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Who calls the tune?

Too many opera directors display contempt for audiences and composers in their eccentric adaptations. We need more powerful intendants

By Tom Rosenthal   April 1999

In 1960 i saw a modern dress production of Fidelio at the Frankurt Opera. The prisoners were concentration camp inmates; the soldiers wore coal-scuttle helmets. Beethoven was dragged into the Nazi era. It was my first exposure to the “concept” production of an opera, and it was the most moving performance of the opera that I have seen. This autobiographical note is to establish a disclaimer: I like a good concept and there is nothing wrong per se with a modern dress production of 18th or 19th century works.

But as Peter Hall, the British theatre director, once observed: “You…

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