- Alexander K. Rothe
Regieoper (German for ‘director’s opera’) refers to experimental or ‘non-literal stagings’ (Calico, 2008) of canonical operas, a tradition that stretches back to Ludwig Sievert, Oskar Hagen’s revivals of Handel operas, and the Otto Klemperer-Ewald Dülberg stagings at the Kroll Opera during the Weimar Republic. Such stagings aim to create new experiences and understandings of the operatic repertory through a process of defamiliarization – often involving visual elements that do not attempt to adhere to the composer or librettist’s stage directions and/or intentions in a literal manner.
Though there is a long history of interpreting Regieoper – and opera performance in general – through the lens of semiotics and hermeneutics, current scholarship focuses on performance as an event, from the performing bodies of the singers to the phenomenological experiences of the audience. Performance studies has been especially helpful for thinking about Regieoper in terms of embodied performance. Along with Michelle Duncan’s consideration of performativity, Melina Esse draws on Philip Auslander’s concept of liveness to show how present-day conceptions of live performance are bound up with media technologies. Performers use cross-dressing, travesty, and transvestitism to subvert rigid gender roles and categories of sexuality. Naomi André provides an insightful rubric for considering opera performance in terms of who is onstage (the role being represented and the performer’s identities), who is telling the story (both the performers and the authorial position), and who is in the audience (the heterogeneity of the audience’s experiences). ...