Lotte de Beer is artistic director of the Volksoper Wien since the 2022/23 season. Read more about the plans and visions of her directorship here.
Lotte de Beer on her vision for the Volksoper Wien
My goal is to be able to call the Volksoper a house of artists, a house of the public. A house where artists tell stories through singing, dancing and acting; a house where people can be seduced, invited to think and where they can laugh without restraint.
I think that the Volksoper has all the ingredients to reach the people of Vienna and inspire the world at the same time. Just as Vienna's musical theatre landscape has done for centuries.
- A sextant in time
A sextant is an instrument used to determine one's position in relation to the celestial bodies by means of mirrors and angles. It can also be used to navigate at sea. So you can use it to find out where you are, where you're coming from and what you're heading towards, and then know where to steer. That's pretty much my definition of theatre: that you can look in the mirror from different angles and see: Where do we come from, where are we now, how do we relate to our own history and where could we go from here?
- Building Bridges, Connecting
Above all, I want to build bridges. Bridges between generations, between tradition and renewal, between past and future, between nostalgia and utopia. Bridges between the theatre and the city, the stage and the auditorium, between the box and the gallery. I want to leave behind this strange distinction between high art and entertainment and instead make music theatre that connects.
- Between then and now
Theatre always takes place in the now. But most of the musical notes and texts we use are from the past. This tension between then and now is precisely the stage on which we play. We deal with themes and stories from the centuries before us, but we are also in the tradition of adapting them to our time. This adaptation, this interpretation has also been taking place for centuries.
- The Volksoper as a house of artists
What I'm always looking for is partnerships with outstanding storytellers, in every form of musical theatre. That is why I am so looking forward to working with our music director Omer Meir Wellber. The collaboration with Martin Schläpfer and the Vienna State Ballet is also very, very important to me.
We invite the best artists of today and at the same time build the most exciting teams of tomorrow. And last but not least: here in the house itself we have a top ensemble of true all-round artists. Together we will tell stories, ask questions, enchant, disenchant, make you think, share beauty. Through the medium of art, we can examine, question, sharpen and thereby also change our view of the world.
It's impressive to see how stage routiniers, debut singers and young talents inspire each other. I love working with very good singers, intelligent actors, team players and people who have something to say. And when you bring them all together, it doesn't matter where they come from or where they have worked. These people share something besides a burning love for the profession, and they make each other shine. And to see that is great and to be able to work with that is fantastic.
- The Volksoper as a house of the public
We strive for a "Volksoper" in the truest sense of the word. It is not for nothing that the house is located in an area where people actually live. The Volksoper already appeals to very different audiences, and that is exactly what we want to maintain, and even broaden the base. I have in mind, for example, encounters between our regular audience and people who have perhaps never been to the theatre before. Music theatre without borders for an audience without borders.
- Theatre is work in progress
Theatre is a living art form, never quite finished. Even the 300th performance of a production is still developing: a singer, a dancer, a conductor does something a little bit different, a laugh in the audience comes a bit earlier or later. In the 20th century, we have become so accustomed to fixed forms of artistic expression: records, CDs, television, film, everything seems to have found its definitive form, but in theatre, everything can still turn out quite differently, maybe even go wrong. And that's exactly what makes it an exciting experience: we were there when it happened! We want to emphasise this special, living quality of theatre in every respect. For example, also in our visual language. Our graphic designer Sandra Hruza and Christof Hetzer have designed an open concept for this, which has a lot in common with sketches and notebooks. Nothing is certain, and not even that.
- Searching for the right form to tell a story
One of the traditions at the Volksoper is translating the sung text into German. For me, this is a beautiful example of the identity of this house: a place where one is always looking for the best way to be understood.
I think this example can be put into an even larger context: We have to find the right form for each individual project to tell the respective story. Sometimes this can mean that we sing in German, but sometimes it is the original language that creates less distance. Sometimes we will love to meet the audience's expectations, but sometimes a story may ask us to abandon all certainties and turn the familiar languages of form and image on their heads. But not to shock, but to tell the story as accurately as possible.
The Volksoper can be a house where "opera for the people" is made, that is, for people from here and today. It can be a place where the audience knows: here I get to see and hear a story that speaks directly to me, right now. Music theatre that touches the head, heart and belly in equal measure plays an important role in coping with the turbulent times we are all living in right now.
- "Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable"
An apt motto by Cesar A. Cruz. When times change, so do the arts. When times are good, art should shake things up and wake people up. But when things get dark and uncertain around us, perhaps entertainment is a better choice. Theatre can be a place where we are touched, stimulated and entertained at the same time. Right now is probably not the time for revolution in theatre, but for restoration. By that I don't mean conservatism or lazy thinking. I mean connecting to a living tradition
- Imagination makes reality bearable
When I read the French existentialists in my youth, above all Albert Camus, I thought: life is meaningless, without purpose. It's only possible value lies in our attempts to achieve something better. Art is an expression of precisely these attempts. We sing, we dance, we tell each other stories, we draw, we knead, we play; and in doing so we hunt for nirvana. Will we find it? Of course we won't. But that does not release us from the duty to search for it. The efforts, endeavours, attempts are the only things that count. That's why I do theatre.