Calixto Bieito brings his ‘film noir’ to Paris Opera

Spain’s Calixto Bieito built his reputation by shattering operatic norms, but his new production of “Simon Boccanegra” in Paris shows the restrained side of a director more known for performances featuring sex, blood and violence.

“I don’t have a formula that I use each time in every opera,” Bieito told AFP in an interview as his interpretation of the Verdi work premiered at the Opera Bastille this past week.

“I have different facets,” he said.

The 55-year-old Catalan native, once described as the “Quentin Tarantino of opera,” has for years staged some of the most outlandish and controversial reworkings of the classics.

His torrid “Carmen” by Georges Bizet, which has been staged in different cities over the past 20 years, has been branded both “vulgar” and “brilliant”, depending on the critic.

In 2002 he secured his place in opera history with a scene of politicians reading newspapers on the toilet in Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (Masked Ball).

Hard-to-stomach torture and rape scenes featured in his “Trovatore” of 2003, and the following year audience members walked out on his “Abduction from the Seraglio” upon discovering that Mozart’s harem had been transformed into a bordello.

But with “Boccanegra”, which explores the intrigues and pitfalls of power surrounding the first doge of Genoa, Bieito invites psychological introspection with a more sober approach.

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