This is a followup to the question that arose yesterday about whether Dörrie’s Così is Regie or not. These are the first images that come up on a google search for “regietheater.”
These seem kind of apt to me in some ways, although they certainly highlight the association of regie with gratuitous violence, weirdness, nudity and political grandstanding. Maybe a better category for these images would be ‘what everyone thinks of regie’ or ‘stereotypical regie’ rather than ‘regie’ in a general sense. What I like about Regie is the use of abstract visual things to make an emotional point (e.g. the glass vessels in Sellars’s Theodora or the feel of the set in Kusej’s Clemenza di Tito) or the consideration of the work as a piece of theater (e.g. that Amsterdam 2008 production of Entführung where the set falls away piece by piece). Ideally the concept and the work itself click together in a way that primarily serves to enhance or deepen one’s reaction to the work – but of course this doesn’t always happen. Sometimes the concept gets in the way, or is overbearing, or distracting.
And then there are those productions that are on the edge of Regie. When I was thinking about Dörrie’s Così one of the reasons that I wanted to call it regie was that the director hadn’t just updated it in a general way, but had picked a specific time/place to update it to, which both revealed her take on the opera and dictated a lot of the feel of the performance. You could probably say the same thing about that Bayerische Staatsoper Rodelinda that’s set in the 1940s, in the sense that it’s updated to a specific time/place and this indicates a specific view of the feel of the work. But I wouldn’t call that Rodelinda regie. I think it’s because that 1940s/mafiosa setting didn’t seem to dictate so much of the singers’ acting and interpretation of the roles as Dörrie’s Così did. With Così I felt the director’s presence and management of it more strongly than I did David Alden’s of that Rodelinda. Alden gave the opera a little more space to do its own thing than Dörrie does. (Then again, I wouldn’t want to claim that regie is characterized by concepts that micromanage the performers – good regie certainly does not.)
One other question that Dörrie’s Così raised in my mind is whether Regie is necessarily serious. Usually it seems like it’s serious. Guth is serious. Kusej is serious. But then again sometimes not – Sellars is often serious, but sometimes he’s kind of wacky as well. Dörrie is definitely interested in having fun with the opera, making the audience smile – and ‘playful’ is not necessarily the first word I’d come up with if someone gave me a Regie-based word association test.