Opera is a singer’s medium, but the last few decades have seen a shift toward giving the director the power onstage, especially in Europe.
The Metropolitan Opera has slowly but surely reshaped its theatrical approach to its new productions, bringing in renowned stage directors from around the world. Some have been David Alden, Anthony Minghella, Richard Eyre, Mary Zimmerman, David McVicar and Pierre Audi among many others.
But there are still major directors that have not yet to grace the Met stage. Here is a look at some directors we would like to see Peter Gelb bring to the Met.
Let’s start with a nice and easy one. Based on what we have seen from Peter Gelb’s new productions, we can assume a few things about his aesthetic. He won’t stand for much plot-changing or restructuring. The most radical he has gone in bringing in regietheater has been Willy Decker’s “La Traviata,” but even there the work operates on a more symbolic level without disrupting Verdi’s plot.
So it stands to reason that someone like Sofia Coppola would suit Gelb’s fancy as a director. Not only is she internationally renowned as a filmmaker, which would be a strong promotional tool, but her first production in the opera world was a highly traditional “Traviata.”
Another famous filmmaker that has tried out opera, Allen’s production of Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi” was a hit in Los Angeles. The work had a traditional bent, the director using his resources to squeeze the comedic juice out of Puccini’s opera and could be a solid fit for some of the comedic repertoire at the Met.
Another famous film director, Friedkin has far more experience on the opera stage than the aforementioned directors. Friedkin seems more in the mold of the types of directors that Gelb likes to bring to the Met stage. He finds new ways of re-imaging famed works without overstepping the narrative bounds established in the libretto. Thematic exploration, not subversion, is his modus operandi when it comes to opera, which has served him quite well in renowned productions of “Wozzeck,” “Les Contes d’Hoffmann,” and “Salome” among others.
The Italian regisseur was slated to direct a new “Samson et Delilah” to open the 2018-19 season, but Gelb recently announced that he has dropped that production due to its unfavorable reception in Paris. According to Opera Magazine, the director is still slated to debut his talents at the Met in a new production of “Aida,” but his style might ultimately end up being a step too far for Gelb. “Aida” is a popular repertoire staple, one that the Met leans on year after year. If a new production pushes the opera into overly challenging territory dramatically, then the manager might feel unwilling to take the risk.
Regardless, Michieletto deserves a chance at the Met. He is a true visionary capable of seeing classic masterworks in new contexts. His “Bohème” at Salzburg reimagined the work in light of “Rent’s” popularity and its own plagiaristic attitude toward the Puccini classic. He joined “Cavalleria Rusticana” and “Pagliacci” in rather organic manner. Even though his “Samson” was booed, it played on prevalent modern themes such as radicalization, all while subverting the narrative.
Now we move into risky territory by Met standards. Guth is the kind of director who has no shame in restructuring a narrative to suit his intellectual concepts, his imagery often pushing the limits of taste. But his work is unendingly captivating, his “Nozze di Figaro” among the most riveting interpretations of the famed opera that this writer has seen. His way with Mozart opera’s makes them extremely contemporary in their examination, by far his best work to date. It would be interesting to see him potentially update “Don Giovanni.”
The Spanish director was slated for a new “La Forza del Destino” this upcoming season, but it fell through. It might be an indicator that Gelb is simply not ready to step into Bieto’s operatic world, which is raw, unhinged and fascinating all the same. He can reimagine an opera in a completely new context altogether, as he did when he set “Aida” outside a stadium or “Parsifal” in the context of a war. He gets the best out of his actors as well as evidenced by his popular production of “Carmen.”
(The clip below is rather graphic but dramatically effective. You have been warned!)
The famed tenor is also quite the director, taking favorite operas into fantastical and energetic realms. His productions are intellectual in their approach as well, the concepts often challenging the librettos, but they are good fun that could liven up a Met comedy or two.