La Scala denies gay bar clash

La Scala denies gay bar clash


norman lebrecht

January 10, 2016

We’ve received clarification from Milan about the background for Graham Vick’s removal from Fanciulla del West.

In the first place, it was not a gay bar the director wanted but a miners’ bar. Reports of a gay bar that appeared in Austrian and Italian publications (quoted by Slipped Disc) are being sternly contradicted.

The official position is that the music director, Riccardo Chailly, is asking all directors to discuss their ideas about the staging with him before contracts are signed.

In this instance Chailly and Vick, meeting several months ago, found they had different views and decided not to go ahead with this project. According to La Scala, they parted on good terms and have spoken again since then.

chailly hand


  • Nigel says:

    Now I’m just a bit confused by this story. The Polka Saloon surely is a miners’ bar? (as in: a bar in the miners’ camp, frequented by miners and others).

  • John Borstlap says:

    Chailly is obviously right. If stage directors get drunk on their freedom to mess around with the plot, if then the music director steps up to defend the work, that would be excellent policy everywhere. Opera is not merely about plots, but about music illuminating plots.

    • Joshua says:

      I’m sorry but in Fanciulla there is a miner’s bar since it’s a mine, and there are no cowboys….

      • Peter says:

        It was a long time ago and my memory is a little rusty, but I do recall, that at night in the bar, everyone who worked in the area was having a good time, miners, cowboys, bandits, farmers, musicologists,… What was missing were women, there were barely women. I always wondered how these many young horny men coped with the situation…
        It was before the age of the internet, and people were actually talking in real life to each other, can you imagine?

    • Eddie Mars says:

      Your usual infantile claptrap.

      I caught you LYING about The Carmelites – where you falsely claimed the director had ‘changed the notes’.

      Now you are LYING again. Because LYING is all you can manage.

      • Brian B says:

        You are wrong, Sir. Tcherniakov absolutely did change Poulenc’e score. Open the Dialogues score. Poulenc specifically scored the guillotine strokes very carefully into the partitur to create the very (devastating) musico/dramatic effect he was after. The director highhandedly co-opted Poulenc’s creation and substituted his own puerile and sophomoric concept.

        • Eddie Mars says:

          They’re not notes. They are stage directions. The rest of your witless piffle merits no further response.

          • John Borstlap says:

            Life is difficult, isn’t it?

          • Eddie Mars says:

            Life is difficult for liars.

          • Gonout Backson says:

            Dear Mr Mars,

            I’m still waiting for your sources concerning Poulenc’s “intentions”.

            Since you gave us these alleged “intentions” as a fact, if you cannot produce any evidence, there’s a strong suspicion that you were, indeed, lying.

            Or, if you prefer, that you didn’t know what you were talking about. That would be my first hypothesis.

          • Pooroperaman says:

            The guillotine sounds are precisely written into the score. They are therefore identical to untuned percussion ‘notes’. Would you be so sanguine if Tcherniakov had removed a side drum part?

        • Eddie Mars says:

          Back under your bridge, Backson.

  • Guus Mostart says:

    Graham Vick is a very serious artist and the taste of Chailly is on the conservative side. Where is the Intendant of La Scala, Alexander Pereira, in all this? Hiding under his desk?

    • Eddie Mars says:

      My experience of working with Graham Vick would completely confirm what you have said here.

    • Nick says:

      I agree completely. The issue of conductors and directors and matters of interpretation surely has to involve the Intendant. If a conductor as the Music Director is not in accord with some of the director’s views – especially if some of these have changed since the initial concepts were discussed (no idea if that was the case here) – it is the Intendant who has to intervene.

      As for Muti’s comment, as has been noted he tends towards the conservative – although not always. Since he is the Music Director I suggest it is perfectly acceptable for him to agree the appointment of directors prior to their being contracted. If the house does not like that idea, they should not have appointed him in the first place.

  • Iniccup Omocaig says:

    If it was a gay bar, it might go a little bit to explain why Minnie has never been kissed . . .

  • Peter says:

    What’s wrong with a gay bar in the Wild(!) West? Puccini would have loved the idea I think.
    By the way, what’s the recent state of affairs, was Puccini gay himself? Or do I confuse this with allegations of pedophilia to a teenage girl? There are some vague memories…

  • Stanislau di Bragiensis says:

    Maybe, just maybe the MD wants to go back to where it was about singing and drama and not about the Director’s fantasies. What do we remember most about the last 100 years of Opera. It’s the voices and the Conductors who give us beautiful music and drama. Who gives a rodents kyber the wacky ideas some directors have like trying to sing whilst your head is in a bucket of water………

    • Eddie Mars says:

      Witless trolling. Utter garbage.

    • Yes Addison says:

      “Maybe, just maybe the MD wants to go back to where it was about singing and drama and not about the Director’s fantasies.”

      Mr. Vick’s replacement was Robert Carsen, who for three decades has created all sorts of opera productions. Some have been fairly by the book and in period, some have been modestly updated, some have been radical deconstructions, although his shows have more eye-candy appeal than those of some of his peers. I doubt Mo. Chailly has any plan for La Scala to focus only on conducting and singing and do away with the theatrical elements, or just to line people up facing forward wearing replicas of the costumes from Fanciulla’s 1910 premiere. If he does, his theater has landed on the wrong man again.

      In any event, the art form is the art form as it exists today, not a hundred years ago or 50 years ago. I’m less interested in nostalgia than in sifting through what is out there and separating the good from the bad…which is what I would have had to do had I been around in any earlier era. Hoping the clock is going to be rolled back on opera stagings is like hoping for the return of silent movies or swing bands.

      • Gonout Backson says:

        Tell me if I get this right: you don’t want “the clock to be rolled back” – to opera stagings which actually tell the story the composer wrote his music about, with caracters, situations and motivations he had in mind while writing this music, using the libretto which he wanted and, more often than not, helped writing?

        • Till E. says:

          What about the horse carriages in front of the opera?
          And is electric lighting allowed? From which year exactly?
          And if the composer *wrote* the score without electric light in his home, but the first performance was already *with* electric light, since the opera had just installed the novelty, which event is prioritized in the decision making for the allowed source of light?
          Should the sounds of horse shoes clapping on the cobble stones be recreated, since they were a common background noise in the opera houses back then?
          Last but not least, acoustical science tells us about the substantial effect a hairdo has on the color of sound reaching the ears. Should people be encouraged to wear the wigs which were customary? These had influenced the sound really considerably. We could hand them out in the opera.

          • Gonout Backson says:

            Big thanks, and for two reasons :

            1. You’re using exactly the same (almost word for word) “ad absurdum” arguments the opponents of “old instruments” (to make it simple) used 40-50 years ago. And look what happened.

            2. Using this sad demagoguery, all you show is that you couldn’t find a better, intellectually honest to way defend your cause.

            If Regietheater could speak, it should scream “Protect me from my friends!”.

          • Till E. says:

            Not at all Mr. Backson.
            But there is a thin red line between nonsense and sense.
            The nonsense is the idea that recreation of a material reality of the past *alone* recreates the perception of it.

            It’s like being on a ship in the middle of the ocean, and making a mark on the rail exactly there where your ring fell into the water, in the hope to find it later, referencing that mark in the rail…

          • Gonout Backson says:

            “The nonsense is the idea that recreation of a material reality of the past *alone* recreates the perception of it.”

            You should say that to the musicians in the pit, to the singers on stage, and, in fact, scream it in every concert hall. That they’re wasting their time “recreating the material reality of the past”.

            Without imagining in their wildest dreams that they could “recreate the perception of it”. Because that’s the whole point, you know, of this sweet ménage: same Mozart, new pianist, new perception.

            So, let me repeat the question I asked Mr Yes Addison, the question that never gets answered, as it hasn’t this time: “why should Mr Herheim have more rights regarding Parsifal than Mr Boulez?”

            P. S. Of course, I do get what you’re insinuating: the adversaries of Regietheater demand that each opera be staged exactly the way it has been the first time.

            But, since no one of sound mind demands that, and certainly not me, there is nothing to discuss here.

        • Yes Addison says:

          Gonout Backson: I think your comment misrepresents a lot of what is on the stages today, but I sense you would have very different ideas from mine about what is good theater and what should happen in theaters. I get to be sanguine. I love a lot of what I have seen, including work by Mr. Carsen and Mr. Vick who are mentioned in this thread, as well as (intermittently) Mr. Tcherniakov who is discussed in another recent one here.

          I don’t do pearl-clutching about what a composer would have recognized, or seance-conducting to determine what one would have liked or disliked. It just isn’t interesting in me, nor are the people who do it. I’m not that conservative or that unhappy with the times in which I go to the opera. So you won’t find me on Against Modern Opera Productions mooning over pretty sketches and stills from decades ago. Sometimes I saw the productions at issue and found them overdecorated and lifeless.

          • Gonout Backson says:

            I’m afraid it’s you that are misrepresenting what I wrote.

            I wasn’t commenting on “what’s going on on the operatic stages today”, but on what you wrote. I wasn’t speaking of the composer’s “intentions” – unless they’re simple and obvious, because quite precisely described in words and notes. I was speaking of the STORY told by the composer – the STORY Mr Cherniakov systematically distorts (Dialogues is just one of many cases – and Mr Cherniakov only one of of the many offenders).

            I’m not moaning over pretty sketches from decades ago, even if the best of them seem to quite well represent the world of the play at hand – but I most certainly AM moaning over the pitiful and ludicrous banality and platitude of today’s artistic visions. Regietheater makes everyting look the same. It’s not “do you recognize Puccini’s Tosca” anymore, it’s “can you tell X’s Tosca from Y’s Aida”, since the sets look the same, the costumes look the same, and the same story, with the same people and the same style of acting, seems to be told over and over under so many titles.

            Maybe, one day we’ll have a serious discussion about all these things. So far it has been impossible.

          • Yes Addison says:

            It’s difficult to have a serious discussion with someone when there’s so little common ground, and one person presents as established facts things the other person doesn’t accept as true. For example, “Regietheater makes everything look the same.” So, in your mind, there’s no difference at all — superficial or otherwise — between the work of Robert Carsen and Calixto Bieito? Between Stefan Herheim and Christof Loy? I should think those directors have about as much in common in style and approach as John Dexter and Franco Zeffirelli had.

            I will admit, I’m considerably less concerned with strict fidelity to “the story” than you are. I’m usually more interested in “the themes” than “the story,” and when it comes to works of the standard repertory that have received and continue to receive many, many productions, I’m accepting of alternatives that are individual and idosyncratic responses to the material. If I think something was compelling, thoughtful and interesting, I’m not going to storm out in anger because Kundry is still on her feet at the end (for example). That doesn’t mean I love everything I see, just that I’m willing to give it a fair viewing.

          • Gonout Backson says:

            I’m talking about the “mass production” of Regietheater, everybody stealing from everybody. Robert Carsen, with all his qualities and weaknesses, is not representative of Regietheater. Bieito is, with a vengeance, so opposing precisely these two is a little too easy. Loy’s Frau ohne Schatten is a wonderful example of a Regietheater director giving the work and the public a Very Big Finger: “I was so busy this season, I have no idea what to do with this very complicated piece, so I’ll just pretend I’m “deconstructing” it”. Herheim can be wonderfully inventive, but his celebrated Parsifal, a wonderful show in its own right, is not Wagner’s Parsifal by any criteria. Because – and that’s where we come to your second paragraph – it’s not telling the story Wagner was telling. And it should be telling it, because that’s what Parsifal is about. That’s what Wagner was striving to achieve. If you pretend you’re doing Parsifal, do Parsifal. There is a million ways to do Parsifal, even after “many, many productions”. If you can’t, don’t. Conductors and singers don’t ask themselves what to do after so many Knappertsbusches and Windgassens. Boulez didn’t. They just play the thing in their own way.

            Please, tell me: why should Mr Herheim have more rights regarding Parsifal than Mr Boulez?

  • cherrera says:

    Gay bar, miners bar, what’s the difference?

  • Gerhard says:

    Excellent post, Gonout Backson, which sums it all up. Thank you! This refers to the post from Jan. 12, 10:22 am. Unfortunately there is no direct reply possibility, for whatever reason.

    • Gonout Backson says:

      Thank you very much!

      I think you have to click on the last available “reply” button, and then the answers run vertically, in chronological order. That’s what I do.

  • Peter says:

    Last Scala’s position, that they only discussed the production and decided not to go ahead seems a bit fishy when it was clearly announced and advertised by them and only cancelled at this late stage. The absence of Pereira suggests he is no longer in charge of his own house. I wonder if Chailly plans to accept directors input on his conducting style – in his case maybe not a bad thing!