Cher Public

Canard à la mode

Our canard this week is pretty basic: when people talk about an opera “production,” they tend to mean “the sets and costumes,” that is, the physical production. As in, why can’t we revive Wieland Wagner’s production of Tristan und Isolde or Luchino Visconti‘s Anna Bolena. (Or, maybe even more to the point, Giorgio Strehler‘s Nozze di Figaro.) But there’s a reason these “productions” can’t be revived in a meaningful sense, and La Cieca will continue to expound after the jump. 

It’s just this: the sets and costumes, the lighting design, even the blocking darefully transcribed into a prompt book—none of these are “the production.” They are elements of the production, but in fact relatively minor ones. The production is something intangible: it’s how the director works with the singers, what sort of ways they discover together to express the ideas and emotions of the opera. The production is as much the process as the end result, and, as such, a different set of elements (different artists, a different Zeitgeist) will change the process and therefore create a different production.

This was explained to La Cieca by a veteran state director, a doyen one might say, many years ago. What he said was (paraphrasing), “Think of a dress by Christian Dior. What makes that dress special? Yes, it’s made of the absolute finest quality silk, but it’s not the silk that makes it a Dior. What makes it a Dior is the process of creating the dress in Dior’s atelier, the way the fabric is first draped on the dress form, the way the pattern is sut, the way the bodice is fitted meticulously upon the wearer. And then the very special and detailed way the seams are finished and how the hems are done. All that time, M. Dior was guiding the process, looking at the dress and saying, “this is right” and “this is not right.”

“What makes a Dior is the eye of Dior, his taste. Without Dior’s participation in the process, the result is not a Dior, it’s a more or less convincing imitation.”

The cher public is invited to ponder this definition during this afternoon’s webcast of Elektra directed by Patrice Chéreau.

  • armerjacquino

    Yes yes yes! One need look no further than the insane ‘Against Modern Opera Productions’ brigade on Facebook who make the most savage pronouncements about productions based solely on still photos.

    Many, many modern-dress productions can otherwise be utterly without imagination or innovation and yet get labelled as ‘regie’ or ‘interventionist’.

    • RosinaLeckermaul

      We just saw two brilliant productions of Monteverdi operas at the Komische Oper in Berlin. Extreme Regietheater, but every choice was intelligent and dramatically powerful. What also made these productions successful in addition to the staging (Barrie Kosky) and the design (Katrin Lea Tag), was the sense of watching an ensemble that has worked together for years — an opera company instead of a bunch of visitors brought together to put something together in a couple of weeks.

  • Chanterelle

    The French “mis en scene” means “placed on the stage”, implying process, as separate from “decors” and “costumes”.

    Francophones might enjoy the 9 1/2 minute interview with Waltraud Meier about her career and about working with Chereau on the Aix Festival site

  • Gualtier M

    There is current proof of this. The Teatro alla Scala recently recreated a 1973 Giorgio Strehler “Nozze di Figaro” from Paris Opéra the which Gerard Mortier had jettisoned for a new regie production. The regie production was not a success. The sets were destroyed but the costumes were shipped to La Scala. However, the La Scala recreation was utterly lifeless -- Strehler had been dead for many years. So all that was left was the physical production and some notes. The production had been filmed in the 1980 with Janowitz, Popp, Von Stade, Van Dam and Bacquier. The recreation was filmed in 2006 with Damrau and D’Arcangelo.

    Manrico’s review here:

    The 1980 Paris Nozze:

    • Chanterelle

      The Strehler NOZZE was remounted at Opera de Paris a couple of years ago, part of Nicolas Joel’s nostalgia-regie offensive. I don’t recall hearing anything more enthusiastic than Manrico’s review of the DVD. Watching it on TV I thought it looked remarkably like the 15-year-old Met Jonathan Miller production, which itself has lost much of its juice over the course of several revivals.

      • Regina delle fate

        “nostalgia-regie offensive” -- I LOVE that phrase!

    • Porgy Amor

      I am glad not to be alone in finding that Damrau/D’Arcangelo DVD of La Scala’s exhumation of the Strehler Figaro to be…well, as you said, “utterly lifeless.” Some of the performers are good, but we encounter them in such a vacuum. A pretty, tasteful vacuum, but even so. I would rather watch Guth and his unicycle-riding cherub, if those are the choices.

      Didn’t Elijah Moshinsky bring this issue up in an interview with Woolfe (I believe) last year? He commented that some New York operagoers may believe they have seen “his” Ariadne many times, but if they were not there for the original run, when he worked with the premiere cast, they have not.

      I have enjoyed revivals handled by revival directors, of course. It can be done well or otherwise. Many of us lament the passing of Robert Carsen’s Met Eugen Onegin, and loved the HD-broadcast performance we have on DVD, but Carsen did not return to the Met in the 2006-07 season to work with that cast.

  • laddie

    Prior to his engagement in Parsifal, Peter Mattei gave a talk in New York that was sponsored by Opera News that a good friend of mine attended. During that discussion, he talked about how difficult it was to recreate Haneke’s production of Don Giovanni for the third time in a decade, long after Haneke had ceased to be involved. My friend reported that he implied it was pretty much a failure by the time it came around for a third time.

    • oedipe

      My friend reported that he implied it was pretty much a failure by the time it came around for a third time.

      Well, I loved it! The excellent cast of the revival had something to do with its success.

    • Uninvolved Bystander

      Not so much a failure, laddie, as the premiere and first revival with Haneke directing were what Haneke intended to do. This last revival, with a house director, didn’t have the same buzz. Plus, Peter said that he wished that they had filmed the prima with Luca Pisaroni as his Leporello. Not so much a slam at David Biszic (that’s not Mattei’s manner) but Peter has had a long, working relationship with Pisaroni (particularly as the Don/Leporello pairing).

  • “What makes a Dior is the eye of Dior, his taste. Without Dior’s participation in the process, the result is not a Dior, it’s a more or less convincing imitation.”

    Opera fans know there are two ways of viewing this issue.

    Classical music fans might tend to approach this question one way:

    What is Chopin’s b-minor sonata? Is it the piece of paper with ink splattered on it? No -- that ink has to be realized into sounds. But is Krystian Zimmerman’s interpretation of those notes the same as Chopin’s. We can’t answer that question. We can only return to the physical trace of the work -- the score -- and add to that whatever help we get from the oral tradition and from recordings of he work.

    Even though contemporary performances of the b-minor sonata lack Chopin’s animating spirit in realizing the notes at the piano, we still call it Chopin’s sonata, and we still treat all physical traces of the work (score, notes, recording) as the best guide towards recreating that work.

    Therefore, all those sets, costumes, production notes, video documents, etc. constitute a solid basis for the recreation of, say, “the Strehler Figaro”. The contemporary director-interpreter takes the production’s “score” and reanimates it through a combination of his own imagination and his understanding of the original auteur’s intent. Call it an imitation if you like, but every performance of Chopin’s b minor sonata is just such an imitation.

    The contemporary theater-goer might tend to have a different take. Theater is less about recreating a work from the historical past, than about creating an experience meaningful for a particular audience in a particular time and place. In emphasizing the “presentness” of the theatrical experience, anything in the source material can be changed: lines or acts can be removed or rewritten. Nothing is ever settled: any element of the play or its performing tradition can be radically reworked.

    According to this line of thought: the best way of reviving the Strehler Figaro is not through careful attention to the physical traces of that production, but through informed intuition of the production’s animating spirit and the attempt to recreate that spirit and translate it into today’s sensibilities. Decor, costumes, lighting, blocking all are subject to change in pursuit of this goal.

    • The purpose of this clip, besides the obvious camp value, is to show that even a very talented designer (in this case, Cecil Beaton) can’t always pinpoint what exactly is genius in another’s work. His designs for the fashion parade are all based on Chanel originals, some of them very celebrated. And yet the dresses look only superficially like something Chanel might design, entirely lacking her dry, crisp line. (Miss Hepburn’s suit is a little more in the ballpark, though, if rumor is true, she had a very proactive hand in creating the outfit.)

      • I guess there are two separate questions here -- they are fairly carefully distinguished in your original post, but I think some of the comments on the thread are tending to confuse them.

        The target you seem to be aiming it is the “recreation” of a production that has achieved, over the years, classic status (Wieland Wagner’s Ring, etc.) Others here seem to be talking about “revivals” of productions -- things that get revived after a few (or several) years without the input of the original director.

        “Revivals” run into the question of economics. Houses can’t afford to devote as much rehearsal time to revivals as they do new productions. Nor can they always afford to rehire the original director or even top-notched talent. Nor can they stage only new productions (and if they did, they would still be unlikely to hire “the very best” directors to direct each show in their season). These unavoidable economic realities should be kept in mind when regarding the success of production revivals.

        Regarding production “recreations” -- the original target of your post: I would wonder whether an original creation by Cecil Beaton would have been better than what the result was. This is a counter-factual, of course, with no “right” answer. This question, though, gives me doubts as to whether “recreation” is always necessarily inferior to “creation from scratch”.

        (If Hepburn, as you suggest, was so instrumental in shaping the design of her own costumes, then it would appear that Beaton’s talents did indeed have some limits -- or at least that design is best regarded as a collaborative effort between designers and performers.)

        It’s a commonplace that 18th-century composers would have been astonished to find out that their music was still being performed 200+ later. 20th-century “auteur”-centered productions were likely never intended to be permanent monuments, but it could well be that, due to popular demand, some might go through the same process of canonization and (re-)interpretation that 18th century music did. The very fact that you felt the need to address the question suggests that some demand is already there.

        (For examples of canonized theatrical practices -- see, I dunno, most every form as East Asian traditional theater)

        I imagine most theater directors get lots of training as apprentices in learning to subordinate their own theatrical ideas to that of a senior director.

        One other related point to consider is that recreation can actually create the “shock of the new”. Very old music can sound surprisingly modern. Explorations of older, ostensibly “superseded” theatrical traditions can enlarge our understanding of the original context of a theatrical work or possible contexts for such work.

        I’m not claiming that “recreations” are the only viable route, or always the most advisable root. I like seeing new productions as much as the next guy. But “recreations” are, in theory, a viable option -- and one that might well suit the classicizing mentality of many lovers of older music.

        • Here is another related question which I throw out to the experts of parterre:

          What does the history of ballet performance have to teach us regarding these questions?

          • Indiana Loiterer III

            I’ve always wondered--what does the history of spoken theater performances have to teach us regarding those questions?

            You claim:

            The contemporary theater-goer might tend to have a different take. Theater is less about recreating a work from the historical past, than about creating an experience meaningful for a particular audience in a particular time and place.

            Perhaps the difference is institutional in nature. Opera companies, as they have evolved over the centuries, are places in which one can generally rely on a more or less fixed number of more or less masterpieces from a more or less wide range of traditions being presented over the years, often alternating night after night. (This is known as the repertory system.) There is no reason, on the face of it, why the same sort of institution could not exist for the spoken theater, with all its advantages (breadth of repertory) and disadvantages (insufficient preparation time). But at least in the United States, it doesn’t.

            There are, I believe, spoken-theater repertory companies in continental Europe. Do they have the same problems with repertory revivals as opera companies have?

            • armerjacquino

              I can’t speak for continental Europe, but the repertory system in spoken theatre is more or less dead here in the UK.

              There are two theatres in the UK which run on a fully repertory system: the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick and Pitlochry Festival Theatre. Both run six-month seasons using the same group of actors (usually about 18-20) to perform six plays, whose opening nights are spread throughout the season. Pitlochry has one auditorium, so once show 6 is open the selling point is ‘stay six days, see six plays’. Keswick has a main house and a studio space, so there are three large-scale and three small-scale productions in each season (this also means that Keswick’s actors will be performing 8 shows a week, in one space or another; in Pitlochry actors will typically be in 3 or 4 of the 6 shows, so will have a few shows off per week).

              The only other repertory theatres in the UK are the big subsidised houses- the NT, the RSC and the Globe. They will usually have several shows running at one time (the NT in its three houses, the RSC in its two, and the Globe on its one stage). The NT doesn’t tend to cross-cast, although often performers will be appearing in one show and rehearsing another. The RSC has a large company to cover a number of productions over its 18-month contracts. The Globe’s casts are completely self-contained.

              That’s probably more info than you wanted before I’ve answered your main question: none of the repertory companies I’ve mentioned will ever revive a production in the way opera companies do. Productions may transfer into the West End (or to Broadway or BAM) or, in the case of an unusually successful production like Pitlochry’s WHISKY GALORE return for a second run with largely the same cast. What doesn’t happen, ever, is a ‘revival’ as we would understand it in opera- ie a staff director, a new cast, and the same sets and costumes. Although, now I come to think of it, that is what happens if a show is taken on tour…

          • Batty Masetto

            Croche, I’m not sure any analogy with ballet and Chinese opera would hold up. Not speaking as any kind of aficionado, of course, but as I understand them, because of their long histories of conventionalization, both classical Western ballet and Chinese opera are to some extent modularized: assembled from units like fouettés and grand jetés and singing while standing on one foot that can be practiced over and over to perfection. Actions like these still have to be combined into an artistic flow and integrated with whatever innovations the new production introduces, but they provide a basic vocabulary of forms that the performers can apply with some confidence regardless of the setting.

            To some extent, opera was once like that too, with a highly stylized cheironomia that performers could draw on to express certain emotions and so forth. Here’s a really late example that’s already in transition away from all that:

            Nobody could get away with it today; it would just be camp. Today’s opera is much closer to spoken theater. In representational approaches, the details of the interaction have to be generated between the players based on their own personalities and abilities and chemistry. Doing that in a way that yields a fresh, convincing, coordinated whole can be hard enough even for seasoned actors if they have to work essentially on their own. For opera singers, many of whom have only minimal training in acting, it’s often an unreasonable stretch. And if the approach is non-representational, the stylistic vocabulary of each production has to be absorbed from scratch, which can be even harder.

            Either way, it’s not going to work terribly well without insightful guidance and some meaningful rehearsal time. Both of which are frequently in short supply for revivals.

            • Hiya Batty,

              Thanks for your thoughtful response. Since I’m getting bored with the sound of my own voice, I’ll try to keep my reply brief to the wide range of issues you raise:

              1) I was, in part, trying to get at the issue raised by La Cieca from the point of view of the audience, not the producer. A characteristic feature of the current classical music biz is its fidelity to the established text. This classicizing attitude bleeds over into some people’s response to operatic-theater -- i.e. the rejection of “interventionist” (h/t La Cieca) auteur-driven productions of opera, and the desire to see “classic” productions of operas recreated or maintained in perpetuity (W. Wagner’s Ring, Zeff’s Boheme). I don’t think such people are simpletons -- in addition to classical music, there are other types of theater where the audiences bring with them the expectation that they will see a production “text” interpreted for them: ballet, traditional Asian theater, and perhaps some of these touring Broadway mega-hits. All of these art forms have different ways of preserving their production “text” of course -- the repertoire of stylized positions and movements of Beijing opera is not used by the touring productions of Phantom. I thought ballet would be an instructive comparison, because although there is a very strong conservative streak in its production, later choreographers and artists find ways to keep the material fresh for themselves. If there is an audience movement for the preservation and or recreation of “classic” productions, I am reasonably confident that directors and performers alike can find methods to interpret them in ways which bring the productions to life.

              2) The issue of naturalistic “representation” in the theater is an interesting one -- perhaps we can defer that to a future date. I tend to find ostensibly “naturalistic” presentations as stereotyped in gesture as the delightful clip you presented above, they just use a somewhat different collection of stereotypes. To my eye, many “naturalistically”-oriented productions also look too busy, with too many random movements -- sort of like watching a football scrimmage. But mine is probably a minority view -- I’m a bigger friend of “stylization” than most, and I’d actually welcome seeing a few productions of different 19th century operas rigorously based on the kind of acting seen in your clip above.

            • Batty Masetto

              I agree we shouldn’t get into the whole question of “naturalism,” which is extremely messy – I was using “representational” in the sense from the visual arts, meaning that what’s shown is in some sense recognizable to the onlooker as a depiction of real life. It’s a nice baggy term that covers anything from Jan van Eyck to “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” but not, for example, “Nude Descending a Staircase.” Non-representational alternatives might include intense stylization, abstraction and maybe surrealism. In performance terms it’s the difference between the behavior we see in virtually all Met productions, if only sketchily, and the kind of behavior in a production by Robert Wilson, or even better, in Freyer’s Ring, where the performers’ faces were entirely concealed and their movements distorted to create a particular kind of visual image. In these terms, I’d say what little I’ve seen of Chinese opera has one foot in representationalism and one foot in strong stylization.

              But the real point is that given the performing style that prevails on most US and many European opera stages today – and let’s face it, the Grand Manner of 1900 is not likely to come back – the detailing is extremely difficult to reproduce years later. Especially because, unlike ballet or Chinese opera, where revivifying traditional movements is absolutely intrinsic to the training, there’s no tradition or training at all in our theater for making sense out of actions that were created for somebody else.

              (As people have been pointing out, it’s exactly their discomfort with trying to do this kind of thing that led Chita Rivera to quit and that makes performers in touring companies of musicals feel like nothing but cogs in a machine.) (There’s also a long-standing story about Olivier’s scream as Oedipus at the moment of anagnorisis -- apparently young actors all over London tried to imitate that scream, but nobody could manage, in part because nobody could recreate the lead-up.)

              Here’s an example from Francesca da Rimini that might make things clearer. Let’s set aside the disparity in acting skills between the principals in the original production and the revival, and just look at two tiny facets of directing technique. In the clip, watch the moment around 3:30 when Francesca heads into the rose patch (let’s hope I can get this to start in the right place):

              First, the stage picture: in the original production, you can see that the women looking down from the gallery above are artfully arranged in twos and threes and so on, with individualized postures and responses. In the revival, they were just standing there in simple lines, with a distinct aura of “this is where the blocking says I go.”

              Next, picking the rose: Scotto moves in, turns her back to us, then takes the rose, turns around again and raises it aloft as the musical phrase reaches a peak. It’s easy to believe she’s sought out just the one she wanted and picked it this minute.

              Westbroek remained in profile, knelt down and reached straight into the box for the prop rose, which she then brought out. There was no physical indication that she’d actually looked for the rose or had to detach it from a bush, no sense that she’d done anything but perform a bit of business with a fake rose as called for in the production book.

              Now, these are problems that any able director will correct, given enough rehearsal time. (Westbroek isn’t in Scotto’s class as an actress, but she’s no lump and would undoubtedly have taken the note.) That they weren’t fixed for the close scrutiny of HD indicates that the director either wasn’t able enough, or (more likely) wasn’t given enough time, or maybe both.

              (And let’s not even mention how Francesca’s costume works on the two different bodies. Somebody seriously needed to rethink that dress for Westbroek’s far more substantial figure – it had to be remade anyway.)

              It’s the accumulation of thousands of tiny lapses like this that drain the life out of a revival unless the directing (or the ensemble’s memory) is unusually strong. It’s also why McVicar, Decker, et al. were called in themselves to restage their own productions for the HD, and why the performers were able to make those productions work to the extent that they did.

              The kind of re-creation you’re talking about, without the participation of the director who originally conceived the production, would probably require a wholesale revamping of our theatrical training for actors and singers, and I doubt it’s gonna happen.

      • Big Finn

        This is an interesting point, and looking from the 2013 perspective of Beaton’s 1969 reinterpretations of Chanel’s 1920’s to 60’s classics, one is reminded of the question of level of “authenticity” of the costume design in “period recreations” (eg. historical films). One needs about a 10-year time span forward to fully realize how much of the “original” has been influenced by the fashions and trends of the period of the recreation. Thus, not only is Beaton in his 1969 work influenced by the Chanel originals, his vision is clouded and/or lit by the 1960’s fashions, preferences and lifestyle in general, the needs for a theatrical production, his own ambition to REinterpret (re-invent) Chanel for us, in a way out-do Chanel. Judging by the clip, he is not clever or talented enough; the proportions seem clumsy and wrong, the Chanel wit is nowhere to be seen, the understated elegance of crisp lines and extraordinary but controlled details are not there. Hepburn cuts a “believable” figure, but even her outfit’s lines are all wrong. Beaton has done a most superficial job without fully understanding the task at hand, the heart, soul or core of Chanel. Now Karl Lagerfeld would grasp it if he’d to design the spectacle today, but then, he has been breathing Chanel for decades, and he is smart and superbly talented. But we could only (really) judge the “accuracy” aspect years later, when today’s trends would have become yesteryester year’s.

  • Camille

    At last! A regie discussion that has something tangential to do with my world, for Camille is in happy possession of JUST what is being referred to above, a silk Dior two-piece suit!

    At least CHRISTIAN DIOR is the label that is sewn inside and there is absolutely no doubt it is one. However, since this suit was purchased about fifteen years ago, years after the demise of M. Dior, and in a secret garment district location and not in Paris, there is absolutely no illusion whatsoever that her darling little ensemble was designed, overseen, and sewn by the grand maître of “The New Look”, and therefore, it just isn’t the same.

    So, while it makes me happy to own, I do know that prêt-à-porter is never, ever, ever going to be bespoke. And that’s that.

    In conclusion, La Cieca’s doyen (the doyenne’s doyen) is right on the mark, or rather, the money.

  • Even worse is when people mistake sets and costumes for direction. Never mind whether it’s the production or whether the direction was taken from a book of notes from the original staging. Some people don’t even think about direction and their sole criterium for judging the production is the sets/costumes.

  • Argh. In the above, the second sentence should read “Never mind whether it’s the production premiere or whether the direction was taken from a book of notes”.

  • LogeLizard

    I light of these points I wonder how we’d position the best productions of the John Dexter era at the Met — I’m thinking DIALOGUES, LULU, and BILLY BUDD. Those have proven to have staying power in revivals long after Dexter’s death and, I think, to retain some of their original power, though I’m not sure how they’ve changed under the house directors who’ve re-staged them.

    • RosinaLeckermaul

      I have seen the recent revivals of Dexter’s productions of BILLY BUDD and DIALOGUES and, while still visually arresting, they were only sporadically alive dramatically. They were staged, but not directed — that is, the performers were not an ensemble dedicated to a particular interpretation of the work. Clearly little character work had been done. BILLY BUDD was bland. The veteran singers in DIALOGUES made the most of their moments on stage, but the overall effect did not have the power it had when a good director oversaw the entire project. These revivals were persuasive evidence that a production cannot be fully recreated.

  • Batty Masetto

    La Cieca’s points were reinforced avant la lettre by Atom Egoyan in the Salome joint Web interview with Herheim a few weeks ago. He mentioned that reviving his production was tricky even for him because it was so difficult to recover the mindset that had enabled him to create it some 20 years ago. He wouldn’t do it the same way today at all. And Herheim as well said that he’d made substantial changes for the Oslo version of his show, even though the Salzburg original was quite recent.

    If even the original director can find it difficult or indeed inappropriate to reproduce what originally made the production what it was, how much harder it will be for a fill-in (who will almost always have considerably less authority and in in a good many cases will also be a considerably less talented artist).

  • RobNYNY1957

    And yet a lot of Broadway shows can be exactly recreated from city to city and even country to country. I’ve seen Phantom of the Opera, in several countries, in three languages, and they are all exactly the same. Oklahoma in London (with Hugh Jackman getting second billing) and New York. Les Mis, everywhere. Mamma Mia! too many places. Every gesture, all the blocking, everything, through multiple casts over periods of years. Broadway, the West End and bus & truck shows wouldn’t work unless it could be done.

    • RosinaLeckermaul

      Nowadays replacement casts and touring productions of musicals are to be Xerox copies of the original production. In the past, when a star left a show, the replacement was given some freedom in reinterpreting the leading role: e.g.. the many Dolly Levis during the Broadway run of HELLO, DOLLY. No one was expected to give a carbon copy of Carol Channing’s performance (God forbid!!). Musicals are now machines and performers are replaceable parts. I have heard that parts of PHANTOM are even pre-recorded. It’s not a good model for musical theatre that has any personality or dramatic power.

      • armerjacquino

        Yes, it’s depressing. Friends of mine who have been in revival casts of in CHICAGO and LION KING here in London have told me about the grid system of rehearsal: a new cast member is told ‘On this line, you move from G4 to F5’ etc and it’s non-negotiable.

      • oedipe

        Isn’t opera going the same route though? For instance, everybody uses the same singers for everything and that’s not conducive to a lot of personality.

        • armerjacquino

          Not to mention the whole issue of rehearsal time. In a world where major singers can complain about having to rehearse for more than a week, is it any wonder how many revivals are drab and routine?

        • Indiana Loiterer III

          The same singers, but with different production teams.

      • la vociaccia

        Chita Rivera talked about this in an interview with Opera News. She said she left musical theater because she showed up to a rehearsal and instead of “role” people were saying “track,” as in “I’ve been doing the Fantine track, but I was doing the Eponine track for a while. Basically saying that, exactly as Rosina says, you were no longer an artist; you were a replacement part in a production machine.

      • mjmacmtenor

        This is not entirely new. It started in the 70s with certain shows that were “built” on a certain cast and replacements were expected to mostly copy the original cast. I saw Chorus Line when it opened in LA with almost all of the original NY cast intact. I also saw it when in closed about 2 1/2 years later with a different cast. It just wasn’t the same although every detail was the same. Part of the problems is that many of the aspects of the characters in the script were built around the actors who originated the roles. Also, there were other adjustments. The music for Cassie almost always is rewritten from the original arrangements, as few if any Cassies have the combination of belt and high soprano that Donna MacKechinie had (to go along with the dancing and acting skills). On the other hand, I have seen multiple actresses in the Carlotta role in Phantom including the incomparable Judy Kaye. Although the blocking was the same, they each managed to bring something special and different to this role.

        • RosinaLeckermaul

          The issue of cloning performances in musicals began when musicals ran for over a decade instead of a couple of years. The producers want to keep the show fresh and give audiences the same performance they would have gotten on opening night. It doesn’t allow for much, if any, individuality. Musicals built on star performances are risky ventures when it takes years for a $10+ million investment to pay off. THE PRODUCERS never did very well without Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick.
          Yes, there is a similar problem with opera when an assistant director walks singers through a production staged by someone else months or years ago. You tell a singer where to move but not why to move and expect the singers to fill in the blanks and give a real performance. Sometimes they do. This season Bryan Hymel triumphed in TROYENS on three hours rehearsal, but he had recently been in two fully rehearsed new productions of the work in European houses.

          • mia apulia

            “The producers want to keep the show fresh and give audiences the same performance they would have gotten on opening night.” This is exactly the problem; “fresh” does not mean “the same”.

  • La Valkyrietta

    In Spanish there is a saying, ‘la mona aunque se vista de seda, mona se queda’, which can be translated as ‘you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear’. In opera, performance is very important and can transcend the production sets, costumes, and even directorial guidance. In fashion, even the eye of Dior might not be able to help the wrong lady. Any production of ‘Chicago’ would work with either Chita or Gwen…or both!

  • Will

    One point I don’t believe anybody made in discussing Beaton’s recreation of Chanel couture was the issue of the particular bodies for which the fashions were originally designed. Human bodies do not have regulation proportions--everyone is different, and people move differently, sit, stand, gesture, etc. in unique ways. Original Chanels that she designed for herself would likely suffer when their proportions were altered for another body. This is the dilemma faced by the repertory system when costumes may have to worn by five different singers in a season.

    In the era before the concept of the unified production design, singers trucked their own costumes around with them, all presumably designed specifically for them and therefore made to make them look their best (although I would not advise checking out Olive Fremstad’s MET Salome costume for proof of his last point). As late as the 70s, that tradition survived (and may even do so today) for singers doing Tosca. The stars all had their own act 2 gowns, some of which had long trains that made any thought of really doing the required action out of the question.

    Sometimes, even gowns designed for a specific singer simply don’t work. I remember the clumsy red affair that Behrens wore for the premiere of the Zeffirelli production at the MET. It was made of stiff red taffeta that crinkled and rustled every time she moved, sounds that carried easily into the house, and the fabric bunched inelegantly as she tried to move around furniture, Scarpia dead on the floor, etc. Costuming for the stage is a very complex and demanding affair.

    • mjmacmtenor

      I was watching a recent intermission feature from one of the Met broadcasts on PBS. They displayed many of the gowns (and jewelry) from divas’ personal collections. These included Leontyne Price’s dress for Act III of Aida from her farewell. Since that was in the mid 80s, the tradition of diva’s personal designs was still hanging on then (at least by “a thread”).

      • mjmacmtenor

        Correction. I checked the video. It looks more like the Act II Aida dress.

      • Nerva Nelli

        “These included Leontyne Price’s dress for Act III of Aida from her farewell. Since that was in the mid 80s, the tradition of diva’s personal designs was still hanging on then (at least by “a thread”).”

        I am not so sure, mjmacmtenor. You may be reading more into that designation than is there. Remember that this production of AIDA was made for Leontyne in 1976, the original dress fitted for her. Obviously when other Aidas (Molnar-Talajic, Arroyo, Caballe, Cruz-Romo, Ross, etc) moved in and out of the production, some different sizes of the garment had to be made. But there was a “Price” dress (as there was, I was told, a “Stratas” Desdemona dress which Scotto was pleased to wear after her weight loss) that the Met probably allowed her to keep-- especially given that that production was replaced in 1988, three years after the telecast.

        I don’t think it means that she “brought it along”, old-style…

        • However, I am pretty sure Price wore different costumes in 1984-85 for her farewell than those she wore when the Aida production was new.

          Here is a scan of Opera News from 1976 showing the costumes Price wore when the production was introduced. The two dresses are very similar, both of plain dark fabric, draped somewhat like a sari, with a narrow band of trim falling from right shoulder to left hip, and then from left hip to the right front of the hem.

          Below are photos of the dresses Price wore for her 1984-85 farewell. First, deep burgundy silk with multi-colored metallic and beaded diagonal bands and a cap sleeve effect in metallic beading, worn in the first two acts…

          Then a gown of panels of pale silver and sapphire silk, draped over a beaded midnight blue sheath, worn for the final two acts.

          These two dresses I think Price must have brought in for herself or else had the Met costume department build them for her for the farewell. (The jewel tones, diagonal drapes and heavy use of beading are very much her taste in concert dresses of that period, so that suggests that Price had at least some control over the designs.)

          They are definitely not the dresses designed for 1976.

          • Nerva Nelli

            I stand corrected, but it was worth it to get Cieca talking fabric, one of my very favorite of her manifold modes, reflecting the legacy of Mrs. Mary Ellis Peltz (née Opdycke, ya know):

            “Then a gown of panels of pale silver and sapphire silk, draped over a beaded midnight blue sheath, worn for the final two acts”.

            Plus, the Vicar noted over his breakfast of Weetabix and Horlicks that I unaccountably elided Rita Hunter from my list of Met Aidas in that staging. She o course sang opposite the GLORIOUS Yelena O, who sang the Judgement Scene while lying on a divan wrestling with an ocelot loaned to her at MM II’s urging by his frequent gym buddy, Marie of Romania.

            • Camille

              Isn’t Horlick’s a bedtime beverage, Vicarissimo?

            • MontyNostry

              Love it, Nerva.

              Camille, strangely, the not dissimilar Ovaltine (or Ovamaltine) was always marketed as a night-time drink in the UK (though I doubt anyone drinks it anymore) and as a breakfast drink in France. I think Italian children drink something similar with their breakfast biscotti.

            • manou

              Well, one sometimes makes a Horlicks of Brit-baiting. Whoever coined the name must have had a Freudian moment.

            • Nerva Nelli

              You perhaps are unaware of the Vicar’s Anglo-Indian roots. Generations of Vicars before him served the Empire without flinching, far from the comforts of home.

              From Wikipedia:


              Horlicks came to India with British Army, end of World War I saw Indian soldiers of British Indian Army bringing it back with them as a diet supplement. Punjab, Bengal and Madras Presidencies became early adopters of Horlicks and lot of well-to-do Indians took to drinking Horlicks as a family drink in early 1940s and 1950s. It became a sort of status symbol in upper middle class Indians and rich classes. The first flavour available in India, as in Britain, was malt.

              India, where it has traditionally been marketed as The Great Family Nourisher, is the largest market for Horlicks.[5] The Indian formulation for Horlicks is slightly different than in most other countries, as there it is manufactured from buffalo milk rather than cows milk due to cultural concerns.[6] In 2003, the brand underwent a revamp which led to the introduction of new flavours such as vanilla, toffee, chocolate, honey, and elaichi (cardamom).[7] The current line-up of flavours include original (malt), chocolate and elaichi.[8]

              In recent years, there has been an increase in the scope of the brand in India. By pushing it to newer segments of the market, Horlicks has become an umbrella brand for a wide variety of products ranging from the flagship malt drink to instant noodles, confectionery and breakfast cereal.[9] Special formulations of the malted drink for young children (Junior Horlicks), breast-feeding mothers (Mother’s Horlicks), women (Women’s Horlicks) and adults (Lite Horlicks) exist.[10] Horlicks biscuits were first launched in 1993,[11] and an energy bar was launched in 2009, named Horlicks NutriBar. Also in late 2009, Foodles, a brand of instant noodles, was launched under the Horlicks umbrella. This was followed in 2011 by launches of Horlicks Gold, a premium variant of the malt drink (dubbed The Best Horlicks Ever), and Horlicks Oats, the first breakfast cereal product under the Horlicks brand.[12]

              In 2010, Horlicks accounted for 85% of the INR2,306 crore (US$400 million) revenue of GlaxoSmithKline in India.[9] It is currently the most widely consumed packaged beverage in India, after bottled water

            • Camille

              It is *quite* so and as the DevaNervAnanda says, for a dear friend of mine originally from Calcutta (Coldcutters, as he always insists!) delights in his Horlicks by beddietime. And by day. When he’s not drinking wine.

            • Nerva Nelli

              Nerva non mente!

            • PushedUpMezzo

              The late great teetotal maestro Sir Adrian Boult was a great advocate of Horlicks. One wonders whether it was the Horlicks, the abstinence or the vigorous wrist action that contributed most to his much appreciated longevity.

            • manou

              In the case of Sir Adrian, the economy of movement must have had something to do with his longevity. As I recall, he would just move his baton a couple of inches up or down whilst maintaining a completely impassive expression.

              Maybe his Horlicks was also heavily sedated, of course.

    • Camille
    • Nerva Nelli

      “. I remember the clumsy red affair that Behrens wore for the premiere of the Zeffirelli production at the MET. It was made of stiff red taffeta that crinkled and rustled every time she moved…”

      (No, Will, that was her *voice*…)

      “…sounds that carried easily into the house”

      (…though obviously not her middle register.)

      • luvtennis

        You are so wicked, Nerva.

        Pretty soon you will have us believing that Pasolini’s “Salo” was an accurate recreation of MM II”s sweet sixteen birthday party!!!!!

        • Camille

          Oh no, luvt, that was mmiitm’s 21st [“Legal at LAST!”] birthday shebang. Just ask.

          • luvtennis

            Or “ILLEGAL at last” as it were….

        • Nerva Nelli

          More like the tenth “39th” birthday, one would think..

          • luvtennis

            Is it true la Castafiore played the role of the first raconteuse? I know you follow ALL her performances religiously. Inquiring minds want to know.

            • Camille

              And DOV’È la dolce Castafiore? Bianca, you’d better get back before Nerva calls you a Pre-Cambrian “Comfort Woman” encore. The Nerve of Nerva!

              Call home, Bianca, your Camillyushka always misses you when you tarry in faroff lands amidst the throngs of nightengales intoxicated by their own sweet, sweet song!!

              Torna, ideal’, torna!

            • luvtennis

              I actually wrote that to coax her out hiding. Alas to no avail. And though I have never seen or read a single syllable of Tin Tin, I love the white and chaste one’s posts. And when she and Nerva get going it’s like popcorn time. Like Mothra vs. Godzilla -- with pearls.

      • marshiemarkII

        My my my all the gurls having fun at MMII’s expense while she is away on duty, but it’s always fun to see luvt jumping in on the camp fray :-) welcome cara. CammiB has been getting very fierce recently, and I love it! and who’d have thunk it Nervita saying some warm and fuzzy things about MMII finally, but dahlink, it’s a hell of lot more than the 10th 39th!!!! :-) but mille grazie anyway!

        Actually MMII had a strange day today. She has changed her bedroom after 24 years, and perforce an amazing amount of memories came out of the woodwork, literally, as loads and loads of drawers and boxes had to be opened and repackaged. Lots of pictures were seen again for the first time after many years…… It was THE trip.
        Cocky I did find the picture of Dame Gwyneth backstage at the 1996 Behrens/Eschenbach recital at Carnegie, and will be scanned and sent to you shortly! I also found two boxes of autographed photos of Elektra, Brunnhilde and the classic picture with the pearls…….. oh well life goes on…. and MMII now has a bed truly fit for a QUEEN!!!!!!! CammiB when it’s all done, with the yards of silk, you will have to see it!
        Baci a tutti and exhausted MMII

        • Camille

          Hahahahaha! I knew there would be hell to pay when MMIItm returned from that gymnasium. Did it ran in your neck of the woods yet? It is supposed to get into the eighties a bit tomorrow, I hope.

          That is great, that you’ve changed things around and moved the “stuff” of your life around some. It’ll shake up all that inert energy and move things around in a different direction, hopefully. Interestingly enough, I was involved in a similar process today.

          Change is good Marschallina. It lets new people and loves into our lives.

          Buona notte!

        • marshiemarkII

          Oh CammiB, it never rained last night here in Sucksee, and after working out for two hours in a well air-conditioned gym, I went out into lovely Hell’s Kitchen and couldn’t find a cab, nearly fainted, and barely made it home. Today was really an amazing day though. The movers were coming to take my old bed contraption, so I needed to empty all the drawers, so imagine all what came out…….
          The good news is that the new bed is a queen’s wildest dream :-)
          Now MMII has truly graduated to supreme queendom in excelsis. It’s not quite done yet, as now we need to put on the silk drapes on it, but when it’s all done you WILL come for a visit, yes?
          It will make Queen Marie of Romania AND Amneris both jealous (imagine Nerva!!!), and I am sure it will be considered for the remake of Salo…..maybe by Rosa von Praunheim?

          Oh and of course I vote for Bianca Carisssimissima and Cara Clitisssssima’s prompt return also!

          • marshiemarkII

            CammiB you are so right, Change IS very good!!! I was so petrified about this, that I was postponing it for a while now, but now it had to done, and voila it’s now all over, and it was a wonderful experience, to relive pieces of your life like that, through the memories that remain….
            It’s truly amazing that we were both doing it at the same time. And now for me things are ordered differently, and hopefully better organized, if I ever decide to write those memoirs…..

            • damekenneth

              Marshie, are you still up? Congratulations on your new sleeping quarters!

              I was just watching your Diva, la Behrens, in the Elektra Recognition scene. It was so moving and very beautifully sung. So deeply felt. I loved it.

              Can you give write into the general interest section this week with some information about the Behrens Foundation? Specifically, are there ways to contribute, and when can one hear awardees? Stay cool.

              Your Dame Kenneth

            • marshiemarkII

              My most most adoratissssima Dame K, sorry I exhaustedly went to sleep last night without seeing your beautiful post above. Yes that Recognition Scene never ceases to amaze how sublimely she keeps the even legato line yet how she articulates certain words with perfect inflection, words traumbild, vergeh mir nicht, and the ultimate, the slight weight she puts on Dann sterb ich, are for me the opening of gates of heaven, and that’s without mentioning the sublime erhabenes and seliger. It is a miraculous piece of singing, and that alone should earn her her place among the very greatests.
              Here it is:

            • marshiemarkII

              Don’t know what happened, here it is again:

    • Big Finn

      The Finnish opera diva before Karita Mattila was the soprano Aino Ackté. Star singers DID use to bring with them their own costumes to productions. For the 1910 London premiere of Salome, it was announced in the press with much commotion that Ackté was bringing costumes designed by Worth of Paris for her for the role. -She did her own 7 veils dancing, too:)

      For the Thomas Beecham production, the lyrics/libretto was partly “modified” by Lord Chamberlain’s office “but about 30 minutes into the premiere, the singers were back on the untouched original libretto, and Chamberlain’s office did not interfere”. It was an enormous success, and Strauss acclaimed Ackté to be “the only Salome”.é_as_Salome.jpg

      The 1911 photo and 1910 illustration of Ackté as Salome show her at her (and Worth’s) alluring best. She had a relatively short but fabulous career, and ended up founding the Savonlinna Opera Festival in Finland, still on every summer.

      • Nerva Nelli

        “The Finnish opera diva before Karita Mattila was the soprano Aino Ackté.”

        Justice for Anita Välkki!

        • Big Finn

          Indeed, how amazing that someone remembers here:) Välkki did have a spectacular short career, and at her best was sublime. I was in the MET audience for the 1983 Finnish National Opera visit when, just about retired even in Finland, Välkki came along as a choir member and had a short alto solo in the Sallinen opera The Red Line. What a poignant moment that must have been. She died two years ago.

          • Regina delle fate

            Let’s not forget the excellent Finnish soprano Taru Valjakka -- I saw her as Pamina in Taikahuilu on my first visit to Savonnlinna and then something like ten years later as Senta, with Anita Vällki as Frau Mary! :)

            • Regina delle fate

              Ooops Välkki! Välkki sang Brünnhilde for Scottish Opera in the late 1960s/early 1970s as a replacement, I think, for Helga Dernesch and/or Berit Lindholm. Those were the days in Edinburgh/Glasgow…..

              And talking of Scottish Opera Brünnhilden -- is Kathleen Broderick still singing anywhere? After doing the ENO Ring, she seems to have vanished from these shores. Does she still sing in the US?

            • Big Finn

              Ms. Valjakka did the soprano lead role in The Red Line, in the Finnish National opera’s ’83 Met visit.

            • Regina delle fate

              And she is on the Finlandia recording of that opera, along with Jorma Hynninen. It’s a good piece, worth reviving, although sadly, Sallinen’s operas seem to have gone out of fashion.

        • armerjacquino


          • Big Finn

            WOW! the Parterre B. teams are SO knowledgeable!! Ms. Rautawaara was a genuine Diva. Her 1st husband in his later years was a friend of my parents. He owned a fabulous mansion in the countryside. The place very beautiful, alas too distant from the world capitals; she didn’t linger long… Visited the manor a few times as a kid, I was bewitched… her perfume fragrance lingered… after all those years --

            • grimoaldo

              “WOW! the Parterre B. teams are SO knowledgeable!”

              Very true, so just imagine how much the A teams know.

            • oedipe

              BOTH teams are knowledgeable AND funny!

      • Regina delle fate

        Sibelius wrote Luonnatar for Aino Ackté.

        • Big Finn

          Ackté was THAT kind of a Diva! Rather wonderful to think:) -- Of all the Luonnotar recordings I know, the Soile Isokoski one from a couple of years back (Ondine), with Segerstam conducting the Helsinki PO is the finest. It still is a breathtaking piece --

          • Nerva Nelli

            I can’t testify to the quality of her Finnish, but “Luonnotar” for Dorati is among the best recordings of the hard-to-record Gwyneth Jones.

            • MontyNostry

              What a pity Sibelius never wrote a full-length opera. It would have been fascinating to hear his organic approach applied to music-drama. Nearly every time I hear something by Sibelius I am struck by his originality and the sheer beauty of the soundworld he creates.

            • luvtennis


              It would have to be a very carefully constructed libretto because Sibelius’ music does not strike me as suited to anything conversational or purely expository. Or maybe I am missing something?

            • MontyNostry

              luvtennis, you are absolutely right. But if he had found the right libretto, wouldn’t it have been fantastic -- and probably ahead of its time.

          • Camille

            Slapdown—Isomoski vs. Mattila!




            Just love this work which I have only become familiar with in recent years. The visuals in the Mattila version are wonderful.

            • Camille

              Oops, Miss Mattila was uncharacteristically shy. Here she is:

            • Camille

              Isomoski = Isokoski.
              Sorrrrrry, madame.

            • Big Finn

              Sibelius DID compose a one-act opera, “Junfru i tornet” (Sedish for Maiden In the Tower), 1896; about 35-40 minutes. A thoroughly weak libretto killed the experiment, and Sibelius never returned to revise the work as he initially planned, and it remained largely forgotten.

              A medieval tale, and thinking of Sibelius’ often “minimalist” nature influences, it (theoretically) makes an interesting link to the minimalist Saariaho 1999 opera, with a medieval tale involving towers, L’amour de loin.


  • Big Finn

    List of Finnish Divas, sopranos all… please complete:)

    Ida Ekman, 1875-1942
    Aino Ackté, 1876-1944
    Hanna Granfelt, 1884-1952
    Pia Ravenna, 1894-1964
    Lea Piltti, 1904-1982
    Aulikki Rautawaara, 1906-1990
    Maaria Eira, 1924-1999
    Anita Välkki, 1926-2011
    Ritva Auvinen, 1932-
    Taru Valjakka, 1938-
    Soile Isokoski, 1957-
    Karita Mattila, 1960-
    Camilla Nylund, 1968-
    Mari Palo, 1975-

    • Nerva Nelli

      Anna-Kristiina Kaappola, a Met Queen of tke Night.

      Wasn’t there someone called *Liisa* Larsson circa 1960-70 who did Toscas and such? There is now a young lyric named *Lisa* Larsson.

      I have heard and enjoyed performances by Helena Juntunen.

      Anita Välkki did Brünnhilde #1, Venus, Turandot, Kundry and Senta at the Met. She did lots of WALKÜRE Brünnhildes, Aida and Turandot at the ROH and Brünnhilde #1, Turandot and Senta at the Wiener Staatsoper. Recorded the Third Norn for Solti, of course.

      • Camille

        “Anna-Kristiina Kaappola, a Met Queen of the Night.”

        Yes, indeed, Nerva Diva—one among many of the throngs of queens on view near the various bars.

      • Camille

        NervaDevAnanda, I am thinking you may mean Sophia Larsson?

        Or was she German? Can’t remember. Good singer, saw her once als Elisabeth in Tannhäuser.

    • Buster

      The late Tamara Lund was quite famous here, as a frequent partner of dishy Marco Bakker:

  • Amnerees

    My! Here we are in Finland.

    LaCieca’s original point is well taken. “Production” means more than sets and costumes. In the future when we bewail the Met’s trashing of viable and irreplaceable sets and costumes for inferior or inappropriate ones we’ll be sure to refer to sets and costumes and not “productions.” I hope that in next season’s “reuse” of the sets and costumes for Arabella the Met will find someone as good as Schenk to direct. to “direct” the production.

  • Amnerees

    Edit. “Schenk to direct the production.” Not a Freudian slip but a digital slip.

  • Ilka Saro

    Madameoiselle Cieca’s point is well taken, but it is a very modern point. Back in the day, i.e., throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, there was nothing sacred about a designers and directors.

    Mademoiselle Garden has recently been celebrated here, including descriptions of her gowns. She was at the tail end of an era where the diva might very well bring her gown with her, particularly if she thought the gown offered by the house was unflattering.

    I think that the “non-revivability” of certain productions in this age is debatable, and often connected to the facts of the scenery and costumes. For instance, the Met had a production of Peter
    Grimes that was carried over from the old house to the new, and served until the 1998. The set and costumes definitely had a “concept”, a “look”. But I saw this production in several revivals beginning in 1983 until 1998. I couldn’t have told you whether the original concepts of performance were adhered to. But I can say that this scenery and costumes would have been adaptable to a variety of workable stagings and concepts without earnest reference to an original.

    Not so the new production of Peter Grimes. It is a production which does not permit much variation during revival. There is a wall with many doors and windows. There is no other scenery. I didn’t care at all for the staging when I saw it in the house, but the videos were better. The current video setup doesn’t allow for any tableaux. The cameras are all too close to the stage for that. I rather get the impression that the staging was done with that in mind. In any case, as an opera to be performed in front of an audience seated in the house, the minimalist production doesn’t leave as much wiggle-room for variation and revival as the first. IMHO.

    I remember, with no fondness, my stage debut in New York City, as a chorus boy in the Light Opera of Manhattan production of “Rose Marie”. The chorus first appears as “Indians”, or what would more rightly now be called First Nations people. In the “whatever it takes” milieu of that small company, we wore wigs from a production of the Mikado. I don’t need to dwell on the idiotic racism. I put it here because I think that even in 1984, this company harked back to an earlier version of what “production” meant. The “whatever it takes” attitude used to be how a great deal of theater was put on, opera or otherwise.

    I think also of a video I saw of L’Amore Dei Tre Re from Baltimore. I can’t recall the year of the video. They were using Edward Gordon Craig scenery from the twenties or thirties, and I am not sure that the designs were originally for that opera. But this is how things were done. Frequently.

    • grimoaldo

      In the 19th century, just because there was a new play or new opera it did not necessarily mean there would be what we would call a new production at all. A lot of the time in Donizetti or Handel operas for instance, the settings are generic, the throne room, a prison, the royal gardens, and they would just take the painted scenery out of stock and re-use it.
      New scenery was a bonus, as the theatrical manager Mr Crummles in Dickens’ “Nicholas Nickleby”, having bought a second hand pump and a couple of washing tubs “cheap at a sale the other day” envisages working them into the company’s new play and advertising them in the playbills:
      REAL PUMP!

  • semira mide

    Can someone please explain how a director can be expected to put on a production of “Das Rheigold” in 9 days, as has been reported in the press. Apparently the director Frank Castorf ( of whom I know nothing) is going to do that at Bayreuth ( won’t find me there). I assume this is going to be staged. Does that mean that sets and costumes are already in place and doesn’t that sort of tie the hands of the director?