Radical Belgian wins major German festival

Radical Belgian wins major German festival


norman lebrecht

May 09, 2022

The international opera director Ivo Van Hove is promising to bring ‘ambitious productions’ when he becomes head of the Ruhrtriennale festival in 2024.

Van Hove has been artistic director of the Internationaal Theater Amsterdam since 2001.  He succeeds the lacklustre Barbara Frey.

The festival was founded by a fellow-Belgian, Gerard Mortier.


  • Madeleine Richardson says:

    Ivo Van Hove is mainly a director of theatre rather than opera. I saw his barnstorming Age of Rage a few months ago and his Obsession at the Carré theatre in Amsterdam with Jude Law in the male lead.
    It will be interesting to see what he does with opera.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Well, we all know what ‘radical’ means today, don’t we?

    Although it has become more and more difficult, the intention is to shock and offend the boozjwazee who come, innocent in their stupidity, to see a ‘nice production’, and what we do is to offer something that will wake them up from their moral, aesthetic, political, nostalgic, superficial, indulgent slumber, and make them realize how awful life is and especially, how awful they are themselves. So that they return to their awful, kitschy abodes with some awareness of the reality of the world, which is of THEIR making. Only in this way, we provide meaning to their purchase of an expensive ticket, which has been subsidized by the government so that they may be educated towards fully-participating civilians, instead of their parasitic, entirely superfluous existence.

    Unfortunately, the boozjwazee which boo’d great works of art at the beginning of the last century has long since disappeared, to make place for individuals who want to decide for themselves how to live and which goals or ideals to cultivate.

    But the radical theatre producers prefer to cling to the beautifying role as aesthetic heroes storming the barricades of convention, without realizing that meanwhile, they represent the apotheosis of such convention.

    How funny, the way history plays with people’s toughts.

    • Madeleine Richardson says:

      Well if it’s any consolation you don’t have to buy a ticket. Anything by Ivo van Hove sells out in hours.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Indeed that’s a great consolation, especially to not have to share space with people who much like to enjoy the feeling of sharing a ‘radical experience’. The more people flock to these kind of productions, the more chance they get conventionalized themselves, so that they join into the same heroic feeling, which empties the ‘shock value’.

        I think, it’s all nostalgia, nothing more….

    • guest says:

      Yes, we all know what ‘radical’ means today. It means exactly what John Borstlap said. It means directors have taken over the artform and are transforming it into something else, something trimmed down for lowest common denominator of pseudo-intellectual audiences, so they can go home and brag ‘look ma, I’m into highbrow art now’. And to add insult to injury, the ‘directors’ do this with barely disguised condescension (when they aren’t downright contemptuous) while feigning empathy for the artform. Madeleine, it’s not about the fact that opera lovers don’t have to buy a ticket to _such productions_ , it’s about the fact that it has become almost impossible to buy a ticket to _different productions_ , to productions that aren’t a cheap perversion of the libretto, to productions in which what you see on stage doesn’t contradict the sung text and the general aesthetic of the work. But I guess such subtleties aren’t the priority of contemporary multitudes who don’t understand foreign languages anyway, and revel in uninformed understanding; all that counts for them is visual titillation, failing to understand that a ‘culture’ based on glorification of shock value is a slippery path to hell. It breeds only more demand for shock value, demand that can be met only by more outrageous shocks. A steady diet of shock value doesn’t make one more sensitive to the evils of this world, quite the opposite, it trivializes and ultimately legitimizes aberrant behavior.

      • John Borstlap says:

        A comment burning with almost unbearable truth. Such trivialisation belongs to a period of spoiled degeneration, and – given the news of these days – it seems that this period is now truly getting behind us. But people like those directors still cling onto it, because they have put their eggs in that sorry basket.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Here’s some Hove stuff:




    Misery…. low life…. violence…. etc. etc. because there is not enough of it in reality nowadays.

  • Madeleine Richardson says:

    Have any of you actually attended a performance?
    Van Hove won a prestigious award for A View from the Bridge in London for one thing and fills up every theatre including The Barbican recently with Age of Rage based on the Greek Tragedies. Blame the ancient Greeks for the misery why don’t you?

    • John Borstlap says:

      The ancient Greeks had an excellent way of presenting the misery in their great dramas: it was told by a messenger: a battle lost, a king died, someone ripped to pieces by the bachantes, anything. Murders, battles, anything bloody and physical, was not literally presented but rendered in a stylized way through language, imagery, and diction of the actors, with the intention to stimulate the imagination of the audience. In more degenerate times, like the late Roman period, plays turned to present the thing for real, including acts of physicality which are too distateful to describe on a decent website like SD with so many young girls reading the comments.

  • Madeleine Richardson says:

    Van Hove’s theatre productions are not that radical and I have seen a number of them. Age of Rage certainly was but it did convey the gore-fest that is ancient Greek tragedy in a way that more sedate productions cannot.
    When I attended the production last October little did I dream that some months later an Age of Rage would be unleashed in Ukraine. Ivo Van Hove’s production turned out to be prescient.