Iranian opera director: I am Aida

The video artist Shirin Neshat, who is directing the new Verdi Aida in Salzburg with Anna Netrebko in the title role, has been reflecting on its personal significance.

‘Both in my work and in my private life, there is this dichotomy between being a woman and political tyranny and oppression,’ she told a Salzburg audience yesterday. ‘I identify with Aida… I know how Aida must feel; you undergo a process (of exile), you realise you can go on, that you can fall in love again, adapt to the circumstances.’

Aida is a survivor, she adds, experiencing phases of nostalgia, of rage, of hope for a return – all the while accepting that there is no way back. ‘Sometimes the boundaries between Aida and myself are blurred.’



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  • By the way Shirin Neshat is not only a video artist. Most of her oeuvre is photographic.

  • It’s not uncommon to have a non-musical director of an opera. The conducting role is something else again.

  • This will be wonderful. Shirin Neshat is an extraordinary artist (check out the short film “Turbulent” as an example) and she will be as inspiring – in her uniquely moving and disturbing way – as Bill Viola was, in his design for Tristan and Isolde.

  • Not going to pre-judge it, but why is Salzburg so obsessed with getting visual artists to direct opera? Famously there was the Gawain where the (anti-immigrant) artist-director dismissed the singers saying he didn’t need them. John Tomlinson had to block his colleagues from memories of the Royal Opera production. Same director’s Danae was visual excess and without any visitble direction of the singers at all. Becoming the place to avoid as much as Bayreuth – hideous audiences, anyway.

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