The age-old Opera-staging debate

Sitting in the Garter Inn, Falstaff taps at his typewriter and puffs on his fag under the gaze of a portrait of the king – George VI rather than Henry IV – and we know at once where we are: Not in 15th-Century Windsor – that is to say, where Verdi, like Shakespeare, set his work – but in a 21st-Century opera house, where the first rule is that a production should ignore the work as written.

That’s the opening of a piece in The Guardian by Geoffrey Wheatcroft which has generated quite a few comments from readers and also a rebuttal piece by Charlotte Higgins in the same edition of the paper. Ms Higgins, whose piece also spawned a high level of comments, has this to say, in part:

Wheatcroft quotes Clive James’s apercu that “directing opera is what Germans do nowadays instead of invading Poland” – implying that such directorial interventions in opera are inherently violent and destructive. Far from it, I would argue.

Within our own group, I think we’d all agree that Ron and Bernard neatly represent the opposing camps in this debate. For myself, I’m somewhere in the middle: once a production is convincing and involving, I’m happy, whether the staging be traditional or boundary-stretching, so (in my opinion) Turandot in Dresden was excellent; Faust in Munich was idiotic.

What about you guys? Any strong opinions one way or the other apart from Ron and Bernard?