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Another opera star lashes out at opera directors

The veteran bass Ferruccio Furlanetto has told an Austrian newspaper that, like Piotr Beczala, he keeps a black list of directors with whom he refuses to work. ‘It’s about time the public rose in protest,’ he proclaimed, citing the cancellation of the recent Dusseldorf Tannhäuser as a sign of things to come.

Read his comments here.


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  1. andreas morell says:

    well, i am quite sure, there are a lot of directors who keep blacklists of singers as well :-)

  2. In 1979 I went to work as a Stage Manager in at the opera house in Braunschweig. My first show was Lohengrin, traditional yet magical…the next show was Figaro’s Hochzeit directed by Heinz Lucas Kindermann. Very untraditional but real magic, and except for the Weimar School before the Nazis, when TheTrheepenny Opera and Mahagonny (for more refer to Michael Haas’ “Entartete Musik”) this Moderne genre of Regie has been moving forward, not backward, with such leaders as the Alden twins, and feel free to name the best. Point: The powerful and intense direction of opera Regie is bursting forth step by step, from Dresden to Munich, to Zurich and Berlin. The great intendants like Sir Peter Jonas, and the late Ulrike Hessler etc. etc. etc nurturing it every bit of the way. So Messrs.Beczala and Furlanetto, unless you prefer unemployment, and others reluctant
    to go with the flow, please get with the program, which needs great artists to bring back the magic.

    • Laurence Gien says:

      Helen, I sang at the Opera House in Braunscheweig for 6 years. The standard of productions was during my time quite high, however I do think that singers are a special breed and directors can gain a lot by plumbing the artistic depths of the singer instead of always trying to come up with something new from a staging opoint of view. If you remove the DNA of a piece, there is simply no point in calling it what it was. These pieces contain universal truths and the art of transferring this onto a modern stage seems to have been lost by directors. As to getting with the program, sounds a little harsh dont you think? I would love to hear you sing.

      • Mr. Gien, you are correct 100%, as well as Ferrucio and Mr. Beczala. I’m sure both of them will have no monetary problems if they walk out, but OPERA will loose to great artists, a comodity very rare today. What about getting rid of all those called stage directors, and let an experience singer due the direction ?.

    • Simon Wills says:

      The fact that regie is undoubtedly developing as a genre in its own right doesn’t justify what is happening, just as what is new is not always better. If regie were maturing, becoming a deeper and more thoughtful in its elucidation of the score, that would be wonderful: and in some cases that is exactly what is happening. But too often, the regisseurs are simply bolting a gaudy, tangential commentary on a work which is born as much of ignorance of the music as anything more substantial.

      Your last sentence is absurd. The magic never went anywhere because the great artists like Verdi and Wagner put it there and great artists like Furlanetto realise it. If you need the distraction of pretty pictures, it’s you that are driving the magic away from yourself. That said, you are probably articulating a deep truth with that remark, ince regie has decided to pander to the poor attentiveness of our age. It will kill opera more quickly than the politicians could hope to.

      Time to put stage directors in their proper place, as an interesting, skilful but secondary component of opera.

      • James Forrest says:

        Not that he needs my endorsement, but Simon Wills’ statement is the best, most cogent, and surely most accurate item I have read on this topic. I wish I had written it myself. And, congratulations to Furlanetto, who has matured through his career to become a first-rate artist. Wonderful he is sufficiently well established to be able to take a stand for decent operatic production!

    • Helen Kamioner’s statements are largely absurd, especially the last sentence, for the great mass of opera lovers are (thank goodness) moving away from the revolting spectacles such as the Dusseldorf Tannhauser, the Bayreuth Lohegrin and Parsifal (and the recent Salzburg Parsifal) and very many others (we all have our lists !). The new MET Ring is a sign that the corner may have been turned and intelligent stage work can still be found..

      The great singers will find it very much easier to “bring back the magic” when they are not being openly sabotaged by musically illiterate theatrical hooligans trying to put across their fatuous concepts and shouting “Look at Me ! Look at Me ! Aren’t I clever !” at the audience.

      So, yes indeed, Bravo Furnaletto.

    • “So Messrs.Beczala and Furlanetto, unless you prefer unemployment, and others reluctant
      to go with the flow, please get with the program, which needs great artists to bring back the magic.”

      In other words: It is all about the director, the singers have to follow in every aspect. Opera is only about directing.

      Do you notice what a nonsense you write here? Try to perform an opera without singers, but I can promise you, you won`t get far.
      I hope we will move forward in the nearest future that much, that those directors reluctant to go with flow are risking unemployment, if not respecting the music, singers and audience!

    • “So Messrs.Beczala and Furlanetto, unless you prefer unemployment, and others reluctant to go with the flow, please get with the program, which needs great artists to bring back the magic”.

      Those who don’t toe the new party line should probably be sent to Siberia or to a psychiatric hospital for reeducation.

  3. Basia Jaworski says:

    BRAVO Ferruccio Furlanetto!
    As Helen says: we want magic! And it can be modern and updated – why not? But it has to make sense. I’m bored with nazi’s, I’m bored with blood, perversion and porn. There are some stage directors who really doesn’t know to shock anymore, so it’s going further and further….
    And Andreas – people are not coming to the opera for the stage directors, they are coming for the singers!
    And when both are good then we get the magic back!

    • Gioconda says:

      Not at all is Ferruccio Furlanetto among my favourite singers, but what he says here is not generally against “modern” productions, but against those stage directors, who do not know (and care about) the music and disrespect the intentions of the composers or even deliberately ridicule them for their own prestige.
      Furlanetto wants poetry and atmosphere on stage and respect for the composer and refuses to work with stage directors who do NOT. Who can blame him for that??

      • Fabio Luisi says:

        It is their right not to be willing to work with directors they don’t like, as it is for a director not to work with singers he doesn’t like, as it is for a singer not to work with conductors he doesn’t like, as it is for a conductor not to work with singers or directors he doesn’t like.
        I don’t see any reason to be amazed about it. It always was this way.
        And I refused to work in Bayreuth because I didn’t want to work with a (very famous) german director.
        That’s normal.

    • “… people are not coming to the opera for the stage directors, they are coming for the singers!”

      Not true in my case, Basia.
      Looking back, I’ve often gone to opera productions because of the work itself, or the director or conductor, and not because of the singers. Welsh National Opera’s Peleas et Melisande, for example: Peter Stein / Pierre Boulez. I didn’t care who was singing, as long as it was idiomatic and sensitive; I wanted to see / hear the work of a great director and conductor.
      One other example: Lulu. After Christof Loy’s bare stage production for the Royal Opera, which bored me to tears, I avoid him like the plague. On the other hand, I went to WNO’s recent production because the reviews praised the staging (Pountney) and especially Koenig’s fine conducting, and the orchestra’s superb playing. (The singers weren’t bad as it happens!)
      I think I am fairly typical. I certainly don’t think it is as black and white as you suggest.

      • Basia Jaworski says:

        David – I am not, never was, and never will be black and white.
        There are some stage directors whom I _adore_: Carson, McVicar, Joosten – just to name a few – and I will always be eager to see their productions.
        Peter Stein is a MONUMENTO, he is a genius.

        What I wanted to say is: we can’t have opera without the singers. Without the singers you get a theater. Or a symphony. Or ballet. There is no opera without singers.
        And yes – we have to start with the composer, whose music most of the directors even can’t read!

    • Basia: Did you happen to see the Bayerische Staatsdopera’s production of “Eugene Onegin” Directed by Warlikowski. A Brokeback Mountain piece and thoroughly Moderne. I loved it so much, but I don’t remember the singers. Do you ever get to see opera in Poland. Did Grotowski ever direct opera. By the way, I enjoyed your peice on Beczala in Parterre Box.

  4. John Richmond says:

    I finally saw the Met’s Rigoletto, Las Vegas-style, via PBS. Or as much of it as I could endure. With all those slangy, “with it” subtitles. Sometimes new and/or different works, but I thought Rigoletto in Las Vegas was ludicrous. Clumsy. Lumpy. Something. So I am more for Furlanetto, et al., than I am against. Not that it will make a bit of difference, but I have made my public comment, and can now disappear into familiar obscurity. (Ha.)

  5. ishtarra says:

    INDEED, BRAVO Mr. Furlanetto!
    I too want the magic back. I too am bored with rape, perversion, blood, poop, porn, violence-for-the-sake-of-violence, trash! Updated is possible without all of that, see: The Ring and Rigoletto at the MET recently. Even their “Ballo”, though in that there were some things not making any sense at all too. Why is it some people will call an opera “art” only if it brings out the worst people are capable of doing to another human being? is RAPE ART????? Is SLAUGHTERING PEOPLE ART???? I don’t need to go to the opera for that, I can see that type of “art” every day, even 4 to 5 times a day on my TV Screen every time I turn on the News.

  6. Hasbeen says:

    I note that Mr Furlanetto speaks out at the very end of his long and distinguished career when there can be no consequences !

    • itrinkkeinwein says:

      You would be amazed how well FF is still singing, in 2011, 2012, 2013.

      • His performance in the Royal Opera’s Don Carlo, last month, was magnificent.

    • fildivoce says:

      «The very end of his long and distinguished career» seems not to be in sight any time soon: FF is carrying a very full schedule through the summer of 2014, the latest date details so far published. Considering how far in advance contracts are signed, FF might have several more seasons’ engagements in the planning!

      Plus, his comments in this regard are not sudden revelations: he has spoken about this very frankly for quite some years, and not at a distance of time, with no fear of reprisal, but while in this «Indian summer» thick-of-career-activity, while still running into these attitudes and these people who make the working process difficult. He’s not voicing dissent now just because he’s been active for 40-some years, but because in our present operatic world, there are more people in positions of artistic authority who are ill-suited to their tasks. Much as people take exception (legitimately) to some of the work of Karajan and Ponnelle, that was the level of artistic professional with whom FF worked some 30 years back, and he’s not going to complain about that.

  7. andreas morell says:

    thank u, helene! of course, as one reply to the original post by mr beczala said, there are only good and bad directors, not modern or more traditional ones. you can have beautiful traditional productions – maybe not exactly by mr zeffirelli :-), but by the late mr visconti, mr noelte or the not late mr mcvicar (who is very conventional even if he is a young director) – and you can have beautiful “modern” productions, whatever the attribute “modern” really tells about style or quality of any production. i am quite sure richard wagner and some other composers would have loved many of the modern productions of the “regietheater”, as i.e. wagner was always interested in improvements and modernizations of the stage – he was very depressed after the first year in bayreuth, having had the impression that his own productions were really stiff and boring. he would have loved it differently, and if he would have stayed alive a few more years, he surely would have changed everything a few times around and not become a museum of his own works, which is precisely what cosima made of his operas. this idea of sticking to the intentions of the composers is a very bourgeois idea, which basically comes from the fear of the proprietary classes that new ideas might change the world and therefore the soft cushion they are sitting on… most composers started off as anything else but bourgeois – they sometimes turned bourgeois, like wagner and puccini – and would have loved to change the society they were living in. if we turn opera into a boring museum, only repeating the so-called “intentions” of the composers – who nobody knows anyway as none of has has spoken to wagner, verdi, mozart or any other of the famous composers of the last centuries – opera will be dead in a few decades. art is not kept alive by museums but by other artists – and some of the (good) directors truly are artists!

    • “this idea of sticking to the intentions of the composers is a very bourgeois idea, which basically comes from the fear of the proprietary classes that new ideas might change the world and therefore the soft cushion they are sitting on…”

      Thank you for the good laugh ! I fail to see how a show, whatever it is, could change the world, and even more how a production departing more or less radically and more or less intelligently form the libretto could have such an effect. Oh yes, a performance of “La Muette de Portici” did ignite the belgian revolution in 1830, but, strangely enough, only because of the music.

  8. andreas morell says:

    @ basia: everybody i know goes to the opera because the chance to be moved and entertained by good productions WITH good singers, not because of the singers alone. i would never even dream about entering an opera house for a famous singer in a stupid production – modern or traditional doesn`t matter! if u wanna hear singers, buy a CD. i go to the opera to see drama, to see theatre, to see an artistic interpretation of the world…

  9. MARANDON says:

    Merci Ferruccio FURNALETTO d’avoir eu la force de dire tout haut ce que nombre d’amateurs d’Opéra pensent.
    Nous n’avons pas votre renommée pour être entendus, et qu’un chanteur d’Opéra de votre qualité pointe du doigt la dérive des metteurs en scènes qui sous prétextes d’actualiser les Opéras les dénaturent cela fait du bien.
    J’en suis arrivée à ne plus avoir envie d’aller voir ces spectacles affligeants. -je citerai la dernière production de Carmen à l’Opéra Bastille où les contrebandiers sont des travestis ou Carmen est en combinaison noire avec les cheveux blonds, ressemblant à Marilyne Monroe- Il serait temps ne plus défigurer les ouvrages par des mises en scènes incohérentes qui ne respectent pas l’ouvrage qui est sensé être servi.
    Je plains les chanteurs d’Opéra qui eux respectent scrupuleusement l’écriture musicale et qui pratiquent un art difficile avec talent d’être obligés de se soumettre à tant de dérives. Heureusement il reste le compositeur, l’orchestre et son chef et les chanteurs…nous venons à l’Opéra avant tout pour eux…Alors de grâce , décos et metteurs en scènes arrêtez de dénaturer les oeuvres, il est possible d’être de son temps mais ne cassez pas la magie de l’Opéra ni la compréhension des ouvrages.

  10. There are good and bad productions. There are “traditional” and “modern” productions.

    Some “modern” productions are good, some are bad. Some “traditional” productions are good, some are bad.

    There are good and bad singers. There are good and bad stage directors.

    So what’s the point actually?

    • Gerhard says:

      The point is: if any musician, be it a singer, a conductor or an instrumentalist fails to present a convincing representation of the score performed, his rendition is clearly not state of the art. For opera stage directors sometimes the opposite appears to be the accepted standard of their profession. And this clash of cultures is what this discussion is about.

  11. Bravo, Mr. Furlanetto! The reign of darkness is shaking with the truth, as it may be noticed here in some comments. Opera will be alive forever if kept what it is. We do not need innovations of this kind. Opera is first and foremost about the singing and the music, acting comes second, and should not matter at all if we have singers who move audiences with their voices.
    I have and advice for those Regie followers: Compose your own pieces, guys. Leave opera alone, for even with the greates effort to look “avant-garde” people you will always pass as grotesque and mediocre.
    Let the opera theater be the “museum” that recreates the atmosphere of times gone and, at the same time, put us in contact with that which is eternal in mankind. Give me great singers anytime. I would rather see an opera staged in concert form than attending a Regie trash performance.

  12. I used to go to the opera for the singers and the singers alone and the majority is with me, that’s why opera is dying and dying very fast. Young people aren’t interested in that trash we now see on stage, on the contrary they’d rather sing ‘you’ll ever walk alone’ in the footbaal field. Moreover there are hardly anymore REAL stars left in the opera world. When del Monaco or callas died it was front page news in my home country, the last one to get this attention was pavarotti, since then opera is not present anymore in the media (papers) as it used to be….no space for singers and if they do it’s a short note and that’s it. …Since a couple of years now i listen to my cd’s or watch dvd’s, stopped going to the opera way back, it will be a living museum art or not live at all. ..opera will go the same way as operetta: sudde death. amen

    • Laurence Gien says:

      Interesting that with the rise of the conductor and the director, the personality of the singer seems to have all but dissapeared. The advent of the stage being a playground for the paranoid whims of directors who do not understand the true beauty of opera, along with the dictator like conductors and their music police assistants, have all but stripped opera of what it was. Hard to believe that there was a time when people would travel far and wide to see a particular singer , who in turn would travel with his own costumes for the roles he sang. Sounds obscure? Well just listen to the great recordings of the Caruso era, oozing with artistic creativity and interpretation now considered inaccurate and untrue to the composers intentions. However if one listens to three different recordings of say of Le nozze di Figaro recorded within the last few years,, one can hardly tell the difference between them. Bereft of any personal human stamp. Perhaps the spirit of our age?

  13. harold braun says:

    Bravo Mr.Furlanetto!It also needs great artists to stop this bullshit!Life should imitate art,not the other way round!

  14. Theodore McGuiver says:

    I go to the opera for the music, the singers, the staging, the lot. If I just want to hear a voice, I’ll buy a CD.

  15. mark hood says:

    Ms Kamonier has not grasped the point.
    The Düsseldorf Tannhäuser is still playing to full houses, but it is only now concert performances – no staging – so what are the audience going for? – THE MUSIC!
    Try staging the opera without music and see how many tickets are sold.

    • HEARING opera on records got me hooked when I was a little girl But now I want to see it as it relates to the inner darker self in the 21st century. Everything from Monteverdi to Shostakovich. Exciting singers + exciting mise en scene make me pay $400 dollars a ticket for an opening night performance. My heart and soul sing with the music and it is deep within me, but I happen to believe really creative directors who really know the score and can sing every part excite the psyche. As far as voices are concerned, there’s a plethora out there, and I would gladly go to Coburg to see a fresh production of Der Vetter Aus Dings Da with operetten Divas galore, then see another Met Boheme with Jonas Kaufmann Simon Kneelyside and Renee Fkeming. The point is, that I love opera for everything it has to offer From the Music,rarely the voices -unless we’re talking about a Jeritza or a Ludwig- to the bare bone of the costumes. And still I enjoy the Regie. And you know you have a good Regiesseur like the late Jean Piere Ponelle who mad it all come together.

  16. José Bergher says:

    Some Russian conductor (I forgot his name) used to say: “Some operas are easy and some are uneasy.”

    • José Bergher says:

      The conductor I mentioned was Emil Albertovich Cooper, also known as Emil Kuper (1877 – 1960).

  17. the time will soon come (or has it come already?) that directors will stage opera with young sexy actors and use a soundtrack for the singing…but who will be there to stage it for? This horrible trend has become possible because of state-subsidized theatres in western-europe, as said ebfore a museum art it will be or there won’t be any art at all

  18. Marshall says:

    Good for him! Someone needs to say the obvious-they are destroying opera.

    Fulanetto elaborates on the subject even more, in a recent edtion of Opera News, and gives some sound reasoning.

    So many of the new productions are such a distortion of the works themselves- that they are forced to alter the very words being sung in the title translations. Next they’ll just start changing the text.

    I, for one, am not an advocate of only “tradtional” productions-there should be space for experimentation (with real intellectual underpinings), and sometimes changing the era of the original can work. But now we have a situation of intellectual facism where it is imposssible to do a tradtional production no matter how well directed, how well acted. Generally my experience of Regietheater, and or Eurotrash, is that it is a one trick pony. It has a concept or a gimmick (usually one that will shock) but the actual drama, the acting and direction is not insightful at all.

    I have reached the conclusion that opera goers must be a stupid lot to put up with this sham. Why must you be spoon fed someone else’s interpretation? Is that art?

    Also, the pretense that by making it “relevant” it attracts new people to the art has not been proven at all-and how will newcomers have any sense of it at all when they will not have the opportunity to see a tradtional production.

    I was bringing first timers to an opera-thinking it would be like an earlier production I had been to-and I described, and they had read about a church setting. Inststead it tuned out to be a seedy brothel-they were bewildered.

  19. I’m neighter a singer, nor director, nor actually working in the music industry. However, I do have a black list of people I’ll never work with (again), if I have the choice.

    I think it’s just normal to try to avoid to repeat bad experiences.

    • Indeed. So let Mr. Furlanetto enjoy the fact he’s in a position that allows him not to work with the people on his black list. Maybe he is on someone’s black list as well. So what?

      If he really wants a public discussion on a certain way of staging opera, he should publish his black list and give a reason for each item. That would be really interesting. So far, this is a pointless discussion.

  20. Sänger in Deutschland says:

    As a singer working in the trenches of a German theater, and having worked in many others the world over; I am aware of a very simple thing: the audience is most likely not there for me, or the director, or even the conductor; they are there for the composer and his great work, and everyone of us onstage, backstage, or in the orchestra pit, owes it to these monumental geniuses, Verdi, Mozart, Wagner, etc, as well to the paying public, the best possible interpretation of what ever piece we are presenting. These are works that have stood the test of time.

    It is egotism, to a degree that I cannot fathom, for a director think that these works must be re-invented or redefined in the image he sees fit.

    • The audience – I would it were so. Let me give you an example:

      Frankfurt Opera, Vivaldi’s “Orlando Furioso”, staged by David Bösch (a Schauspielregissuer, needless to say), two or three years ago. Some pictures:

      The whole scenic production was, in my humble view, an insult to any thinking mind. Mr. Bösch tried to imitate some kind of trivial TV comedy shows without any attempt to do something with score and libretto. I first thought to walk out, but then decided to stay with closed eyes.

      95% of the audience were enthusiastic, all performances were sold out. Most people I spoke to about this told me the same: “Well, those opera plots don’t make sense anyway, so it’s OK to make fun of them.” The production is scheduled again next year.

      - In general, Frankfurt Opera is great. The mentioned prodution is en exception, fortunately.
      - I am a supporter of “modern” productions, as long as they make sense.

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