How to make a drama out of an opera

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The Independent Culture
The boos which greeted the opening nights of the recent Covent Garden Ring cycle were replaced by roars of approval at subsequent performances. The same thing happened with David Alden's bold staging of Tannhuser. Not only was this a new production, but it was also the first show of the new regime at the Bavarian State Opera under its new director, Peter Jonas, ex-supremo of English National Opera and people were determined to display where they stood on the traditional/new dilemma.

Opera audiences are famous for noisy, narrow-minded purists who expect the theatrical content to have remained static. Their demands, however, fall short of calls for a return to gas lighting, painted backdrops. They grow very upset that directors and designers have the bare-faced cheek to re-interpret the works for audiences who have the effrontery a) to expect genuinely exciting theatre, and b) to go to the opera without knowing the work inside out.

Alden is famous for dramatising the emotional subtext of the pieces he directs whether the pain of Ann Murray's descent into despair in Ariodante, or the political passions cutting across Simon Boccanegra, both of which were illuminated by the physical staging. This Tannhuser is no exception. Ban the opera-phobes from the room, curl up, and let the work take you over.

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