The Head and the Heart : A conversation between Robert Carsen and Felipe Sanguinetti
Born in Buenos Aires and based in Paris, Felipe Sanguinetti is a photographer and film maker. He first met opera director Robert Carsen in 2007 at a performance of his production of Georg Friedrich Haendel’s Alcina at the Paris Opera Garnier. He first documented the director’s work in 2009 during his production of the musical My Fair Lady whose sumptuous costumes designed by the celebrated ‘costumier’ Anthony Powell he photographed on the roof of the Theatre de Châtelet. In 2010, he began to document the rehearsals and performances of Carsen’s numerous international productions including Gluck’s ‘Iphigénie en Tauride’ with Placido Domingo at Glyndebourne, praising the director’s ‘sensitivity combined with a meticulous attention to detail’. He then filmed and photographed his long awaited performance of Mozart’s Don Giovanni at La Scala in Milan. In 2014 he completed a project for Nowness, who premiered his film of Carsen’s production of Jean-Phillipe Rameau’s Platée. Felipe has also directed films for the Paris Opera’s digital platforms 3e Scène and Le Cercle de Berlioz, the latest of which produced by Fatcat / Premiere Heure, features the two internationally celebrated tenors Bryn Terfel and Jonas Kaufmann.
Robert Carsen (born 23 June 1954) is a Canadian opera director. He was born in Toronto and from an early age « became obsessed with the theatre" Carsen has staged Der Ring des Nibelungen by Richard Wagner in Cologne, Eugene Onegin at the Metropolitan Opera, Il Trovatore in Bregenz, Capriccio by Richard Strauss, Alcina by Handel and Rusalka at the Opera Bastille with Renée Fleming, La Traviata at La Fenice, Mefistofele at the San Francisco Opera and Der Rosenkavalier at the Salzburg Festival. He directed seven Puccini operas in Belgium and Verdi's Shakespearean trilogy of Macbeth, Falstaff and Otello in Germany.
Carsen also designed the exhibitions ‘Splendeurs et misères’ and ‘L’impressionnisme et la Mode’ for the Musee D’Orsay in Paris and ‘Bohèmes’ for for the Grand Palais where last year he also collaborated with curator Olivier Saillard on the design of the Louis Vuitton retrospective ‘ Volez Voguez Voyagez’ .
His celebrated production of ‘Singing in the Rain will open on Broadway later this year and a new production of Verdi’s ‘Don Carlo’ has just opened at the Opéra National du Rhin in Strasbourg.
Interview between Felipe Sanguinetti and Robert Carsen :
F.S : What fascinates you about Opera?
R.C : The word opera is the plural of the word opus. So opera is in fact the combination of many different works of art. When it "works" it's also the most completely satisfying of all the performing arts, holding in balance the concrete and the intellectual (the words) with the abstract and the emotional (the music).
The alchemical balance of the head and the heart is different for each work, and it's the director's job to try and understand and establish that balance. That's what fascinates me the most.
F.S : When and how do Opera and Film most successfully come together ? How would you describe the films we have created together from your productions?
R.C : Film and opera are becoming closer and closer and more and more opera (and theater) directors are using video and film in their work. It has become quite normal to have a video designer on board with the rest of the design team, which was certainly not the case ten years ago. Film directors are also being asked to direct operas quite often now, with varying degrees of success to my mind because the techniques for directing opera and film are so very different. But that's another subject!
Your films are always intuitive, emotional, sexy and mysterious. You love opera and have a clear feeling for the rhythm and the pulse of each production. Video and film is essentially a very fast art form. Opera is much slower and you know how to establish an expansive sense of scale even in a short space of time. That's not as easy as it sounds!
F.S : Would you like to direct a feauture film? If so what would be the subject?
R.S : Yes I would love to direct a film. Film influences my directing a lot, and I'm fascinated with the notion of cut, dssolve, pan and zoom for the stage. I trained as an actor, I direct plays, musicals and operas. For the last fifteen years I have done my own lighting and I have recently started to design for the stage, after being artistic director and designer for about a dozen museum exhibitions. Directing a film would be a wonderful next step. But will there be time?
As for the subject, there are so many, but it would certainly have nothing to do with opera!