A brief encounter with director Sara Brodie

By Sarah Daniell

A few words with director, choreographer and artist Sara Brodie.
Sara Brodie.
Sara Brodie.

It is dark, the audience is silent. It is opening night and the curtain will soon open. What are you thinking and where are you sitting?

At the back so I can read the responses of the audience. Prior to curtain up I usually try to drink a glass of bubbly as my job should be done by this point. I am thinking, "Fly my pretties."

How would you convince someone otherwise, if they said opera is too hard, too remote, too specialist, too long?

Operas are written to tell human stories and move the hearts of the listeners through the power of music. If a production makes an audience feel alienated or bored it is simply a bad production. We are surreptitiously surrounded by opera music employed in advertising and rousing crowds before football matches. I encourage people to sample it in context and, importantly, live. The immediacy of the human voice is powerful stuff. I am all for operas of the past to be translated, sur-titled, updated and edited.

What is the first opera you recall hearing and what impression did it have on you ?

It was a production of The Magic Flute at the Issac Theatre Royal in Christchurch, I think I was about 13. I'd had no connection to opera before this. I remember it took me a few minutes to get used to the sound of the singers, but once settled I was swept along with the story. The Queen of the Night certainly made an impression.

It is not a very modern idea that love conquers all - the premise of The Magic Flute - do you plan a twist in the tale?

Ostensibly, The Magic Flute is a classic comedic plot, that of two lovers who must go through a set of trials and tribulations before they are made worthy to get married at the end. You can also frame this as a journey from darkness to enlightenment. But what Flute does is ritualise this process and sets male and female energies in opposition to each other along the way. The twist is in the tale from the first moments when Tamino is being chased by, of all beasts to choose, a snake.

If you could have a glass of punch with Mozart, in what city would it be and what would you ask him?

It would have to be his favourite bar in Vienna, and there would have to be a piano, because I would ask him to play.

You are a character in an opera. Which one and why do you identify with them?

The Queen of the Night definitely, mainly because she is such a skillful manipulator. Although Sarastro thwarts her power at the end of The Magic Flute, one suspects she will return.

What does theatre provide that film can never achieve?

Immediacy, collective engagement and a visceral connection between the stage and audience. A good performance shared can be transcendental experience which the privacy of viewing action a screen can never match.

If you had to lose a sense, what would it be?

My sight, to enable me to be a better listener.

Do you fear anything in life and if so, how do you conquer this?

I made a pact with myself in my late 20s that if anything scared me, it was a sure sign I should do it. This was though in relation to work. I am primarily scared of water, I still can't swim - so I have conveniently ignored it, and no doubt will continue to do so up to the day I drown a watery death.

What contemporary or popular music makes you dance?

Prince - Raspberry Beret and anything from baroque to the latest music. I am the first to start the dancing, usually.

Which artist, past on or living, would you like to base a play or opera on?

At the moment I am more interested in creating a show about a German housewife called Auguste Deter. She was the patient who revealed the "disease of forgetting" to Dr Aloysius Alzheimer.

Sara Brodie directs The Magic Flute, ASB Theatre, June 16-26. For details, see here.

- Canvas

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