Should directors expect free license in interpretation?

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

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Should directors expect free license in interpretation?

Post by alberich00 » Sun Jun 07, 2015 11:54 am

Dear visitors and members of the discussion forum:

I just posted notice of the passing of a major set designer for the Metropolitan Opera's last production of the "Ring" (Otto Schenk) prior to the more recent Lepage production, who received criticism in some circles for designing realistic sets which, according to critics, didn't challenge or engage the audience, and would like to open debate about how much license is appropriate in directing and producing, and designing sets for, Wagner's operas.

I'll make my opening bid by suggesting that there is infinite scope in directing, producing, and designing the stage sets for, Wagner's operas and music-dramas, while still respecting the essentials without which we can't respond to what Wagner was trying to convey to us. I mean for instance something as simple as a Rainbow bridge. I am saying that when Wagner offers us a visual cue, especially one so important to the narrative, the director must offer us a visual image corresponding sufficiently to that cue to convey what Wagner intended, whether this be abstract or realistic. What, in my view, can never be right, never be justified, is to embed in a production of the "Ring" or Wagner's other works for the theater imagery or iconography which runs counter to the libretto text and stage directions, which runs counter to the narrative thread and forces the audience to wonder what Wagner could have meant (the worst possible consequence), or wonder what the director could have meant (which is bad enough, but not as destructive as the other consequence).

It is often argued by those who encourage total license in interpretation that such experiments bring out aspects of the "Ring" or Wagner's other stage works which otherwise might have gone unnoticed, or at least that they provide the director with a conceptually coherent concept of the artwork in question. I would answer that if they truly believe that the "Ring" and Wagner's other stage works are susceptible to numerous interpretations, that they allow the audience to do the interpreting for themselves, by not knocking them over the head to indicate things which Wagner was content to present with subtlety and ambiguity. As unusual and counter-intuitive as my own interpretation of the "Ring" is, according to some, nonetheless I would never, if asked, suggest that it warrants a stage production which runs counter in any way to what the libretto and music and Wagner's fundamental stage directions already suggest.

Your thoughts ..... ??????
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