The rehearsals for Death in Venice kicked off on Saturday with a concept discussion by assistant director Rob Kearley. He assured us that the director Yoshi Oida is "lovable" and that we will adore him. This October's production of Death in Venice has been mounted to great acclaim in Lyon, Prague, and Aldeburgh, and many credit Oida's impressionistic and haunting concept with the feat of making audiences fall completely in love with Benjamin Britten's final opera.
In his production notes, Oida writes that he seeks to answer three fundamental questions about von Aschenbach: Why did he go to Venice? Why did he choose to stay after learning the truth about the disease? And why did he become fascinated with Tadzio, the beautiful young boy (You can read the plot synopsis here)? Oida's approach to these questions is to present everything from von Aschenbach's point of view, transforming the Lido into an impressionistic dreamscape.
The visual elements of this production seek to evoke the atmosphere of Venice rather than reconstruct its façades. Central to this atmosphere is the sense of an ever-changing, ephemeral landscape—a shifting labyrinth of streets, bridges, canals, and alleys, difficult to navigate with any confidence in one's path or destination. Water imagery and reflections are always present, sometimes obvious and sometimes obscured.
The non-singing roles—principally Tadzio and his friends—are played by dancers. The dancing roles were integral to Britten's vision and are beautifully realized within Oida's direction. They are not there simply to provide visual interest, but to represent youth and sunlight in contrast to von Aschenbach's age and self-obsession. They also heighten the otherworldliness of von Aschenbach's Venice, and their vibrant and stylized movements serve to separate him from them.
Kearley believes that Death in Venice is an opera whose time has come, and this is the production that has cemented its status as one of Britten's finest works.
Photo Credit: © 2009 Bertrand Stofleth
Posted by Cecily Carver / in 2010/2011 / comments (0) / permalink
Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001