Carmen at Bregenz

One has to recalibrate when reviewing productions from the lake stage at Bregenz.  The challenges for set designer and director are very different from designing/directing in a conventional theatre.  There’s an interview with Es Devlin on the disk of the 2017 production of Bizet’s Carmen that explains the issues very well but broadly it’s a question of creating a single, giant set that can be used throughout the opera and which makes a statement that integrates the work with the environment of the Bodensee.  The challenge for the director, as well, as the usual ones, is to communicate the characters and story when they are rather dwarfed by the setting.  S/he also has to figure out how to fit the lake itself into the story.  I think Devlin and director, Kasper Holten, manage this remarkably well.

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Kušej’s Elektra

I don’t think Richard Strauss’ Elektra is an easy opera to stage.  The story is straightforward and really well known and the opera is constructed largely as a series of dialogues so designing visual and dramatic elements that enhance the drama is a real challenge.  In his 2005 production for the Opernhaus Zürich Martin Kušej tries hard to do so but rather comes up short.  Fortunately his detailed direction of the singers is effective and pretty much makes up for the “Kušej bingo card” elements of the production.

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