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I have made the observation that baroque operas seemingly tend to have more modern, and frequently grotesque stage designs than more recent operas. A good example are the operas of Händel, many of which I have seen with markedly postmodernist staging.

Can anyone confirm this observation? If so, is there any particular reason for this? Is there something in the music that predisposes the genre to this kind of eccentricity (that operas from other eras have to a lesser extent)?

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This question appears to be off-topic because it is about observing stage designs. – Dom Dec 18 '14 at 18:09
It is about the interpretation of the character of the music, and how it could explain the stage design. – Constantin Dec 18 '14 at 20:56
This question is not off-topic as it actually relates historical and contemporary operatic performance practice. (Staging is an element of performance practice, and if you disagree, go dig up Wagner and listen to him.) That said, I voted that this question (despite very interesting!) is primarily opinion-based as I am not sure there is enough evidence to overwhelmingly support any particular individual assertion. – jjmusicnotes Dec 19 '14 at 4:46
@Constantin, it's worth noting that this particular reason listed above is not necessarily the same reason given by all five close-voters (for example, jjmusicnotes apparently voted to close because he thought the question was opinion-based). Unfortunately, SE only lists one of the voted closure reasons (I'm not sure how it picks which one to display) which makes it hard to know how to edit/improve the question when people possibly have other hidden issues with it. FWIW, I think this question is on-topic, and not opinion-based, so I voted to reopen. – Caleb Hines Dec 19 '14 at 15:27
I'm not sure how you'd be able to improve the question, though. Maybe you could clarify whether you're asking about historical staging vs. modern staging of historical works, or add some concrete examples of what you mean by 'postmodernist stage design'? – Caleb Hines Dec 19 '14 at 15:30
up vote 9 down vote accepted

No, I don't think it is the music per se. I think the reason you see more "postmodernist" stagings (and BTW, the Germans have a great word for this, Regieoper, "director's opera," which leaves the modern/postmodern distinction out of it) is that

(1) a historically accurate 18th century staging would look very strange to contemporary audiences, since almost all our ideas about dramatic "realism" on the operatic stage postdate this period. Remember that opera in the 18th century was staged in very small theaters, with the house lights full on, libretti in everyone's hand, and a full panoply of activities going on in the boxes, etc. Also, people went to operas over and over, so they became more a sequence of things to cheer at or ignore, and less of a "story" you watch end to end. (An opera in this time was more like a baseball game, and much less like a movie.)

(2) There is no tradition of staging these works that would bridge the distance between then and now. The operas of Mozart and Rossini, for example, are just as "dated" in some places, but we have an unbroken tradition of staging them that creates a range within which a director can work without a "concept" seeming to intrude. But with Handel, there is no "normal" way to do it, since the operas did not stay in the repertory.

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Voted up as a brilliant answer: supported by the literature on baroque opera staging; not primarily opinion-based. – Michael Scott Cuthbert Dec 22 '14 at 4:05
Agreed here - thank you Robert Fink for disproving my original thought! – jjmusicnotes Dec 23 '14 at 22:40

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