1. Design a set in which, for two acts, there is a pit (disguised as a lake) taking up two-thirds of the stage, surrounded by trees and uneven, rough terrain, thereby requiring all singers to sing either standing chest-deep in a pit, with only their head and shoulders visible, or while tentatively clambering over dangerous inclines or clinging carefully to rocks and tree stumps. In another act, plop an enormous pavilion center stage, whose interior is visible only through windows, and attach to it a very large stair case that takes up the remaining space of the stage. This leaves the singers a narrow strip in front of which to work, or, of course, while climbing up and down the stairs.
2. Cast a major, world class singer in the title role, in which she is required to be mute for about half the opera. The rest of the time, ask her to sing while constantly waving her arms as if she were Esther Williams in a pool. Do not provide her with any blocking or choreographic assistance. Make sure you give her an ugly wig.
3. Cast another major singer as her father, and confine him to a tiny part of the stage (see #1 above), paint him with green paint like the Wicked Witch of the West, and obscure and constrain his body as much as possible.
4. Cast three singers who sing well but are not dancers, and then put them in scanty clothing and encourage them to pretend to dance and writhe, Las Vegas style, for every moment that they are on the stage, the more louche the better. Make sure they are modern in style and not connected to the world of the opera.
5. Whenever possible, block every duet so that one singer is in the pit or on the staircase (see #1 above) and the other is downstage, thereby forcing one singer to upstage him or herself non-stop, while trying to sing and act to the blank air in front and simultaneously resist the urge to communicate with the person behind, with whom he/she is singing. Especially ensure that there is no eye contact.
6. Hire an enthusiastic orchestral conductor who loves the brass section more than the singers, and encourage him (and them) to play as loudly as possible.
I’m sorry to say, this debacle brought to you by the same opera company that produced a magnificent Falstaff this year, and several stunning new productions over the past few years, including a Romeo and Juliet that remains indelible, and one of the funniest Barber of Sevilles one is ever likely to see. Please, Met, pay attention.
© Poets Sinews, 2014, reuse by permission only