Sunday, August 14, 2011

Time Out Singapore Feature plus Leftovers

So like if you haven't already read my exciting feature on this month's issue of Time Out Singapore, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU WAITING FOR!?!?!?!?!?!?! (there's no online version this month for some reason but please please please check out the print edition...) Anyway, here are some excerpts with director Andrew Sinclair and 'Salome' Janice Watson  that did not make the final article due to length considerations, but are too valuable to go unread. Enjoy!

The Mad Scene: You have had a long and fruitful relationship working with the SLO in Singapore, how do you find working in Singapore?

Andrew Sinclair: I love it .SLO has an extremely loyal and hardworking Chairman and staff and an energy and desire to go forward in opera production. I am grateful to them for giving me the chance to direct SALOME. I have directed other Richard Strauss operas(DER ROSENKAVALIER and ARIADNE AUF NAXOS) but this will be my first SALOME.

The Mad Scene: What can we expect from your upcoming Salome production? Where do you stand on the “regie” VS traditional scale?

Andrew Sinclair: I started my career very much influenced by traditional opera productions , I have done a lot of them and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it provided you do it the right way. Too often they are concerts in costume and people think that is what opera is and they’re wrong. Directors such as the late Goetz Friedrich and Harry Kupfer showed me that there was a new and exciting way to direct opera while still remaining faithful to the text and the music. I think it is perfectly possible to do a traditional style opera production but the text and music have to be explored deeply so that the characters really emerge and make the audience think about their behavior. An arresting visual image is not enough. It’s part of it but not all of it. People today are far too concerned with a visual image that woos and excites them without having to use their minds.

I think “Regie” in certain parts of Europe and elsewhere has gone completely mad. I am fine about a production which I personally may not care for but where I can see that the director has a valid interpretation of what is happening in terms of music and text. I come back to what I always say – “We are there to serve the piece, the piece is not there to serve us”. There are some wonderful “new style” productions and I think my work falls in between styles. It’s what they call “Personenregie” which is about character direction. This also means that the audience has to know a bit about the libretto so that they can fully appreciate what the director and the singers are trying to present.

The visual style of my SALOME production will lean more towards the traditional but with the occasional variation. Usually this means that the costumes help to say something about the character rather than being strictly in period.

The Mad Scene: As Salome is not exactly a tale that preaches good moral behavior, how would you convince audiences to sympathise with the crazed, homicidal title character?

Andrew Sinclair: (from an earlier paragraph included in Time Out).....Jokanaan is not blameless when it comes to Salome’s fate. He has distanced himself so much from the world that he has almost completely lost touch with it. He has the power to help Salome and to save her, but because his views are extremely one-eyed he fails her. He rejects her, not only because he believes that Woman brought the sins of the world into existence, but also because he feels desire for her and is therefore threatened by her. Why else would he return voluntarily to his miserable existence in the confined and gloomy cistern? In despair over his rejection, and in her misguided desire to posess him, she goes completely off the rails. The result is tragedy. Perhaps in the end she realises she has killed the man who MIGHT have helped her? Maybe she realises she has nothing to live for? In the end WHO is responsible for what happens? Herod and Herodias, Jokanaan, or Salome herself? Should we not feel some pity for her? But this is all for discussion in rehearsal!

The Mad Scene: Conductors Edward Gardner and Antonio Pappano have described Salome as the opera that they would least like to conduct (in this YouTube video: because of its ‘sickening’ nature. What do you have to say in response to those statements?

Andrew Sinclair: I know and admire both these outstanding conductors and have been extremely fortunate to have worked on a number of productions with Maestro Pappano. Each rehearsal is like a Master Class in terms of his knowledge and what we can all learn from him. Both conductors simply say that SALOME isn’t “ their thing”. They don’t say it’s a bad piece.It’s not a pretty subject but it’s not much different to any police drama we might see on television these days.It’s an opera. CARMEN and BARBIERE aren’t MY thing but I can appreciate that there is some wonderful music in both of them and lots of directors want to do them. Not me. So, it’s a matter of taste really.

For some reason, Janice Watson preferred to answer all of my questions in one long answer, essay style, so here it is:

Janice Watson: I am very excited to be singing Salome in Singapore in the summer. I have heard that Singapore is a very lively and exciting city, with a fascinating arts scene. There are many places to visit and interesting foods to eat. Having worked in Kuala Lumpur, I have had a little experience of the warm weather and will enjoy it. I am also very interested in the traditions of the people . .

Salome is for me a wonderful character to play. I like to make her a very spoiled {as we all know} but young and excitable energy, but as she finally gets her way I feel she then becomes almost two personalities. One she switches on to get attention to achieve her goals, and the other is totally dominating and without remorse. If you look at the libretto in the last scene you see both sides.

I also believe every character in the opera has a definite reason to be there, and needs to be very strong. For instance, without the constant battle of Herod and Herodias, you don't understand Salome's reasons for being so mixed up. It all needs to be as strong as it is in the orchestra score.

Salome, if performed well, I think is a most beautiful part to sing and I think the dance of the seven Veils is usually left to the director to organise. I am not too bad a dancer and can hold my own but would also be happy to embrace any other ideas that a director may have. We will have to wait and see.

I tend to think that vocally, of course Salome can be sung by a big Dramatic soprano and that is fine, but I feel the lighter, more girlish passages are harder to achieve with a big voice. Salome needs to soar like an excited teenager in love for the first time, she needs to sound exhilarating and fresh, so I tend to go for voices like Cheryl Studer in recording. I also listen to bigger voices to hear how they pace themselves. I look forward very much to showing you all my interpretation.

Interesting eh? Want to see how their insightful thoughts will play out in the actual performances? Then get your tickets at SISTIC now!

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