Classical agency takes on two intimacy directors

Classical agency takes on two intimacy directors


norman lebrecht

March 09, 2022

L2 Artists, a New York agency that caters mostly to opera singers, has signed two Stage and Intimacy Directors to the roster.

Doug Scholz-Carlson has worked as an intimacy director at the Met and Sara E. Widzer at other companies around the US.

L2 say: ‘As our art form continues to evolve, L2 Artists must evolve as well. Both Doug and Sara bring a wealth of knowledge not only as experienced stage directors, but also their unique and important skills as intimacy directors. We are excited to represent these esteemed artists in both capacities, and to empower them as industry leaders who continue to create a culture of consent.’


  • BP says:

    How many Intimacy directors does Slipped Disc employ ?

  • waw says:

    About time.

    Let’s face it, intimacy, or just plain old nudity, on the opera stage, is almost always something as imagined by a (older) male director upon the body of a (younger) female singer. And guess who’s the one who can’t say no without developing a reputation for being “difficult”.

    • Viewer says:

      Oh I think it happens to the guys too, and often to the entire chorus. Mostly it is just degrading and a reflection of the director’s immorality and perversion. As you rightly say, objections lead to the “difficult” label. Even the conductors are afraid to object.

      • Tiredofitall says:

        It’s only degrading if a person has been raised with the belief that there is shame in the human form. There isn’t.

        • John Borstlap says:

          It depends on context. The human form is one of the most brilliant inventions of nature, but it is also a vehicle of personal intimacy which means: not for the mob. Humans are not animals, in spite of many claims of the opposite. For that reason, representing the human form on a stage is a tricky matter and can only work with the utmost delicacy, which is rare in any contemporary production of either theatre plays or opera. It is mostly used as a ‘shocker’ – to keep the audience awake.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      And you’ve never seen a nude male torso on stage?? I bet t-for-t we’ve seen more male than female on stage.

  • J Barcelo says:

    Who new this was even a job? Or even necessary?

    • LL says:

      Pretty much anyone who works in TV, film, theatre or opera.

      • waw says:

        Yep, looks like most of the befuddled posters here have been living under a rock for the last 5 years

        But even before the advent of the profession, historically, an intimacy director/coordinator was
        – your agent if you have a powerful enough agent
        – yourself if you were a big enough star

        Even in the insular world of opera, have people ever seen Placido Domingo naked? No, because he was a star and had the clout to say NO.

        Intimacy director is all about power, not intimacy.

    • John Borstlap says:

      It’s part of an unfolding trend of inventing new professions, like woke watchers, inclusiveness warriors, minority protectioners, etc.

      • guest says:

        And like all these other new professions, it is part of the problem, even encouraging the problem, instead of being a solution.

        • John Borstlap says:

          It seems to be the result of labelling: when we can give the thing a name and a label, and have rubber stamped into a category, it produces the feeling of having dealt with and rendered ‘safe’. But how do we know?

          • V.Lind says:

            Perhaps we don’t, and originally I was as wary as you of creating a problem in order to hire someone to solve it. But I have it from people in the industries where it has now been employed for several years that it has helped.

            Many women in theatre and on screen are very nervous about nudity. I believe some men are too: there was a story about Jeremy Irons having his underclothes pinned to the sheet when he was doing a bed scene in Brideshead.

            If someone is there setting guidelines to make it easier, seems good to me.

            What they need next is plastic surgery counsellors. Get women to stop messing with their faces as they get older. There are several once truly beautiful actresses — no names, no pack drill — who would look a lot better as older women than they do as the freakishly unrecognisable creatures they are after surgeries.

          • guest says:

            The problem I was alluding to is the problem of transforming opera into soft p*** and worse. There is another post in this comment section stating matter of factly “opera is including more graphic portrayals of rape, abuse and sexuality”. The poster apparently doesn’t see anything wrong with this. I do, very much so. In my opinion, this is the root problem. Tackle the root problem, and the problem you are writing about in your comment goes away automatically.

            “If someone is there setting guidelines to make it easier, seems good to me.” Seems good to me too, if one doesn’t want to tackle to root problem, but I will always be in favor of tackling the root problem. There is also the question, what “qualifications” has the intimacy director? Why should his guidelines be acceptable? Why was the “intimacy director for opera” job invented? To keep RT stage directors from their worst excesses? To settle differences between the stage director and the singers? To silence the singers’ complaints, and scold the singers into submission and harmony? “off with your clothes, everybody else does it, don’t be such a child” These question should alert us the problem is a greater one. Why have opera stagings degenerated into the kind of show necessitating an intimacy director?

            As to plastic surgery, this is the “closeup problem”. Closeups can’t be avoided in movies. I agree with you actresses should avoid the kind of plastic surgery that make them look freakish. Opera is an art form without closeups. Closeups in opera have become a problem only since video broadcasts. The fault is with camera directors who seem to believe people want to see the sweat on singers’ features, and the fillings in their mouths. The majority of _live_ audience in the theater is seated too far from the stage to see singers’ features well. Opera can be filmed without the excessive closeups camera directors seem to believe are a must. This being said, I agree excessive face lifting should be avoided, closeup or no closeup.

          • John Borstlap says:

            “Why have opera stagings degenerated into the kind of show necessitating an intimacy director?”

            This is exactly the point.

            It is ridiculous that opera stagings are so literal. The art form is make-believe anyway, everything is symbolical, metaphorical, stylized. The best stagings are by suggesting, indicating, articulating interior meaning. To look for literalness in opera is against the nature of the art form. Artifice should reign supreme, not literalness.

            This is an example of utter stylishness, in according to the taste and manner how the work was produced:

   act 1 & 2
   act 3

      • Tiredofitall says:

        Can’t wait for this major in universities and conservatories.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        Gravy trains of “Yes, Minister” proportions!! Oh, if only Gilbert and Sullivan were living amongst us today.

  • DG says:

    What does that even mean? What is it these people do?

  • fflambeau says:

    Intimacy director, what does it mean and what do they do? Sounds like a huge waste of money.

  • Cantantelirico says:

    WTF is an Intimacy Director?

    • John Borstlap says:

      Well, that is clear: someone who directs you towards intimacy. My therapist is an Intimacy Director and it’s great, I can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone!


      • Tiredofitall says:

        So, just a madam, then?

        • John Borstlap says:

          The plaque on the door says gynaecologist but I think it’s a cover-up.


          • Sue Sonata Form says:

            Sally, I certainly hope this branch of the medical profession has “Intimacy Directors”. OK, once they were called “Receptionists” but that, too has dark connotations!!

          • V.Lind says:

            There used to be nurses present. Nowadays, when few clinics employ them, I suspect medical practices have declined.

            I once had a sudden injury, I went to a clinic as a new patient. After dealing with the immediate issue, the doctor suggested a full physical so he could work up a file on me. When I turned up, dressed for autumn with jeans, sweatshirt, blouse underneath it, socks, he did not require me to remove a stitch for this so-called examination. I soon removed to another medical practice — and it was probably just as well I was assigned a female doctor, though I have always in the past been happy enough with male. But not one who is more concerned with appearances and potential lawsuits than with medical safety.

  • Chris says:

    Just imagine the amused look on the faces of those to whom you’d hand your “Intimacy Director” business card! What a stupid job title!

  • M2N2K says:

    It is a very important job requiring highly scientific sophistication and precision of judgment. For example, a good ID is supposed to know how many millimeters of tenor’s tongue is allowed to enter inside of soprano’s mouth, depending on the degree of passion expressed by operatic score.

    • Maria says:

      Total bx!

      • M2N2K says:

        It is rather sad if you took my comment seriously, but thanks anyway for expressing my exact point so laconically.

    • John Borstlap says:

      There are stories about places in the Ring where Wagner gave clear and minute instructions concerning kisses, embraces, shirt/dress lifting, disarmament of sleeping females (Siegfried), etc. but that Schott, the publisher, convinced him to delete them since the proceedings were already shocking enough. The same with Parsifal where the Flower Maidens scene originally included explicit directions as to the stage proceedings. It all has been covered-up and locked-up at the Wahnfried archives, only to be opened after 2050 when all recollections of former musical practice is assumed to have disappeared.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      When I was a girl it was called ‘VOYEURISM’. But there wasn’t any money in it, alas.

  • MarieTherese says:

    It isn’t difficult to understand and some smaller companies have been hiring them for years. As opera is including more graphic portrayals of rape, abuse and sexuality in general, these co-ordinaries work directly with the performers to ensure that they feel safe and protected and no one gets hurt. These are the people who help an actor feel comfortable enough to say “no” if necessary.

    • guest says:

      And opera is including more graphic portrayals of rape, abuse and sexuality because…? You apparently find this development perfectly normal. Opera isn’t about rape, abuse and sexuality. The RT stage directors’ mind in dire need of medical therapy, is about these things, not opera. And instead of sending them to the shrink we let them lose on stage. Audiences who can’t get enough of this could do with a spot of therapy as well.

      • John Borstlap says:


      • .jpg says:

        “Don Giovanni” is about rape, abuse and sexuality. As is “Tosca”. “The Rape of Lucretia” has it right there in the title. “The Coronation of Poppea”, one of the first operas ever written, is filled with sexuality. Opera always had taken these issues on.

        • guest says:

          “Opera always had taken these issues on.”

          I disagree with you. Consider the so called _repertoire_ operas (written in the period 1780-1930), regularly programmed by major theaters. These are, In no particular order, the popular operas of Mozart, Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi, Gounod, Bizet, Massenet, Tchaikovsky, Puccini, Strauss, and a few verismo composers. More than half of them do not belong to musical realism. I exclude Wagner, whose operas I don’t know well, though I am almost sure there’s no rape in any of the 6-8 operas getting a regular airing. Wagner doesn’t belong to musical realism either. There are about fifty-sixty repertoire operas, give or take. Only the first two you named belong to repertoire. Now count how many repertoire operas depict rape on stage. Answer: None. Count how many imply rape off stage (rape that actually happens). Answer: None. One case is inconclusive. If you doubt me you should read the libretto carefully. Count in how many repertoire operas coercion is alluded to, but never happens. Answer: five or six, of which one is an allegoric opera, and two are buffa/comic. In only one opera the rape issue is crucial to the plot. Five or six cases out of fifty-sixty repertoire operas. No, opera hadn’t _always_ taken on this issue, it has taken very rarely on this issue, and in the few cases when it has taken on the issue, it never happened. So why should rape be depicted on stage when it actually never happens, neither on stage nor off stage, in repertoire operas?

          The Rape of Lucretia has it indeed in the title, and also in the plot, but Lucretia isn’t a repertoire opera. (Nor is Poppea for that matter.) Britten’s operas are comparatively seldom programmed, and The Rape of Lucretia almost never. The Met, La Scala, Vienna State Opera, The Lyric Opera of Chicago, Covent Garden never had it (not sure about Covent Garden in the last decade), Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, the theater in Rome, the Glyndebourne Festival, and the Salzburg Festival had it only once 70-80 years ago, and never since. Paris opera had it for the first time in the 2020/21 season. Maggio Musicale had only once in 2013, the year of the Britten centenary. Definitively not a mainstream opera, and not an argument in favor or opera had _always_ taken on this issue.

          Nor has opera _ever_ been filled with sexuality, though there’s more of this than the 5-6 cases of coercion that never happened. In the few cases where sexuality is important to the plot, how come that audiences of yesteryear could understand this without graphic depiction or real nudity? Mary Garden didn’t really strip in the Dance of the Seven Veils, nor did Strauss asked this of her, the _illusion_ of stripping was enough for the audience.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      Can you name these companies? I’ve been in the business for decades and this is a new development.

  • guest says:

    This is the final nail in opera’s coffin, not that it is going to matter much if the final nail in our world’s coffin comes to pass.

  • Buck Hill Boy says:

    I worked in a show with an intimacy director this past fall. Most of them are fight coordinators who have transitioned into this field, seeing an opportunity for more work I guess. We all rolled our eyes about it and had a good laugh about how ridiculous it was. The fact is, however, the rehearsal space can often be very intimidating for both male and female singers who are asked to do scenes involving intimate touching kissing and other things. More than anything, I think an intimacy consultant helps to put creepy directors and colleagues on notice that an intimacy scene is not just a green light to touch people inappropriately. On the other hand, I’ve been in plenty of situations on stage where I’ve been asked to do certain things with a colleague and out of respect for them, did not want to cross any lines. In these instances, it often makes a love scene cold and awkward. When you get things out in the table like what is okay and what is not okay, everybody feels more comfortable and has permission to do the work without making their colleagues feeling uncomfortable.

    • John Borstlap says:

      It should be the music which turns a stage situation into a ‘real’ emotional experience for the audience.

      • Tiredofitall says:

        Stage directors for opera have not trusted the music for decades…nor singers. Nor the audience, come to think of it.

        • guest says:

          This is a mouthful of a blanket statement, particularly the last part “…nor singers. Nor the audience, come to think of it.”

          That _RT_ stage directors don’t trust the music, or the libretto come to think of it, is no news. It would be too much to ask from them to trust something they don’t know, or understand. Many of them are on the record boasting they never read the libretto, or listen to the music, so both won’t interfere with their “vision.” I wonder on what is that “vision” based then? On a brain in need of therapy, if the output is anything to judge from. The question is why should the audience finance their self-therapy, and, in countries where arts are subsidized, why should taxpayer money subsidize their therapy? Go to the shrink if you are need of therapy, and pay for the visit yourself, don’t trust your unbalanced self on the population and make it pay for the “privilege”. The even more important question is why do opera houses allow this output to be advertised as opera X? It isn’t opera X when what you see on stage contradicts the words sung, or the librettist stage directions specified in the libretto.

      • Alwyn Wood says:

        Thank you, Mr Borstlap, at last some common sense. Thank you for the Henze Link, also. I am currently trying to turn this work (Der verdoppelte Vitalin) into a piano solo. This indicates the extent of my obsession.

  • This is madness... says:

    A stage director who cannot responsibly stage performers touching should not be hired. General Directors, Production Managers and Artistic Administrators who are not open to hiring in a diverse and equitable way should not be hired or continue to hold on to their positions.

    Adding positions (and payroll) to circumvent responsibility is not the solution.

    • MuddyBoots says:

      But they are. And they are too.
      This position is with a private business, the agency that represents artists and is for their clients. Not with the opera houses that hire directors and stage managers.
      But you feel entitled to tell a private business how to manage that business? I suggest you just read the article before commenting.

    • Nathan Granner says:

      I feel that this is not an accurate depiction of this industry and the point of the position. While I am absolutely on the same page with you about diversity, I have to push back on just what a director should have in their arsenal.

      Directors are people too. They have so much experience based on the multiple of needs in any production.

      A person who has earned their MFA and spent years as an assistant still only has as much technical expertise on what they’ve picked up. Sure they may have directed an intimate scene or two in college, but that doesn’t make them experts on the mental part of sensuality and romance and touch etc. on the stage, it just means they’ve done it. But one can call people experts, to collaborate with them on a show.

      A fight director, for instance, is a crucial part of a show that calls for any melee.

      Bringing in an intimacy director, like a lighting director, director of production, is a collaboration with the show’s main director, production team, administration and cast.

      This is an enhancement to our industry to bring focus to some of the hardest things in our business. They deal with everything from HR issues, sight lines, modesty, psychology, to make the company stronger and bring our audience better performances.

      Smaller companies are not going to bring a full time ID to their organization. They’ll bring someone in (if they are progressive enough to care, or smart enough to know it’ll make a stronger production) to work a show.

      A larger company, producing multiple productions in a season could absolutely use an ID on staff.

      When you are watching a production, just know there are a lot of people on stage and behind the scenes doing their best to live their best lives, to give you the best possible experience.

      But many of those people (in the US at least) are intensely underpaid, with shitty healthcare and no mental care anywhere in their plan. The idea of emotional intelligence and health is there, but is still out of reach for so many. Organizations have taken steps to make the workplace safe for years and are JUST starting to concern themselves with their artists. This is a good step.

      I hope you may be able to open your mind to this as progress and not seem so angry about it.

  • Byrwec Ellison says:

    If it’s a full-time job, there might be something wrong with opera.

    • John Borstlap says:

      The next stage is a new opera about an intimacy director, because so much is going-on among them.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    I wanted to cry but finally I had to laugh. I wonder how compatible these ‘intimacy directors’ will be with ‘comfort dogs’?

    “What’s in a name? Not hand, nor face, nor foot, nor any other part belonging to a man” (Shakespeare).

    • V.Lind says:

      I think it is distasteful to be sneering at this development in the performing arts. However the points above about opera being a place where such consultants are necessary is well taken.

      I was once in a Boheme where an extra was sought to do a short scene posing in the studio. Her bare back was to be shown to the audience, with her clutching a velvet sheet. She showed no private parts to either audience or crew/performers. But all of them were extremely concerned to make her comfortable and secure — it was just done out of basic decency.

      Given the situations we have heard of from the annals of cinema in recent years, and the theatre — remember the gawpers who turned up to the West End to see Nicole Kidman perform a brief nude scene? — it seems a logical and, in this day and age, necessary, development.

      But in opera, it would seem there is a fear that their inclusion will unleash a rash of over-heated sex scenes where the operas never needed them in the past. That is alarming. Principally because it denotes a lack of faith in the music, libretto and performances.

      • guest says:

        I know the La Bohème production you speak about. That posing scene was gratuitous. Marcello is a landscape painter, not a model painter. The scene is at the beginning of the fourth act. The model gets up after “Che infame pennello!” and takes herself off, wrap inclusive, to another (off stage) room. She can’t leave the flat because the entrance door to the flat is on stage, not off stage. This means the model (the character, not the real person) is trapped in the other room for the entire duration of the fourth act, to witness the four bohemians’ cavorting on stage, followed by Mimi’s death scene. La Bohème is musical realism. Does the model’s behavior strike you as logical? Why was she introduced in the first place if Marcello’s specialty is landscapes and the odd tavern door, they don’t have enough money for meals, never mind for paying models, and why doesn’t she put her clothes on and get out as soon as possible? Answer: She is eye candy for the audience, particularly those fortunate enough to sit on the right hand side, and she can’t get out of the flat because she’d walk through Mimi’s death scene. So many operas that don’t belong to musical realism get the wrong realistic treatment, but stage directors can’t come up with plausible details for an opera that demands, for a change, realistic treatment?

        “That is alarming. Principally because it denotes a lack of faith in the music, libretto and performances.”

        The audiences’ faith in music and libretto or lack thereof is irrelevant. RT directors have decided long ago audiences are to be treated to over-heated sex scenes, with or without abuse. Alarming is the fact the market doesn’t provide the necessary corrective. Either audiences have indeed lost faith in music and libretto, or the powers that be have lost it. Neither seem to realize there are cheaper options for this type of fare than an opera ticket.

  • Nathan Granner says:

    People please. This is a good thing.

    Intimacy Direction is an amazing turn in our industry, actually. There are love scenes in SO MANY operas. This new wrinkle isn’t about making porn. It is about stage partners coming together never having met each other and having scenes that involve, guess what, intimacy.

    People are now allowed to have boundaries. We explore those boundaries for each person involved with the scene, including other cast and crew, who may or may not be integral to the focus of the scene.

    Some folks are modest and others are more open about their bodies and interpretations of their characters.

    It IS like fight choreography in a lot of aspects…

    “Romeo, quas tus donc?” Is a perfect example. One can create a feeling of comfort on the stage that immediately translates to the audience. Your singers are happy and not scared that their partner is going to ram their tongue down their throat (unexpectedly). There is a predictability there.

    It helps us as actors feel more empowered. There are times where, say a director will throw in an avant-garde orgy scene. They’ll more often than not just leave it to his cast to figure out the details. Horrible.

    With an Intimacy director, we take the time to first, see where everyone is at. There are traumas in some our lives which make it impossible to give or receive even basic touch.

    Regardless of the insensitive comments about “working it out in therapy” (I mean seriously, that’s a whole other topic), we would rather our colleagues and friends not feel subjugated.

    So we will take the time to make the scenes real enough going from cheek peck to hot and steamy, but not at the cost of our own ideals and levels of sensitivity.

    It’s not just about the actor and the production on stage, it’s about YOU too.

    If you read in the program credits that an intimacy director is among the team, you will know that at least what is happening on stage is at least consensual, if not people at last having fun playing their characters, rather than thinking oh my goodness how terrible what they’re doing.

    My suggestion for you folks who think opera should only be done in a very particular manner should contribute more, so that more new operas are commissioned. We can let the Bohemes be Bohemes in a functional museum style production, if we have more tales to tell that reflect our society today.

    Otherwise directors will continue to transpose todays culture into yesteryear’s modern expression.

    Isn’t it weird though that operas that were once controversial and even dangerous are now considered standard fodder.

    Ironically, I find wading into this morass of commentary quite uncomfortable. There are lots of strong opinions here that do not jive with my mindset.

    But with all the thoughts I really only saw one or two that had an accurate take on this.

    I maintain this is a good thing for singers, for production and more, for you our patrons.