(ph. Matthias Bothor /Decca)
As long as you’ve done a traditional production, then you can do whatever you want, because you have that in your head. No matter what goes on around you, you just create this moment for yourself. Whenever I say, “Listen, the story is different, what I’m singing is different, what the music tells us is different. Why are we doing that?” The answer is always, “Don’t be so literal.” I don’t think I am. I believe that when all arrows are pointing in the same direction, then this is a reason why you probably should go there.
There’s always this discussion. You see, the conductor believes that the audience is only coming to hear the orchestra and is not interested in the story, the sets, the singers, or anything. The director believes it’s an all-visual thing. So there is this constant fight over what each person believes is the most important part. I’ve seen semistaged or concert performances of operas that were more thrilling than staged ones. Why? Because it’s better to have nothing than to have something so disturbing that it distracts you from enjoying the music and that doesn’t allow the music to create its magic.
The NY Review of Books interviews Jonas Kaufmann.