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 is such an interesting thing to be asked to come up with several versions of an opera like this. In one sense it’s meaningless because, for me, there’s only one question that is really important or relevant and that is:

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

For me, normally when I’m working on a show, I’m just focussing on there being one answer to all those questions,, although there are multiple layers to it. I might explore alternative possibilities along the way but 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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