In the interview with Polish Stage Director Marek Weiss we discussed not only about his unique view on Mozart´s opera Così fan tutte – the next premiere in Slovak National Theatre on January 22 and 23, 2015 – but also about his opinions on operatic composers Mozart, Wagner and Verdi, on the contemporary stage dirtection at all and on the experiences with his own theatre – Baltic Opera in Gdańsk.
At the first sight Mozart´s music sounds very clearly, his melodies are pleasant and easy to remember. Somebody could say that from his music comes a kind of playful lightness…
For me Mozart is absolutely top of all kinds of music. His genius was full of different ideas, different psychologic experience. He knew everything about the people. Therefore he knew that each person is very dramatic and serious but at the same time also very funny, very weak and unhappy. In one moment he could compare everything by putting together a lot of different affects. So his music is not light but also not serious like for example Wagner. He was higher than Wagner, than all of many others.
This is rather interesting opinion. Could you elucidate it more?
Many people say like that. Mozart is like Shakespeare, like Verdi who was also such kind of genius. But Wagner was a man too connected with his life, with politics. Of course, he was a musical genius, but look at his libretto; try to read word by word what are the persons singing. You know, there are a lot of stupid things. There is also too much emotion in his music, it´s not clean – he was bombastic, pathetic. In Mozart´s operas you will never see that. Maybe it´s very simple that I just don´t like Wagner, we don´t have to like everybody. Anyway, sometimes… For example Tristan and Isolda is absolute masterpiece but on the other hand the whole Ring – I don´t understand it.
An opinion exists that Così fan tutte is not the best Mozart´s opera and the story is not of such quality than that for example in Don Giovanni or Idomeneo…
You know, I don´t care very much what the people say. It´s not truth. Così fan tutte is one of the Mozart´s masterpieces, one of the most difficult opera for preparing it for the stage because it´s really very, very complicated. All directors and conductors who try to do some comedy only, they don´t understand what´s going on in this opera. I think, this opera is very, very deep and it´s important to do it in one way.
So, let´s say what´s going on in this opera?
It´s some kind of dispute or let´s say discussion about our rules, our moral difficulties related to one of the most difficult thing in our life, the marriage. The question is what does it mean to be with somebody for the whole life, to spend it with him – it´s a long time. You know that the sexual interest is short; after three years people feel it boring and it´s necessary to do something more, something different. Maybe, that popular way to change partners for a moment, for fun only, is a kind of solution but this is very difficult because the people have very complicated relations with moral rules, especially the religious people. But there are also very deep rules also for not too religious. We are afraid of the pain and of the consequences. So each step in the life with somebody is danger.
In this opera we have a discussion what does it mean to be fair and honest, to stay only with the one person to the end of the life. Don Alfonso who is a typical philosopher, like Voltaire or Marivaux, says that it´s impossible to be fair and to stay with only one person. And he proposes some kind of play, in fact experiment. And the devil´s idea in this experiment is that the beloved guys Ferrando and Guglielmo do not only pretend somebody else – that they are from Albany by changing their clothes. Of course, this is only a game because nobody believes that the girls Fiordiligi and Dorabella don´t recognize them. So, if they recognize this game would be very naive but Mozart change partners. That´s something incredible in this opera. They pretend that they are somebody else, different, but they change partners and all of them know very well about this including all consequences. They know that they start to be with another partner as well as that their authentic partners are with somebody else. This everything happens immediately in one moment.
Was it really Mozart´s idea to change partners?
Yes. And for him it was interesting what will happen if they know everything. I believe and feel that we can hear this dramatic question in his music. At the end of the opera when everything becomes clear, when all turn back to their own partners the music sounds very sad and dramatic because Mozart knew that after this experiment it´s impossible to live like before. Everything changed; they did something what broke their legal life. They will never be happy.
So you think that there is a really deep idea in this opera.
Yes, very deep. However, it´s necessary to watch carefully each moment, each step what the persons do, how they change their relations in their mind and their emotions.
Could you say something about your suggestions how to express this idea on the stage?
It is difficult because the persons always have to play double emotions, double situation. They play that the game is interesting and pretend that it´s OK, but on another, deeper level, they have to express that they know what´s going on and how danger it is. There is a difference between Dorabella and Fiordiligi because Dorabella is lighter. She agrees, she is not so moral person but Fiordiligi is some kind of hero in this opera. She never changes, she is always fair and honest and suddenly she feels that her heart is closer to the new partner than the old one so that she wants to stay in this new situation. She wants the game to be a real life. But Don Alfonso suddenly says “No, no, we have to go back” and this destroys her emotions.
The guys are also little different…
Yes… But the guys are like the guys – they are not too dramatic with all these problems. That´s why we start the first scene within some kind of restaurant where they have girls, drinks and food… You know, the sexual life of men is simpler without abovementioned dramatic questions and my interpretation of this opera is absolutely against the men´s world. I believe that what they say – “Così fan tutte” – “All women are the same” or “So do all of them” in fact means that they are like, not prostitutes, but something like this or that there is not honest woman in the world. This is the ideology of Don Alfonso. But we show that just Don Alfonso and Despina as well as all others did this situation. And who says “Così fan tutte”? The most immoral, the most libertine Don Alfonso says this opinion about the women, the opinion of immoral men.
And what do you mean about Despina?
She is as we call it… She is a girl who is like a servant of men´s power. She is completely demoralized – there are a lot of women like that.
The design of the stage is set to the time of the first half of the 20. century…
You know, it´s a choice when it happened. We chose the time of Art deco like Coco Chanel, maybe later, because this period is closer to us and then it´s easier to connect with the emotions. All baroque operas with very old-fashioned costumes are not enough serious so that this is the reason why we change the time very often. If you want to say something for the contemporary audience you need to do something with the people on the stage to be more similar to us because in another case they are too deep in history – they are not enough serious as a character.
Have you discussed with maestro Haider on the interpretation of this opera?
We did it in Gdańsk so he knows my idea very well. We discussed together because, as a specialist on Mozart, he was shocked that we can go so far in the interpretation. I think for him it was difficult to accept that everybody knows everything from the beginning because he believes that in Mozart´s idea it was not so sure. For me it´s sure. For me Mozart knew everything about the people like we know it now.
Perhaps you can tell us something about your life as a stage director.
I worked over thirty years all over the world, long time I was an artistic director in Warsaw, in Poznań and in few cities in Poland. I worked in different theatres from USA to South Korea and Japan but now I work eight years only in Gdańsk, in my Baltic Opera. This is a small company but I built there my very special theatre where the music and the theatre are very deeply connected together – each moment, each sound, each interpretation. I need to choose suitable people for that and I have to be very careful because we can´t play only for fun. Each premiere is very seriously prepared and we play in blocks like stagiona. I am very happy that I can do the theatre in one place with one group of people and I see that we created some very special theatre in opera world. And I am very proud of that.
You know, the work in Baltic Opera was a real break in my career of stage director. Here I recognized that all of the stage directions I have done before are rather vague. When I have now my theatre I can decide about everything. Not like for example here or in Warsaw or any other city, where nobody can decide about everything but there are some theatres, maybe few in the world, where one artist can do this. So everything works for the building-up of the performance for the stage. All decisions must exactly follow the same direction. You know, it´s absolutely opposite to democracy.
Could I ask how do the people abide this?
People must believe that it has sense. You know, opera today is maybe some kind of new religion and people must believe that there are some kinds of very deep and good emotions for the audience. People cry, people love performances, people love this music so that it´s necessary to bring them, to give them very, very high level product in everything – in set, costumes, acting, sound, light – it everything must fit together. It´s very difficult if there is not one hand which rules everything.
What do you think about opera acting? How it was in Mozart´s times, how it is now?
It is very complicated and it´s changing. I think that the opera is the most difficult kind of art. It is very difficult to do something on the stage on the level of music. For example to play some Verdi looks very easy. To do some Verdi now is some kind of automatic art but really it is not so. To do Otello, La traviata, Rigoletto or Falstaff is really difficult now when we feel everything what Verdi wanted to see on the stage because, as you know, he controlled rehearsals and was very precise in his work. Verdi was very good stage director. And it´s very difficult to work – to sing and do everything what is written in the score – each note, each moment and each interpretation – and at the same moment to play and act on the stage all emotions so as everybody can see that they are true. So, I think that it happens that one performance from thousand is really opera. Another 999 is for nothing – it´s only pop-culture.
What are you preparing for the near future?
I start to prepare very difficult Polish opera Black Mask of Krzystof Penderecki. We will have premiere in the end of March and after that I don´t know what we will do because many things changed in Poland so I will see what´s going on when I come back.
…It was pleasure to work here. I don´t go anywhere. Many years I stay only in Gdańsk and I decided not to direct out of my theatre. This is an exception. I did it with pleasure only for maestro Haider with whom I worked in Gdańsk. His invitation was some interesting proposition for me. But after this work I decided for hundred per cent that I will never go out of my theatre.
Thank you very much for the interview.