Cher public, you may remember that about 18 years ago a parterre writer called Dr. Repertoire came up with a handy list of rules for stage directors. Well, La Cieca believes it is high times for a revision or two of this (by internet standards) antiquated document.
To start with the very first rule, Dr. Repertoire informs La Cieca that he has has a change of heart. Staging the overture, and even the silence before the overture, can work very well indeed. Just make sure your ideas are as brilliant as Stefan Herheim‘s.
And now, a Rule Number 11 that should have been near the top of the list from the very beginning. In a sense it’s more about operatic performance (not just acting) more than narrowly direction, but it is very important.
Not what, but how.
Within reason, it hardly matters what the singers do onstage if they are doing it with absolute commitment and belief. Even an actual mistake (tripping over a train, dropping a prop, entering late) will be read as the most deliberate and gripping of dramatic choices if and only if the performer plays it with not just confidence but boldness.
For example, the “concept” of that Salzburg Trovatore was vague and/or trivial, but you’d never know it when Anna Netrebko was on stage. I can think of no logical reason why she should sing most of the “Miserere” with her period gown half and and half off, exposing her navy-blue slip, but Netrebko inserts her naked arm into that velvet sleeve as if the fate of the world were at stake.
Stage directors, if you can inspire this much ferocity in your singers, your job is 90% done. The rest is just lighting.