I’m just back from being in the audience for a live event that featured Stefan Herheim, in Oslo, and Atom Egoyan, in Toronto, discussing and answering questions about their respective productions of Strauss’ Salome. It was set up with a live satellite link between the two cities which worked rather well. The event also featured two rather dry academic presentations about the productions and productions of Salome in general. This bit went on for nearly an hour and a half and reminded me of why one takes notes at university. It’s because if you don’t this stuff goes in one ear and out the other.
Herheim and Egoyan are an interesting contrast. Egoyan comes off as quite analytical. He answers questions in a fairly direct way and he explains his production and process ideas quite clearly. Herheim seems much more intuitive. He’ll fasten onto one aspect of a question and answer it in a way that sometimes seems tangential to the issue but is actually central to it from his perspective. I suspect he finds it much easier to explain things visually than verbally. Both directors had clearly rooted their (very different) interpretations in the music and in Wilde’s text rather than the German libretto. Herheim also looked pretty hard at the Biblical roots of the piece. He seems to be one of those non-religious people who is fascinated by religion and its symbolism though it’s difficult to figure out his views on an issue like that because of his discursive and allusive way of speaking.
There was a lot more in the same vein and I think it would have been more interesting to skip the introductions and find more ways for the two directors and the two audiences to interact.
The whole thing is now up on the Norwegian Opera and Ballet site (The good stuff starts at the 1:14:15 mark):
And it’s already available on line. Over at Intermezzo, they tell us to:
“forward to 12:15 for the start of the presentation. It begins with analyses of the opera and the two productions. Atom Egoyan comes on at 1:14:15 and Stefan Herheim at 1:27:30. The director discussions are more rewarding than the preamble,..”
No kidding about the last bit!
I found David’s elaboration of the two productions essential. I would have been clueless about the Herheim one without it. I also liked hearing about the research around the two production from the originator (originatrix?) of this whole thing, and the only woman on the panel.
The tricky bit is — for me — being read to. And academic presentations usually are read to their audiences. They tried to liven it up a bit, the two of them, but it was still being read to and that in itself can be deadening. But still, they had a role. Somebody had to introduce the two productions to both sides.
And a bit of a local rant… I was surprised that we had around the same number of people in the audience as the Oslo side. We usually have packed houses for any Adult Edu events that the COC throws (Opera Exchange and former Opera 101, for ex, usually burst at the seams). This was a fantastic venue, no-cost thing and I can’t believe that only about 25 people came, Mystery. I’ve seen legions of seniors packing the stuffy basement halls at the UoT Music for Opera Exchanges, $25 a pop. And now here, hmm. I am truly puzzled.
There was a lot of competition yesterday including the final ever Aldeburgh Connection concert. I had a hard time choosing between the two. Also maybe the “legions of seniors” are the people who hate productions by people like Egoyan and Herheim.
So great to see you there John (and “Definitely”!) As you can imagine, we promoted this event to the hilt – anyone who bought a ticket to Salome knew about it, and then some! Who knows why there weren’t more people…sunny day? Inside/Out? Doors Open? Lots of competition for us. The numbers were a bit disappointing, for sure, but overall, I’m just happy the event took place and we explored the potential of this way of doing things. I get what you’re both saying about the “academic” talks, but we needed for there to be some context for any type of discussion to occur. As tempting as it would have been to just have “chat”, we couldn’t be sure even our audience would have seen the Egoyan production (unlikely but you never know…) and certainly the Oslo audience needed that background as we in Toronto needed a context for Herheim’s production. We learned a lot by putting on this event, and no doubt would tweak some of the format next time. I actually really enjoyed Hedda’s talk – she was engaging, tried not just to “read” and used humour. All in all, an enterprising event! Appreciate your support greatly!
Definitely enterprising and very welcome.
I totally get the need for context. My beef is that the talks were too long, too dry and actually not all that much about the specific productions. There was a lot of “generic Salome” in there and some of the “information” about Herheim’s production was later contradicted by the man himself!. To be honest I’ve often got a better idea of what a production was about from the director’s program notes than I did from yesterday’s speakers.
Thanks, Gianmarco, for your part in organizing it! Hope there will be more.
And the Hedda had me at “I’ve been having an affair with a girl. Her name is Salome.”