Director's theater

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Regietheater is a catchphrase from theater criticism that originated in the 1970s. A production is referred to as a "directorial theater production" if, in the opinion of the reviewer, the director's ideas have a (possibly too) great influence (compared to the ideas of the author, the actor or, in the music theater, the composer , the singer or the conductor ) on the performance.

The term director's theater suggests that this is a uniform trend in drama or music theater. However, two reasons speak against the recognition of the term director's theater as a generic term: On the one hand, the term is not specific enough and is accordingly used by various commentators for directors of the most varied of styles; on the other hand, the term lacks neutrality due to its (at least originally) negative connotation .

Director's theater from a critical point of view

The most important allegations against a director that can lead to his production being labeled as director's theater include the following:

  • The production violates the intentions of the author (in music theater also: of the composer). In this context, the following are particularly criticized: arbitrary additions and / or cuts, relocation of the plot to another place or to a different time.
  • The staging distracts from the actual content of the work. This accusation is particularly widespread in the music theater sector, where directors are occasionally accused of distracting from the music, but it also occurs in spoken theater, where it mostly refers to the insertion of scenes that have nothing to do with the actual work.
  • The staging contains characteristics that are dispensable for the work. In this context, for example, the exposure of nudity or disproportionate brutality for their own sake are criticized.

Closely linked to the term director's theater (in its original, negative meaning) is the accusation that the increase in directorial theater productions is leading to a deterioration in the quality of the German-speaking theater landscape. One of the spokesmen for this opinion is the German director Peter Stein : "In the meantime everyone can do what they want at the theater, but the German directorial theater is now laughed at all over the world."

For the theater critic Peter Kümmel, directorial theater also determines the understanding of roles and actions of many actors in a detrimental way. The milieu is shaped by the fight against conventional "audition". Often the actors on stage looked as if they had to protect the audience from the play, the performance tradition and the dead author: “The typical contemporary stage artist always seems to be on the verge of throwing off the role suit. He is in constant subliminal turmoil against his character - yes against the compulsion to role itself. He thinks that if he takes his job seriously, he will no longer be taken seriously. He's in a fix; an unfree person, forced to irony. ”Behind this, as a gray eminence and“ truly free man in the whole system ”, stands the director as the one“ who 'pulls out' the characters and motifs from the pieces that 'interest' him ”. Kümmel sees the actors exposed to various systemic constraints in their artistic demands; they often experienced their profession more as a chore than an artistic venture. "The production times are getting shorter and shorter, and more and more directors are foregoing a certain art of play (or truthfulness) as a representation goal because they no longer believe that they can achieve the perfection that is demonstrated by Netflix."

Change of concept

More recently, the term director's theater has been used increasingly with positive connotations by proponents of such forms of staging. Directors who consciously refer to their productions as directors' theater productions emphasize what they believe to be the need to reinterpret works from the past. The idea behind this is that today's audience is socialized differently than the audience at the time of the premiere of a work. It must be addressed differently in order to achieve the same effect. The commitment to direct theater on the part of a director includes in particular the view that the stylistic devices criticized above, such as additions and / or cuts, relocation of the plot, etc. Ä. are absolutely necessary for this purpose.

This kind of conscious commitment to directorial theater and the associated attempt to take the term's negative connotation away is particularly pronounced in the German-speaking world. Leading directors who see themselves as director theater directors include: a. Hans Neuenfels and Peter Konwitschny .

Conceptual criticism

The term director's theater is unfortunate in that even the harshest critics do not oppose the necessity of a director himself. Nevertheless, it is largely controversial whether a production nowadays needs a director who should bring an interpretation of the work on stage that is valid for the respective time or entrust the interpretation of the work to the responsible audience or in what ratio the two apparently conflicting claims in a production can be redeemed.

Director's theater in the opera

Up until around 1800, music theater was primarily a premiere theater. Composer and audience lived at the same time and therefore in the same society. The conventions and “rules of the game” for theater were generally clear for both performers and spectators. With the performance of older works, the repertoire theater was formed in the 19th century , which not only performed new works but also those historical operas that found an audience in their time. The theatrical style of the performance often changed considerably compared to the time of its creation, as the view of the time on fabrics, themes and motifs as well as the technical aids used and the construction of the musical instruments had changed. The works of Mozart z. B. experienced a significant romanticization and falsification in the 19th century (e.g. with Così fan tutte ). The greater the gap between the creation and performance of a work in terms of time, the more it required the interpretation of a work. This ultimately led to the profession of director , i.e. the overall artistic director of an opera performance, who determines the playing style and aesthetic design of the work in collaboration with the conductor .

Two opposing positions on the performance of operas today can be summarized under the catchphrases “ Faithfulness to the work ” and “Regietheater”, which are often vehemently and controversially juxtaposed with each other among viewers and artists.

  • Faithfulness to the work . Supporters of the opinion that an opera should be performed “true to the work” are of the opinion that the intention of the authors of a work for the performance is valid and an opera should be performed accordingly. Since the authors are mostly no longer alive and there are no audio or video recordings from their time, it is not always easy to find out what the authors' intention was (although some authors, e.g. Richard Wagner , are very precise Have written stage directions). The postulate of faithfulness to the work therefore often refers to a performance tradition, namely to that from the first half of the 20th century ; the set and costume are almost always the decisive criteria for the assessment. Undoubtedly, the approach to an opera can begin with the work and its analysis. The aim of the design is then primarily the performance of the work itself and its content in the sense of the work. For this, the term “work justice” is probably more appropriate than that of “work loyalty”.
  • Director's theater . For many directors, the focus of an opera performance is on contemporary times and society or on their own person. Often they try to choose a design that has a clear visual reference to the present. Aspects of the work that were only clearly understandable at the time it was created are interpreted - or reinterpreted. The performances of these directors can take on the character of work adaptations in which the director's personal interpretation covers the work.

Every opera performance today stands between these two poles. Most of the artists in opera, however, strive to do justice to both the work and today's reality. The director Adolf Dresen put it (in a similar way): Faithfulness to the work is just as harmful for an opera as the messing up of the work. Another often quoted saying in relation to the discussion on the subject of faithfulness to the work states: Tradition is the passing on of fire, not the worship of ashes.

Bayreuth always presents new challenges for directors with the works of Richard Wagner . Since the canon of works performed at the Bayreuth Festival has been limited to the same ten Wagner operas for over 100 years, the respective reinterpretation of the works in the “Werkstatt Bayreuth” comes to the fore, often at the expense of the quality of the productions.


in alphabetical order by authors / editors

  • Johanna Dombois, Richard Klein: The song of the impure species. To the director's theater in the opera. In: Mercury. German magazine for European thinking. Volume 61 (Oct. 2007), issue 10 (= total no. 701), pp. 928-937.
  • Johanna Dombois, Richard Klein: Encore: The song of the impure species. To the director's theater in the opera. In: Johanna Dombois, Richard Klein: Richard Wagner and his media. For a critical practice in music theater. Stuttgart 2012, ISBN 978-3608947403 , pp. 3–46.
  • Guido Hiß: The birth of directorial theater from the spirit of the total work of art. In: ders., Synthetic Visions. Theater as a total work of art from 1800 to 2000 , Munich 2005, pp. 123–162, ISBN 3-9808231-4-8 .
  • Yun Geol Kim: The significance of Max Reinhardt in the development of modern directorial theater: Reinhardt's theater as a suggestive institution. WVT Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2006, ISBN 388476795X .
  • Richard Klein: About the director's theater in the opera - not a collective review. In: Musik & Ästhetik 2007, April, pp. 64–79.
  • Claus Reisinger : An inner dialogue on the situation of the opera in times of provocation (= Café Opéra 1). Wernersche Verlagsgesellschaft, Worms 2006, ISBN 978-3-88462-210-0
  • Christian Springer: 'Regietheater' and opera - irreconcilable opposites? epubli GmbH, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-8442-5297-2 .
  • Thomas Zabka: The wild life of the works. In: Thomas Zabka, Adolf Dresen: Poets and Directors. Comments about the director's theater . Goettingen 1995.

Web links

Wiktionary: Regietheater  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Deutsches Regietheater is laughed at all over the world on September 11, 2007. Retrieved on March 10, 2010.
  2. Peter Kümmel: At the start of the season: You don't have to be embarrassed! Transformation is the essence of theater. It only takes place in shame on our stages. A loss report - and an attempt to explain. In: Die Zeit , September 13, 2018, p. 43; accessed on November 6, 2018.