Tom Guthrie Insights: “Carmen”

We asked Artistic Director Thomas Guthrie for some insight into his process of devising four Director’s Visions of “Carmen” for the Royal Opera House 2020 Design Challenge.

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How do you come up with four different visions of the same opera?

It was such an interesting thing to be asked to come up with several versions of an opera like this. I mean, in more normal times, it might never have happened! I was really grateful for the opportunity. Normally, if I was asked what I would do with a certain piece, a certain story, how I would approach telling it, for me, there would be only one question that was really important or relevant:

How do you want to tell this story right now, with these people, in this place for this audience?

And there would be one answer to that question, essentially, layered though it might be. There might be alternative possibilities along the way but I would gradually (or even quite quickly!) discard them.

So the idea of doing a number of different answers is a really interesting exercise. The challenge is clear: to make these versions clear and strong, and to write them with conviction even if, in my heart, I want to work towards just one of them.

Added to that, it’s kind of against my beliefs, my understanding of what’s good in theatre to make a statement myself of what the story is about – It’s about this or about that — that is not normally my way.

You can tell a story with an inspiring, witty, and human approach — with invention, with beauty, with conjuring skills — and then let the audience decide what the story is about. That is definitely more my thing and another reason why I relish this interesting challenge.

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If you are a budding young designer, and want to get involved, check the details here: https://learning-platform.roh.org.uk/theatrecraft or email design.challenge@roh.org.uk