Is There a Definition for Opera — Opera Director Bernard Uzan

Which opera is your favorite as a director and why?

Mefistofele by Boito
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE DIRECTOR

I really do not have a favorite opera to direct. I am always passionate when the singers involved are real artists, because that is what really makes the work interesting. But “real artists” — what does that mean? For me, if the singers bring into rehearsals their desire to know more every day about who they are through the characters they are portraying, if they are ready to question what they already know, if they engage with their own emotions, their own beings, I’d consider such artistry “real.”

Of course, I wish I could direct some operas I have never done, like The Rake’s Progress, Wozzeck, Lulu, and new commissioned operas. However, I am also happy that I have never directed some operas like Trovatore!

How have new technologies impacted opera, performers and audiences?

The impact is enormous. I think the era of what we once knew as “Grand Opera” is gone, unfortunately, because of money and changing tastes. If I were to watch one more production with one platform and projections, I’d scream — which means I will scream a lot.

I believe that audiences are shrinking because we do not bring onto the stage what they expect. New technologies imitating movies are not yet enough to satisfy a new public.

Too many performers suffer the same dilemma. They are using tools for knowledge instead of an acquired culture based on personal experience, study, and acquisition of knowledge.

Do you think a “contemporary opera” exists?

Cyrano by Dichiara and Uzan

Cyrano by Dichiara and Uzan
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE DIRECTOR

There are both bad operas and good operas in the nineteenth century and now.

At times, we have the feeling that too many bad operas are written today, but let’s just think how many operas were written in the past and how many composers in history wrote operas and how many masterpieces were left. They are just very few in comparison. Time will tell us which operas from our present times are good operas.

Subjects create contemporary operas in some cases, and music in others. Unfortunately, too many works are written with the intention of being operas when they simply aren’t. But who really knows the definition of opera: what is an opera? What makes a work an opera? I do not know anymore!

As a stage director and theater artist, what are some specific choices in terms of directing that are often aesthetically at stake in your work?

The list could be very long:

– singers who are just singers
– actors who are just actors
– designers who are just designers
– artistic directors who are just artistic directors

etc….

In other words, working with people who are just doing a job and who are not ready to take risks, to question themselves, or to rethink themselves through a theatrical experience. I include myself among them as well. Also, the fact remains that we are dealing more and more with an audience which is less educated than ever before. Too often, we have to choose between reaching out to the masses, or making decisions for an artistic elite. On the other hand, isn’t this the case with everything else in the cultural scene today?

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