Believing in Opera
Tom Sutcliffe


The staging of opera has become immensely controversial over the last twenty years. Tom Sutcliffe here offers an engaging and far-reaching book about opera performance and interpretation. This work is a unique tribute to the most distinctive and adventurous achievements in the theatrical interpretation of opera as it has developed in recent decades. Readers will find descriptions of the most original and successful avant-garde opera productions in Britain, Europe, and America. Sutcliffe beautifully illustrates how updating, transposition, or relocation, and a variety of unexpected imagery in opera, have qualified and adjusted our perception of the content and intention of established masterpieces.

Believing in Opera describes in detail the seminal opera productions of the last fifty years, starting with Peter Brook in London after the war, and continuing with the work of such directors and producers as Patrice Chéreau in Bayreuth, Peter Sellars and David Alden in America, Ruth Berghaus in Frankfurt, and such British directors as Richard Jones, Graham Vick, Peter Hall, and David Pountney. Through his descriptions of these works, Sutcliffe states that theatrical opera has been enormously influenced by the editing style, imagery, and metaphor commonplace in the cinema and pop videos. The evolution of the performing arts depends upon revitalization and defamiliarization, he asserts. The issue is no longer naturalism, but the liberation of the audience's imagination powered by the music.

Sutcliffe, an opera critic for many years, argues that opera is theater plus music of the highest expressive quality, and as a result he has often sided with unconventional and novel theatrical interpretations. He believes that there is more to opera than meets the ear, and his aim is to further the process of understanding and interpretation of these important opera productions. No other book has attempted this kind of monumental survey.

First published in 1997.

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