The Telegraph, 27 May 2017
| By Hannah Furness
Cinema will save opera for a new generation, Royal Opera House director suggests
Streaming opera in the cinema could save it for a new generation, a Royal
Opera House director has suggested, as he claims it is helping to weed out
the "hammy" over-acting young audiences hate.
Keith Warner, who is to
direct Otello in Covent Garden next month, said the exaggerated stage acting
of years gone by can no longer make the cut, particularly once filmed and
broadcast in close up on the big screen.
The development, he
suggested, may have encouraged stars and directors to consider a more
nuanced performance, which in turn has improved the stage experience for
Warner's production of Otello, starring Jonas Kaufmann and
conducted by Sir Antonio Pappano, will be broadcast into cinemas on June 28.
Saying a new focus on how to project emotions to the back of the
auditorium subtly was working well, he added it had helped discourage the
hammed-up style favoured by acting greats of the past.
The new style,
he argued, was preferable to new younger audiences of the kind desperately
needed by opera houses if they are to survive.
"I wonder sometimes
whether the cinema thing has played into that in the last ten years, in a
totally good way," he said.
"If we're talking all the time about how
we're going to bring new people in, they really don't want to see the old
ham stuff. It begins to just put people off.
"Whereas the thing we've
been working on today, it will work on the screen as well as in the
auditorium and it's to do with some kind of inner power."
Asked at a
press conference about Otello whether the live broadcast would change the
way he directed, Warner said most of the details were left up to those
responsible for the technical side of filming.
"There is something to
do with the acting method that is a conundrum maybe," he added.
"Which is, the great film actors, as we know, are people that do nothing and
show everything. You think of Robert de Niro, Spencer Tracy...these people
who can just do it. It's very very hard.
"I was an enormous fan of
Olivier who was so expansive on stage. And then when you see him on film it
can be very eggy.
"There are a couple of brilliant performances, but
the film version of Othello from the National Theatre is a source of
constant embarrassment for everybody.
"But in the theatre it was
never anything less than you being on the edge of your seat.
problem is when you're doing it in the theatre, do I act that night for this
[cinema streaming]? Or do I act for the guy that's in the back of the
"What I think is amazing now - and I don't know whether
it's an interplay between the live relay and the theatre - is for somebody
like Jonas and a good few others is that really the operative acting, the
big gesture stuff, doesn't feel right anyway.
"In the context of an
opera house, I think we're all finding a way to project sincere emotions to
the back of the auditorium."
Kaufmann, who is making his debut in the
role of Otello, said: "It's a question I've been asked many times, whether I
will change for a live relay. I always answer 'not a hair'.
experienced myself, both being on stage and in the audience, I see
immediately if somebody is honest on stage or not.
mean pretending to be someone. Acting means slipping like a glove into this
character and just living it.
"If you manage to be able to do that
you don't need to change anything. The natural gestures and movements and
positions read also in a distance.
"You can see the back of somebody
and you know the mood, if it's done in the right way.
need to do everything big just because you're far away."
He added he
had accepted the part after years of interventions, after feeling he was now
mature enough to sing it with enough experience and without harming his
"I can't tell now exactly the amount of offers I got for this
part a long time ago, because everyone who hears that voice thinks this is
the role and keeps forgetting that you need an enormous amount of experience
to survive in that part.
"I waited a really long time but I thought:
if not now, when? It has to be done at a certain point, and under the best
possible circumstances, and so here we are."
Otello runs at the Royal
Opera House from June 21 to July 15.