has run for years and an astonishing outdoor multi-media exhibition celebrating the history of Québec. There’s lots more if one cares to look. Even Shakespeare had his off days. Would anybody go on and on and on about how crap Shakespeare was based solely on seeing A Comedy of Errors?

7 thoughts on “In defence of Robert Lepage

  1. My first Lepage show was Peter Gabriel’s ‘Growing Up’ tour ten years ago, a show I still have great memories of. I interviewed Mr. Lepage in 2005 for the ‘Ear for Opera’ feature in the International Herald Tribune. I saw (and enjoyed) ‘Le Damnation de Faust’, ‘Ka’ and ‘Nightingale’ and think he has a history of brilliant theatrical innovation.

    But, I would say (with all due respect) that Mr. Lepage surprised me with his naïve viewpoint to the drama of Wagner’s ‘Ring.’ He tried to solve all of the drama’s problems with the ‘Machine’ set–which may have worked great as a 3D model but manifested itself as a theatrically impractical (and I would say dangerous) mechanical object which leaves the singers with nowhere to go on the vast stage of the Met. I didn’t think that was possible to do.

    For the record, I’m a Wagner addict. I first saw ‘Siegfried’ 20 years ago and have attended two Lepage Rheingolds, three Walküres and Siegfried and Götterdämmerung on their respective opening nights. I’ve seen multiple productions in the theater and on home video. I write a classical music blog (Superconductor) and am a regular reviewer of classical music and opera performances with 15 years arts experience.

  2. An ad homineum attack would be criticism directed towards the person. Criticizing the person’s work, even a single instance (such as the creation of a Ring Cycle with the Met – hardly an idle one-off) is a very different thing.

  3. I won’t lie, I liked this Ring. I think the Machine is clunky, but it also makes a fairly badass piece of set. I’ll qualify this with saying that I am in no way a Ring afficianado (this is my first viewing of it EVER), but in general, I like it.

    I agree that we shouldn’t pan the man because of the Regie. He is clearly intelligent and artistic, and I think he is handling this all with aplomb.

  4. I have not seen The Ring in the house yet – will see it in May, but I have seen the HDs, with Gotterdammerung coming on Saturday. I have seen 6 or 7 Ring productions, some of them multiple times. This one will probably not be my favorite, but there are some individual scenes which may become favorites. I have to think LePage must have had more in mind when he first envisioned this. And yes, it’s possible Wagner would have liked it, or at least lots of it. He’d have loved to have this technology to play with, at any rate.

    I loved Damnation of Faust at the Met, and The Rake’s Progress in San Francisco, both fine productions, so I have nothing to complain about with LePage.

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