He's a smooth operator
John Allison [Times Online]
Robert Carsen may be a showman but his intent is serious
FOR more than a decade Robert Carsen has been one of the operatic world's most visible directors, but right now he is the man of the moment. Last night's revival of his earthy, 1950s take on Handel's Semele at English National Opera follows major openings in Venice and Cologne. A week ago, the jewelbox-like Teatro La Fenice in Venice celebrated its long-awaited restoration with Carsen's new La traviata, and Cologne has just seen his Ring cycle, by most accounts a thoughtful yet striking interpretation of Wagner.
Yet few directors from the English-speaking world divide critical opinion so dramatically. Carsen's productions can be smart, imaginative and human, but some find them cold and calculating. They are seldom truly radical but usually add a new gloss -- the Venice Traviata is, very blatantly, all about money -- so it is almost inevitable that his detractors find them superficially controversial. But, unlike those directors with regular trademarks, Carsen responds differently to every piece, and no one can be quite sure of what they will see when the curtain rises for the first time on one of his stagings.
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