Stephen Lawless

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Stephen Lawless’ most recent and current engagements include The Turn of the Screw and Owen Wingrave (Theater Lübeck), Peter Grimes (Theater Magdeburg), Le nozze di Figaro (Cincinnati Opera, San Diego and Palm Beach Opera)‚ Romeo et Juliette (Liceu, Barcelona)‚ Anna Bolena (Canadian Opera Company)‚ Roberto Devereux (Los Angeles Opera), The Elixir of Love (Seattle Opera), Lucia di Lammermoor (Staatstheater Oldenburg), Cosi fan Tutte (Theater Essen), Manon Lescaut (The Grange Festival) and Katya Kabanova (Scottish Opera / Theater Magdeburg).

Productions in North America include Don Giovanni (Metropolitan Opera‚ New York, to great critical acclaim); Un ballo in mascheraIl trovatoreL’elisir d’amoreDon Pasquale and Falstaff (Los Angeles Opera); Capriccio and Boris Godunov (San Francisco Opera); Le nozze di Figaro and La bohème (Lyric Opera Chicago); Le nozze di FigaroCavallaria rusticana / i PagliacciLa clemenza di TitoMaria StuardaAnna Bolena and Boris Godunov (Dallas Opera); Der Fliegende Holländer, Daphne, CapriccioSemele and Cavalleria rusticana / i Pagliacci (New York City Opera); Il trovatoreVanessa‚ and L’elisir d’amore (Washington and Philadelphia); L’elisir d’amoreFaust, Romeo et Juliette and Carmen (Santa Fe Opera)‚ The Flying Dutchman (Washington National Opera)‚ Le nozze di Figaro (Kansas and Philadelphia); La clemenza di Tito (Opera Theater St Louis) Der Freischutz (Virginia Opera) and Maria Stuarda (Canadian Opera).

Lawless was Director of Production for the Glyndebourne Touring Opera from 1986 to 1991‚ where his work culminated in an immensely successful production of Death in Venice‚ which was recorded by the BBC for television and video release and revived at the 1992 Glyndebourne Festival. Further UK engagements include Falstaff and Die Fledermaus (Glyndebourne); The Maiden in the Tower and Kashchei the Immortal (Buxton Festival).

Engagements in Europe include Boris Godunov (Vienna Staatsoper); Scarlatti’s Griselda (Deutsche Staatsoper‚ Berlin); Boris Godunov and Un ballo in maschera (La Fenice, Venice); OrfeoTancredi, Iolanta and Francesca da Rimini (Theater an der Wien); Die Fledermaus (Opera de Geneve); Peter GrimesDie FledermausOtello and William Tell (Graz); Acis and GalateaVenus and AdonisDido and Aeneas‚ and Don Chisciotte in Sierra Morena (Innsbruck Festival); Salome and Der Ring des Niebelungen (Nürnberg Opera); Die Zauberflöte (Opera Zuid); Giulio Cesare (Erfurt)‚ Handel’s Silla (Opernhaus Halle); La Traviata and Rusalka (Magdeburg) and Der Rosenkavalier (Boshoi). He made his début with the Kirov Opera in Leningrad with Boris Godunov which was broadcast live on British television‚ the first ever live telecast of an opera from the Soviet Union to the U.K.

Further afield, productions include Le nozze di figaroToscaDer Rosenkavalier and Un ballo in maschera (Hong Kong Festival); Die Fledermaus (National Performing Arts Centre, Beijing)‚ Otello and Die Fledermaus (Korean National Opera).

Albert Herring - Theater Lubeck

Another great evening of opera at the Lübeck Theater: Stephen Lawless' production of Benjamin Britten's opera “Albert Herring” was a convincing success.

It was the conclusion of the Britten trilogy that Lawless realized at the Lübeck Theater and it was the Briton's first comic opera to appear in the theater's repertoire. And the whole thing was actually funny.

Director Stephen Lawless relocates the plot from 1900 to 1952, the inhibitions and self-deceiving morals must have been just as oppressive in the middle of the century as at the beginning of it. Lawless draws the character of Albert Herring far more differentiated than one is used to.

This is one of the many clues to the coming moral revolution that also swept through Great Britain in the 1960s. A very well thought-out and viable directorial concept, which even made us forget the many lengths in Britten's opera.

In the end, the audience loved this comedy with a serious background. The long-lasting applause went to the directing team as well as to the ensemble and the orchestra.

Lübecker Nachrichten (March 2023)

Great opera pleasure: Albert Herring
Lübeck - city center: The culmination of the series with works by Benjamin Britten undoubtedly brings his comic opera "Albert Herring" in the big house: These three hours - again served by the team Stephen Lawless (director) and Ashley Martin-Davis (design) - prepare highest pleasure.

Lawless set his production in 1952 and garnished it with silent film scenes. He thrives on turning the normal into the bizarre and on a love of detail, each of which is surprising and yet correctly placed.

The staging is top, the musical side also top notch: the premiere audience was carried away and carried away, the applause was downright jubilant.

HL LIVE (March 2023)

The Marriage of Figaro - Theater Lubeck

Dass der Lübecker „Figaro“ in unserem heutigen Verständnis nur „toll“ gewesen sei, wäre eine unangemessene Untertreibung. Diese Produktion in der Inszenierung von Stephen Lawless unter der musikalischen Leitung von GMD Stefan Vladar ist einfach großartig und wieder einmal hat das Theater Lübeck seinen Platz unter den erstklassigen Häusern der Republik weiter behauptet – in diesem Falle: mit rotem Samt ausgekleidet. Dazu später mehr, zuerst einmal muss eine jahrhundertealte Legende entkleidet werden.

To say that Lübeck's "Figaro" was only "great" as we understand it today would be an inappropriate understatement. This production, directed by Stephen Lawless under the musical direction of GMD Stefan Vladar is simply magnificent and once again the Theater Lübeck has further asserted its place among the first class houses of the Republic - in this case: lined with red velvet. More on that later, first of all a centuries-old legend needs to be undressed. (February 2023)

L'Elisir d'Amore - Seattle Opera

Directed by Stephen Lawless, Seattle Opera’s production of Donizetti’s whimsical L’elisir d’amore begins well and improves as it goes.

BachTrack (August 2022)

Roberto Devereux - LA Opera

Stephen Lawless’ clever production was aided by handsome conventional costumes by Ingeborg Bernerth and sets by Benoit Dugardyn. Set entirely inside Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, the piece played up the parallels between the drama of the Bard and drama of the situation Elizabeth I finds herself in. All the world is a stage indeed. Lawless keeps the action moving, devising transitions between reprises of musical verses that serve the story in a believable way. While it occasionally bordered on overkill, Lawless’ effort is appreciated in keeping the action vital and in perspective, being that it is a fictional invention with historical characters.

Bachtrack (February 2020)

If an initial investment could staunch the flow of Roberto Devereux’s impending demise, it would turn to Stephen Lawless’ traditionally colorful Globe Theater backdrop that quartered Benoît Dugardyn and Ingeborg Bernerth in scenery and costuming, respectively. Mounted back in 2014 in Toronto, this Canadian Opera Company set was full of opulent Britannic outlines with quick maneuvering through an operatic “CliffsNotes” lesson of “Elizabeth I: 101”: rushing to a twee fantasy pantomime that toggled between a reenactment of England’s 1588 Spanish Armada defeat and a superfluous verdant divertissement of Midsummer Night’s Dream (the only Shakespearian play in which Elisabetta performed.) This front ended Elisabetta’s life, just as the opera’s finale turned over the back cover.

ConcertoNet (February 2020)

The heart of Lawless’ “Roberto Devereux” is its representation, in the opera’s opening and closing moments, of a very elderly, infirm woman, resigned to her death and the end of the Tudors as English monarchs. In a departure from his past mounting of his production, she picks up a skull that has sat in front of the stage throughout the opera and encloses herself in one of the display cases that appeared in the opera overture pantomime.

I enthusiastically recommend Donizetti’s opera, the Los Angeles Opera cast and Stephen Lawless’ production to both the veteran opera-goer and the person new to opera. (February 2020)

A Stunning Production & Leader
Lawless’s opinion augured well for a production which turned out to be truly, truly superb – entertaining and intelligent, but also underlining the intelligence that already exists in librettist Salvadore Cammarano’s text and Donizetti’s marvelously agile, tellingly-colored, and excitingly-paced score. Donizetti and Cammarano’s “Roberto Devereux” displays that wonderful intersection of personal and public that nourishes really great political drama. Academic circles may accuse Donizetti of superficiality but here there’s a particularity in the surface that denotes great depth, or at least that’s what Lawless’s production revealed.
“Surprise me!” is a command often heard from theater directors in rehearsal. But the surprise element – call it “freshness” – was very real in this production (March 2020)

The Marriage of Figaro, Cincinnati Opera

In the Cincinnati Opera’s superb production, the gifted production designer Leslie Travers bluntly fleshes the moral decay leading to the French Revolution—a visual environment that brings stage director Stephen Lawless’s edgy concept to life.

Rather than sounding one incessantly merry note throughout the four-act opera, director Stephen Lawless gave a between-the-lines glimpse of the #MeToo movement in lace and brocade. In a chiaroscuro environment, he tapped into the tears behind the laughter, and validated the seething anger of women who dared to fight sexism more than 200 years ago: the Count is intolerably brutish and abusive and horny, and in once scene Figaro violently grabs Susanna. As a Figaro seen through a 21st-century prism, it worked beautifully.

Seen and Heard International (June 2019)

Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro is the ideal opener for Cincinnati Opera’s 2019 season; the show features terrific performances (both onstage and in the orchestra pit), witty staging and lots of slamming doors...Stephen Lawless’ direction was a marvel, clearly galvanizing the entire cast, all of whom were physically and vocally nimble and totally in sync.

City Beat (June 2019)

Katya Kabanova‚ Scottish Opera

Scottish Opera’s fine production of Katya Kabanova – directed by Stephen Lawless‚ vividly conducted by Stuart Stratford‚ and performed in the original Czech – is one of tremendous power.

The Stage (March 2019)

Janacek never meant this opera to be even-handed, but when a traditional staging is as poetic and thoughtful as this, the final effect is... the unconditional surrender of anyone capable of being moved by the combination of music and drama. Either of these productions would serve as a complete vindication of opera’s claims on 21st-century culture.

The Spectator (March 2019)

Scottish Opera’s new production, by Stephen Lawless, places the action of the opera firmly in the countryside...Lawless catches the narrow-mindedness of village society to brilliant effect.

The Sunday Times (March 2019)

Janáček's ill-fated heroine bared her soul for three UK companies inthe early part of 2019. Too much licentious love, too much storm-tossed suicide? Not a bit of it. It may not say much for coordination between managements, but no matter how crowded the field, there will always be room for an interpretation as quietly observant as Stephen Lawless's for Scottish Opera. If swarms of aficionados did tour the country comparing Katya Kabanova in Leeds, London and Glasgow (doubtful), they wouldn't have wasted their money by crossing the border for a performance that spoke simply and directly of domestic abuse, emotional respression and psychological torture... Where Lawless really scored was in delineating character and relationships - oustandingly so in the personalities of Kabanicha and Dikoj.

Opera Magazine (May 2019)

Roberto Devereux‚ San Francisco Opera

The Lawless production‚ first seen at Canadian Opera Company in 2014‚ features scenic designs by the late Benoît Dugardyn that place the action in a unit set modeled on Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. During the overture‚ the staging offers a kind of whirlwind backstory: vitrines displayed the figures of young Elizabeth‚ flanked by Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn‚ and Elizabeth sent Essex into battle amid maps and cardboard ships. The director’s scheme included a claustrophobic chamber for Sarah and Nottingham‚ and a metallic enclosure for the Tower scene. Lawless also proved effective in evoking the public nature of the opera’s events; Ian Robertson’s chorus sang with gusto throughout‚ serving as observers of the regime while courtiers Cecil (Amitai Pati) and Raleigh (Christian Pursell)‚ smirked and skulked and assumed watchful positions.

Opera News (September 2018)

Above all‚ I loved the production by Stephen Lawless. The staging‚ which he created for Dallas Opera in 2009‚ and more significantly he revived for Canadian Opera Company in 2014 (also starring Radvanovsky)‚ was simple‚ quiet‚ yet very effective in my opinion. (September 2018)

Director Stephen Lawless uses his production to examine the narrative afterlives of real people. Benoît Dugardyn’s set is modeled on the Globe Theatre‚ emphasizing that what we’re seeing is a fiction. Characters from Elizabeth’s past make appearances as nineteenth-century diorama models encased in glass. At the end of the opera‚ Elizabeth steps into her own glass case. Lawless’s concept is coherent and adds a thought-provoking layer to a flimsily plotted opera.

San Francisco Classical Voice (September 2018)

San Francisco Opera has staged Donizetti’s “Roberto Devereux” just once‚ in 1979‚ but on Saturday‚ a new‚ glorious‚ instantly memorable production at the War Memorial Opera House more than made up for its long absence and rarity.

English director Stephen Lawless’ production raises the curtain on a set immediately recognizable as a replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

San Francisco Examiner (September 2018)

Anna Bolena‚ Canadian Opera Company

Director Stephen Lawless has also created a silent role for Anna’s daughter‚ the red-haired Elizabeth‚ who becomes a pawn in the tug of war. Terrific singing and clever direction combine to create an involving evening...
The audience is treated to a mimed history lesson during the overture as the back story is explained (we also get to see the king’s first wife‚ the spurned and unhappy Katherine of Aragon). This works well‚ as does Lawless’s symbolic handling of the ever-present chorus.

Concerto Net (May 2018)

Director Stephen Lawless gets some terrific effects from Benoit Durgardyn’s Globe Theatre-inspired set‚ particularly in the way the chorus of courtiers‚ beautifully helmed by Sandra Horst‚ get to gossip and comment on the action.

Now Toronto (May 2018)

Le Nozze di Figaro‚ Palm Beach Opera

Stephen Lawless’s production manages to strike the perfect note between sex farce‚ social comedy and the darker overtones of servant verses master. Lawless’s staging is strongly character driven. In the best French farce tradition‚ rapid entrances and exits through doors and windows abound.

South Florida Classical Review (March 2018)

Le Nozze di Figaro‚ Palm Beach Opera

Stephen Lawless’s production manages to strike the perfect note between sex farce‚ social comedy and the darker overtones of servant verses master. Lawless’s staging is strongly character driven. In the best French farce tradition‚ rapid entrances and exits through doors and windows abound.

South Florida Classical Review (March 2018)

Anna Bolena‚ Washington National Opera

However‚ none of these preliminary festivities could quite prepare us for Stephen Lawless’ production of conceptual‚ exquisite theatricality and superb singing.
Even though heavily abused by stage directors all around the world today‚ the “theater within a theater” device was right on the money in Lawless’ production...
Had Donizettti been present in the WNO’s audience Saturday night‚ he would probably repeat the words that he wrote to his wife back in 1830‚ after the opera’s premiere. “A triumphal success‚ delirium – it seemed as though the public had gone mad. Everyone said that they could not remember ever being present at such a decided triumph!” Whether you are into bloody thrillers set to great music or prefer a lighter entertainment‚ Lawless’ Anna Bolena is not the show to be missed.

BachTrack (September 2012)

11th November, 2023