Wednesday, March 26, 2008

In questo popoloso deserto che appellano Salonico...

The Opera of Thessaloniki is a rather small organization that produces a couple of operas annually with a medium budget but with lots of love.

During the 07/08 Season they already had a production of two Leoncavallo operas in a double bill (Edipo Re/I Pagliacci) that received excellent reviews, an Aida with Norma Fantini, a production of Orff's Die Kluge, and now they 're in rehearsals for a new production of La Traviata starring Fiorella Burato, Carlos Silva (Alfredo) and Yannis Yannisis (Germont) under the baton of maestro Lukas Karytinos.

Maria Elena Mexía, stage director and set designer, a young girl with an impressive CV, talked to parsifal's about the new Traviata, modern operatic productions, marketing, her favourite singers etc. and provided some pics from the rehearsals:

Parsi: Is this your first time in Greece?

Maria Elena: Yes

Parsi: Thessaloniki is a city of 1,5 million people but still there’s no Opera House, just a Concert Hall with 1 or 2 annual operatic productions…Any comments?

Maria Elena: It’s time to make much more opera since it’s a city full of young people. With this Traviata the main goal is to demonstrate that opera can be done even in smaller theaters with not much budget, but always having quality.

The Opera of Thessaloniki called me first to see the place where we are doing the Traviata and if I could create a situation with a small amount of money and a structure that’s not adapted for theater. I imagined I could do it and I accepted. I love opera too much to let an opportunity escape. Now days it is very difficult to work around the world.

Maestro Lukas Karytinos

Parsi: What’s your opinion on modern productions by directors as Bieito and Konwitschny?

Maria Elena: Sooner or later they had to appear. Opera doesn’t belong to our time and language, and they are theatre directors of today, that means they intend theater in a contemporary way.

Of course they try to be “different” and away from tradition, but the music and way of singing remains the same of the 600-700-800’s. For some people it doesn’t make any sense seeing 8 men sitting on a toilet, or Filippo II eating pizza, for example, but it's their way or imagining the drama in an exaggerated and provocative way, since today's life doesn’t belong to emotions anymore but technology and cinema.

The consequences are that the music written by Mozart, Verdi or Wagner is much more higher on ideas and quality than the ideas of the directors which become nothing after ten minutes. Is just the opera that remains untouchable. Now if they compose new operas with new dramas for these kind of directors, I would like to see if they remain in history for the next 300 years, but it is the language of our time.

If I had a theater I would call them, not to make repertoire, we already have seen enough of recycled ideas, but new ways of opera and stories of our time.

I think these directors, and the ones that are coming, like my generation, are the sign that opera needs to continue, needs to be developed, needs to be created again, and the time of the repertorio is getting narrow on ideas. We need to interpretate our time, in every sense, like theaters did with the composers of the past. They were always inventing and renewing theater. It was the time of the singers and composers, in fact stage directors didn’t exist, they were “created” in the 40-50’s… when opera stopped being composed like it was conceived for.

We need to work with the musicians of our time to make that kind of messe in scene we see today all over the world. Then it will have a sense.

There are directors like Carsen, Willson or McVicar that have a style that has no time and they create with almost nothing a high quality messe in scene which remain in our mind for ever. I find this way of making theater more interesting and constructive than provocative ones.

Parsi: And your opinion on model-like singers?

Maria Elena: What do u mean by that? If I like Netrebko or Villazon?
The new way of being an opera singer?

I Think marketing makes a lot of a difference in a singer, but at the end is on stage you see an artist and after some years of career. Today it's difficult to see a singer vocally sane after 10 years they started their career. They get burned too soon, they sing too much and not always what they should.

If we talk about my model of singers, mine are Caballé and Domingo for the past generations, and as young ones Norma Fantini, Natalie Dessay and Marcelo Alvarez, for example.

Parsi: Some years ago you worked at the Piccolo Teatro di Milano with Luciano Damiani and Giorgio Strehler. What are the things you remember the most of this collaboration?

Maria Elena: They created theater all the time, they investigate the space, materials, lights…

They created on their artists, never imposing but letting art and imagination invade their work.

For me it was the discovery of the way I want to make theater. Both were genious.

Parsi: Prima la musica e poi le parole? Is this still the rule in opera?

Maria Elena: Yes, at least for me. Music says everything, much more than words. Words explain situations and feelings. In opera is not always possible to understand the words, but you can understand the meaning on them if the interpretation is clear and deep. If the singer is an actor, then you can work in develop the actitude and vocal colours that help to understand the music in the interpretation you want.

I think it is a rule; opera is music and also theatre, but its bases are limited by the music.

Parsi: What’s your perspective of La Traviata? What will the audience of Thessaloniki see on stage?

Maria Elena: It will be the fourth time I do Traviata.

I never had the chance to do it with a huge budget and in a big theater. So I always had to invent a circumstance that was credible.

This time I have a small space on stage, no grid, not much budget… but I have great singers.

I intended the opera in our time, Paris today. I gave only some ideas of decorations. Big windows where we can see Paris by night, a garden that symbolizes the colors of love and youth through 3 windows… Flora’s place is a big club for game and prostitution…

La Traviata has no time as the story could have happened any time of the history of mankind. Is universal. I just followed the score taking out as deep as I could the emotions and situations, I’m loyal to Verdi always.

I use a method with the singers where they can be natural and develop the ideas we work on using creativity and their way of interpretating, I never impose a movement but I create a role out of them.

The people of Thessaloniki will see Traviata translated in our times.

Of course with the disponibility we have to make it true.


mahler76 said...

Poli kali sinedefksi. Bravo mikre!!!

Parsifal said...

Thanks hon!

wanderer said...

Where and when did this interview take place, sir? I believe it to be at least for an interviewer to cite such info, otherwise it's plagiarism all the way...

Anonymous said...

To the beloved blogger's amazement: Yes, there are other places in Greece apart from Athens and its Concert Hall, even culturewise...

Parsifal said...

Well as you can see dear anonymous, Athens is not even mentioned in this interview...It's all about Thessaloniki...The blogger is not amazed as he lived for about 5 years in Thessaloniki and had the fortune (and sometimes the misfortune) of watching many operatic productions there...From Midsummer's night dream (1998?), Carmen (terrible!), Orfeo ed Euridice, Nozze, Lucia, Puritani, Fidelio etc etc...

@ Wanderer, this is an online interview...what's your point?