“A leading light of ENO’s Powerhouse era 25 years ago, Alden is no less a force in international opera today.”
Andrew Clarke, Financial Times, March 2010
“He has certainly defeated the nay-sayers who prophesied that he’d be a nine-day wonder: Alden has stayed the course and matured. Singers adore working with him, not least because he knows every single note and word of the opera he is directing inside out, on the first day of rehearsal.”
Rupert Christiansen, Daily Telegraph, March 2010
Peter Grimes / English National Opera
Cond. Edward Gardner
“The director manages to introduce enough to give an extra sense of the creepy, hallucinatory bizarre to ramp up the psychological tension, but without ever toppling over into parody. In Paul Steinberg's stark, unconsoling sets, Alden manages to create an overwhelming sense of theatrical intensity, helped by detailed, tight Personenregie and universally excellent acting.”
Hugo Shirley, January 2014
“David Alden’s stage direction delineates every character sharply and shows exceptional attention to detail: you sense that every movement and gesture on stage has been carefully thought through and rehearsed to perfection, especially in the crowd scenes…A magnificent production of one of the most dramatically intense and musically virtuosic operas ever written.”
David Karlin, Bachtrack, January 2014
“This is physically and emotionally the theatrical embodiment of the piece: a bold expressionistic reimagining of it that puts us where Grimes might be and has us seeing “the Borough” as he might see it. “Visions, fiery visions”, he speaks of, and his words confuse and threaten this closed community where belonging is conforming and where sheets of corrugated metal and sturdily boarded windows keep the sea out and the prejudices in. The Borough is as alien to Grimes as it is to us. That’s Alden’s fiery vision and it packs one hell of a punch.”
Edward Seckerson, January 2014
“Updating Britten's opera to the time of its premiere in 1945, Alden forcefully depicts postwar Britain as a parochial, reactionary hell-hole, where moral and sexual hypocrisy are rampant. Mindful that the score owes a debt to Austro-German expressionism, Alden also alludes to the Weimar Republic as emblematic of a comparable society searching for a scapegoat in the form of a perceived enemy within. It is immensely powerful.”
Tim Ashley, Guardian, January 2014
“Alden’s disturbing take on the work digs deep into the psycho-pathology of the characters to reveal the darkness at the root.”
Barry Millington, 5 stars, London Evening Standard, January 2014
“Enlarging naturalistic, close-up detail into full-blooded, expressionist drama is typical of this frankly electrifying revival of David Alden’s revelatory production of Britten’s masterpiece.”
David Benedict, The Arts Desk, January 2014
La Calisto / Bayerische Staatsoper
Cond. Ivor Bolton
“The way in which Alden choreographs the first seduction scene, the way in which he demands from the singers a physicality which exactly follows the music, targets the heart of the equally lyric and frivolous piece, managing to be both comic and serious at the same time.”
“Wie Alden bereits die erste Verführungsszene choreografiert, wie er den Figuren einen exakt der Musik folgenden Körpereinsatz abverlangt, das zielt ins Herz des ebenso lyrischen wie frivolen Stücks, ist komisch und ernst zugleich.”
Kultiversum, January 2014
“The audience greeted the colourful and witty production by Director David Alden…with great enthusiasm. The staging managed to be both ruthlessly candid and amusing at the same time.”
“Das Publikum nahm die farbenfroh-witzige Darstellung von Regisseur David Alden…begeistert auf. Die Inszenierung legt schonungslos und amüsant zugleich offen.”
Die Welt, January 2014
Wagner Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg / Netherlands Opera
Dir. David Alden
"The new staging by David Alden… is an important contribution to the process of updating the myth of Meistersinger for the twenty-first century… its irresistible surreal humour and deep contradictory character psychologies can translate into any city and any time in 2013.”
Mundo Clasico, July 2013
Donizetti Lucia di Lammermoor / Canadian Opera Company
cond. Stephen Lord
“Alden has set his Lucia in Victorian England, as opposed to the late 17th century of the Walter Scott novel on which the opera is based. We’re in a crumbling, dilapidated mansion for the entire piece, and Edwards’s set, Reiffenstuel’s costumes – all in black, white and grey – and Silverman’s stark lighting, combine to create an austere, frankly Freudian background against which the extravagance of the opera’s music is perfectly set.”
Robert Harris, The Globe and Mail, April 2013
Britten Peter Grimes / Deutsche Oper
cond. Donald Runnicles
“The latest production at the Deutsche Oper Berlin is classic in style, and very British… a unanimous success. The production was created for English National Opera in 2009, and this is an exciting interpretation of Britten’s classic opera, avoiding any excessively modern additions (...) David Alden’s production is so powerful because it points back to the fundamental components of the piece. There is no sentimentality and no operatic schmalz in the charaterisations, and (hardly) any big scenes. Everything is surrounded by the commonplace. When Ellen and Balstrode bid farewell to Peter Grimes at the end, and stagger away from the stage, the denial of any emotion is disconcerting. And yet it makes sense, as it is the very source of the tragedy of Peter Grimes”.
Rosemarie Frühauf, Epoch Times, January 2013
Handel Deidamia / Recorded live at Amsterdam Music Theatre 2012
“The tone is light, with one or two serious numbers. David Alden’s jokey, modern-dress production is entertaining…the mood such as in Nerea’s ‘Die lusinghe’, is akin to that of David McVicar’s Giulio Cesare for Glyndebourne”.
Richard Lawrence, Gramophone, February 2013
Un Ballo in Maschera / Metropolitan Opera
cond. Fabio Luisi
“David Alden’s ambitious new production of Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera at the Metropolitan Opera is illogical, yet it works. The telling point is not so much the high concept imposed on the opera; but what counts is the tension generated by the concept and an insistent dramatic force that builds to a major powerful finish. Alden avoids the major pitfall of any Ballo production – the risk of anti-climax in the final ball scene after a whole evening of masquerades, unmaskings and reversals.”
David J. Baker, Opera News, February 2013
“This splendid and focused production of Ballo in Maschera is new. Its director, the American-born David Alden, is making a somewhat belated Met debut. Alden, who works mainly in Europe, has had a long association with this opera, first directing it a quarter of a century ago for the English National Opera.”
Michael Shmith, Hawkesbury Gazette, January 2013
Rossini Maometto II / Santa Fe Opera / cond. Frédéric Chaslin
“David Alden’s productions can be quite radical, and this one was not without idiosyncrasies. But Alden made something of the East-West cultural clash: the men of Negroponte wore black top hats, and its soldiers had guns equipped with bayonets, as if they were fighting the Crimean War; the Turks were ominously dressed in black, looking at once primitive and modern. Most important, Alden allowed the human drama to unfold forcefully”.
George Loomis, Opera, November 2012
“At 11:20 one evening last week, the audience was in its seats, riveted by David Alden's production of "Maometto II," an opera that would be easy to caricature as melodrama. But Alden, and every singer onstage, took the work seriously, without a trace of modern irony. And two things were clear: What an astonishing amount of culture, history and sheer human endeavor are embodied in a piece such as this; and how rare it is that most people will see the best justification of art, which is art done exceptionally well, without condescension or embarrassment.”Washington Post
, August 2012
“A rarely performed Rossini tragedy gets a gripping production in a stimulating Santa Fe season.David Alden’s production ... makes something of the east-west cultural clash and above all allows the human drama to unfold forcefully.”
George Loomis, Financial Times, August 2012
“This world premiere of the new critical edition of Rossini's inspired, if seldom-heard serious opera is a triumph... Director David Alden ... was at his most tasteful and restrained with this new production. His movement scheme, supported by Jon Morrell's handsome sets and costumes – a postmodern mix of Saracen swords and Civil War bayonets within a Classical Grecian enclosure – kept what could have been a ponderous three-hour show moving along nicely.”
John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune, August 2012
“The Santa Fe Opera's premiere production of Rossini's Maometto II is beautiful artistry from beginning to end... Bravo to David Alden for his inspired direction. There was a natural ongoing movement on stage by the cast and especially the body of choirs, the male and female Venetians and Turks. Never obtrusive and often detailed down to small hand movements, the action further enhanced the drama on stage and kept it moving forward... This is a beautiful production with lovely music, a virtuoso cast and stunning stage scenes that makes it a magnificent three-hour feast for the eyes and ears.”
Mary Helen Klare, El Paso Times, August 2012
“Sensational singing, stormy weather and artistic courage make for a memorable Rossini revival in Santa Fe.Thursday night’s performance of Rossini’s Maometto II
is unlikely to be surpassed for a long time to come… a top-flight performance of Rossini’s long-neglected curio… With a first-class cast, sensational singing and an elegant, imaginative production, Santa Fe Opera delivered a resounding performance that makes one wonder why this musically rich work has not been exhumed by more companies… David Alden’s production offered a striking series of tableaux… One can’t give Santa Fe Opera too much credit for resuscitating this important opera and giving it such fizzing new life. Maometto II
Lawrence A. Johnson, Classical Review,
“If you’ve ever wondered about the word “grand” in grand opera, look no further than the compelling production of Rossini’s tragic opera, Maometto II, now on view at the Santa Fe Opera. Every element of this show shouts grandeur—the singing, the staging, the unadulterated forza of the thing... Rossini’s late, great, notoriously difficult Maometto II is one of the SFO’s finest achievements to date... Stage direction that informs every nuance of this operatic masterpiece, till now dismissed as a historic curiosity... Stage director David Alden, assisted by Jon Morrell’s set and costume designs and Duane Schuler’s livid lightning, offers thought-provoking imagery throughout. The action, reliant on broad melodramatic gesture, rarely flags in this lengthy opera. Maometto glitters with dark malice while his acrobatic minions, ninja warriors brandishing quarterstaves, leap about with frightening energy... The audience responded with a full-throated, passionate ovation, the likes of which I’ve seldom witnessed in Santa Fe.”
John Stege, Santa Fe Reporter, July 2012
“The storm outside scarcely detracted from the impact of Rossini’s neglected masterwork… Maometto is the highlight of a strong season… vibrant production.”
Associated Press for Long Island Press, August 2012
Billy Budd / English National Opera
cond. Edward Gardner
“Alden universalises this indictment of brutality and oppression, effectively suggesting that the historical setting doesn’t matter. This story is timelessly relevant, and he tells it stomach-churningly... The Vere-Claggart relationship is fascinatingly explored in Alden’s staging... Billy Budd is Britten’s most harrowing opera, and the black despair evoked by Alden harrows as rarely before.”
Hugh Canning, Sunday Times, June 2012
“... grimly atmospheric staging... Mr. Alden is going for psychological, not scenic, realism, and once I made the adjustment, I was swept up. The battle scene in which the Indomitable finally encounters a French warship was terrifying. The men of the company’s chorus faced the audience and sang with chilling intensity.”
Anthony Tommasini, New York Times, June 2012
“This Budd delivers a deliberate, carefully told narrative, enacted within the rusty, tarred hull of any gunship from any era or regime in the past century.”
Fiona Maddocks, Observer, June 2012
“... a thoroughly enjoyable sail... David Alden’s eagerly awaited production ... again showcases the company’s special strengths... Alden’s staging is strong and sober. His dark, concentrated staging almost seems to happen in slow motion, the starkness varying only as pieces of scenery slide ... And where many productions of this homoerotic Othello relish the opportunity for well-oiled torsos, Alden’s remains firmly buttoned up.”
John Allison, Daily Telegraph, June 2012
“A haunting and striking new production of Britten’s masterpiece can be admired at ENO...”
Gina Thomas, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, July 2012
“All were wholly committed to the production, one of the best things that David Alden has done for ENO, which is really saying something... Alden’s direction was admirably uncluttered... The chorus was there when it needed to be, right downstage for the first-act shanty and the battle stations, but often the stage was almost empty and this, as suggested above, concentrated the mind on the music and the interior action.”
Rodney Milnes, Opera, August 2012
“This production conveyed the right mood, especially in the more meditative passages in the second act... thoroughly enjoyable experience.”
William Hartston, Express, June 2012
“Powerful... The result, over which Alden lightly dusts a coating of expressionist gestures, opens the work up, allowing its metaphysical resonances to shine through... It’s a great evening and an unmissable realisation of a masterpiece.”
George Hall, The Stage, June 2012
“David Alden increases the cruelty and suppression – almost unbearably... Billy Budd is a magnificent opera and the ENO does justice to it.”
Agnes Kory, Musical Criticism, June 2012
“Although he didn’t paint seascapes, show wooden decks and captains in three-cornered hats, Alden’s production explored and delved into the subtexts of Billy Budd much more thoroughly than previous versions. His Budd is an ocean of passions and hopes.”
Agustín Blanco Bazán, Mundoclasico, July 2012
“... here [David Alden and Edward Gardner] repeat the magic [of 2009’s Peter Grimes].”
Sam Smith, Londonist, June 2012
Handel Alcina / Opéra National de Bordeaux
cond. Harry Bicket
“Noone has captured the ambivalence, that is to say the pernicious sensuality and cruel irony, of Handel’s dramas better than David Alden. In Bordeaux, he thrusts Alcina into the meanders of an eminently personal universe, somewhere between disaffected theatre and macabre laboratory.
… As his direction keeps the actors constantly on the edge, David Alden goes much further than simply making his characters despair, as is all too often the case. Instead, he lures them to the edge of madness.
… Alden has captured the fantastical and other-worldly element of this final part of Handel’s Ariosto trilogy, and also its deep distress, better than any other. This was Handel’s farewell to the world of magic in opera.
… Alden doesn’t abandon a single character, and not one aria – and they are all performed – finds him short of ideas”.
Altamusica.com, May 2012
Handel Deidamia / De Nederlandse Opera
cond. Ivor Bolton
“David Alden’s highly imaginative, thoughtful and – to use his word- ‘sensual’ production at the Netherlands Opera ought to be good enough to encourage other houses to reinstante Deidamia in the operatic canon. The key to this opera is the interplay between distinctly individual characters. Handel used different tempi and specific sonorities – such as accompanying a dejected Lycomedes with portative organ – to paint a picture of the nature of each personality: David Alden directed and dressed each character to match his or her music, throwing into sharp relief the differences between Deidamia and Nerea, between Phoenix and Odysseus.“
Miranda Jackson, Opera Britannia, March 2012
“[David Alden directed it] with unexpected charm and humour... Alden’s staging looked sumptuously beautiful... his direction of his singers/actors was an asset...”
Hugh Canning, Opera, July 2012
Donizetti Lucia di Lammermoor / Kennedy Center Opera House
Washington Opera Orchestra and Chorus / cond. Philippe Auguin / dir. David Alden
“The moment the curtain rises on the Washington National Opera's Lucia di Lammermoor it's clear that Director David Alden's concept is unconventional and risky. But the risks pay off and the opera is ultimately a success.
…since the opera is about idealized, romantic love destroyed, Alden's highly theatrical choices in terms of movement and gesture seem completely appropriate.”
Barbara Mackay, Washington Examiner, November 2011
“The Washington National Opera’s new production of Gaetano Donizetti’s beloved Lucia di Lammermoor is both brilliant and maddening. It’s distinguished by its phenomenal soloists and a psychologically provocative, updated setting.
…director David Alden and associate director Ian Rutherford have employed monochromatic costuming and a gloomy lighting scheme to transform this interior into nothing less than an insane asylum—the perfect setting for Lucia’s pathologically dysfunctional family and retinue.”
Terry Ponick, Washington Times, November 2011
Chabrier L'étoile / Oper Frankfurt
cond. Henrik Namasi
“Someone at Frankfurt Opera must have thought: if we’re going to stage an operetta, then let’s make sure we do it with a Director who can communicate the light-heartedness of the genre. Someone like David Alden, who has taken on Emmanuel Chabrier’s L’Etoile, and has staged this outrageous fairytale with great wit and imagination, hitting the punch line head on.
(...) Alden took the drama to the extremes, with permanent ironic distance and pricelessly (and deliberately) disastrous dance scenes. The kissing duel between the enamoured – and not so enamoured - pairs was marvellous: he demonstrated how copulation could be refreshingly funny and free from any kind of awkwardness. (...) It was astonishing to see just how much Alden had coaxed from the singers dramatically.
(...) By the happy ending, the King and the astrologer were both still alive, but his subjects, slurping lemonade from the can, remained unmoved and unchanged by the events. And the audience had experienced a masterclass in how operetta should work: by leaving nothing to chance, just like star Director David Alden.”
Offenbach Post, October 2011
“Director David Alden’s approach was far from the haphazard deployment of random slapstick. Instead, he proved himself in the most surprising ways as a theatrical stylist; his methods were to a certain extent analogous to the artificial limitations which Chabrier imposed on himself, avoiding any Wagnerisms and instead presenting a perfect example of the genre ‘Operetta’.”
Frankfurter Rundschau, October 2011
“In his production, David Alden combined the opulent scenes so characteristic of his work with typical operetta motifs: for example, to give a local flavour to the scene, the astrologer Siroco searched for aeroplanes on his surveillance screens; and Alden kitted the infantile ruler King Ouf 1st out with a scooter and a cigarette-holder. The characters remained stereotypes, and the transformation of imposing bass-baritone Simon Bailey into an operetta factotum was particularly priceless: he portrayed the astrologer Siroco with a long beard and a magnificent paunch, and garnered huge sympathy from the audience. (...) David Alden has created a visually tasteful, witty and original production of the operetta.”
Frankfurter Neue Presse, October 2011
“How do you go about making a dark comedy of a French opera written in 1877 popular today? By setting it in the present day? (...) Such updated productions of older works are frequently seen, but they usually only work on the surface, and in opera they usually don’t work at all, because the music speaks a different language which doesn’t fit with the freshly dreamt up action. And so Frankfurt Opera were wise not to engage a romantic idealist as Director for Emmanuel Chabrier’s L’Etoile, instead booking experienced theatrical Director David Alden, who knows where to draw the line in a production, and especially in a musical production.
David Alden didn’t shy away from directing both his singing and speaking actors in a kind of ‘theatre unleashed’. He was not afraid to use slapstick and cheerfully loud tussling (for example, the terrified king hurriedly trying to produce offspring with his intended). And yet David Alden always skilfully checked such scenes before they threatened to get out of hand.”
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, October 2011
“Even if the vocal performances hadn’t been as fantastic as they were, David Alden’s outrageously funny and skilfully eccentric production alone would have made the evening worthwhile. (...) By the end, all the threads of fate have been unravelled, umpteen bottles of wine have been drunk, and everyone gets to live. And the audience at the premiere couldn’t have been more delighted.”
Die Welt, October 2011
“American Director David Alden and Designer Gideon Davey gave us two hours of pure entertainment at the Premiere of Emmanuel Chabrier’s L’Etoile.”
Wiesbadener Kurier, October 2011
“The Director was David Alden, currently proving his infallible sense of situation comedy at Frankfurt Opera. With mischievous delight, he launched one attack after another of perfect comic timing, with side-splitting results. One of the best scenes was the famous kissing quartet. Beginning as a cosy intimate moment between the poor devil Lazuli and the beautiful princess Laoula, it gradually developed into a lovely mass orgy on the royal couch. (...) Whether darkly threatening or brightly gleaming, this star was an adornment to the heaven that is the Frankfurt Opera.”
Gieβener Allgemeine Zeitung, October 2011
“The premiere of L’Etoile proved that opera can be both popular and cultural. David Alden’s production was entertainment at its very best. (...) The threads of confusion and entanglement ran richly throughout the piece, and the situations that arose offered everything you could wish for in a comedy, which the team of Alden, Davey and Vollack brought to life with a vengeance.”
Hanauer Anzeiger, October 2011
Donizetti Lucia di Lamermoor
Gothenburg Opera / cond. Giancarlo Andretta
"Alden visar absolut säker känsla för musikens sceniskt upphöjda känslouttryck, och han försöker heller inte utforma den arma Lucia och hennes ondsinte bror Enrico psykologiskt."
"(Alden shows an absolutely sure sense of the theatrical, elevated emotional expression of the music and he tries not to define poor Lucia and her brother Enrico psychologically.)"
Lennart Bromander, Aftonbladet, April 2011
English National Opera / cond. Laurence Cummings
“A vivid series of stage pictures with Alden's imprint on every one…the measure of Alden’s production is how he makes such a slight drama gripping from beginning to end…the piece is ENO at its best again, perhaps because for once it’s using a director who really understands how opera works.”
Andrew Clements, Guardian, October 2010
“The Radamisto that is ENO's second "new" production of the season…shows Alden's approach to Handel to be as sure-footed as ever…the ritualised physicality of the production is pure Alden with his trademark Fritz Langian shadows and slow-mo stylisations. It’s like an Alden remake in glorious technicolour…positively exotic.”
Edward Seckerson, Independent, October 2010
“As an opera director with one of the keenest eyes for the theatricality of his productions, David Alden always tries… to bring something original to his interpretation of the drama.”
William Hartston, Daily Express, October 2010
“David Alden, who has directed such English National Opera hits as Jenůfa and Peter Grimes, takes the opera's generally slow pace as a meter, and works from this to offer a staging that feels remarkably dynamic.”
Samuel Smith, Londonist, October 2010
"Director David Alden keeps everything fixed on the moment, with the drama unfolding through the characters."
Stephen Pollard, The JC, October 2010
Janácek Katya Kabanova
English National Opera / cond. Mark Wigglesworth
“David Alden’s new English National Opera staging is so electrifying, so thrillingly paced as drama and music.”
Richard Morrison, Times, March 2010
“David Alden’s staging for English National Opera confronts the challenge in characteristically subversive style.”
Andrew Clark, Financial Times, March 2010
“Theatrically, vocally and orchestrally, Alden's Katya is arresting, impressively executed”
Anna Picard, Independent, March 2010
“David Alden's stark new production for English National Opera, designed by Charles Edwards to convey, with minimal visual gesture, small-town desolation, serves the work powerfully….this is the style he has made his own, and in which he still excels.”
Fiona Maddocks, Guardian, March 2010
“David Alden (follows) up his searing Jenufa of 2006 with an equally shattering Katya Kabanova.”
Barry Millington, Evening Standard, March 2010
“David Alden's splendid new production for the English National Opera”
Wall Street Journal, March 2010
Donizetti Lucia di Lammermoor
English National Opera / cond. Antony Walker
“This was the first revival of David Alden’s ultra-dark production of Donizetti’s Scottish tragedy, and it now looks set to be around for a long time – it has ENO classic written all over it.”
Peter Reed, Opera Magazine, April 2010
“It's a magnificent conception, which Alden stages with total command, and it comes up blazingly fresh in this unmissable revival.
Rupert Christiansen, Daily Telegraph, February 2010
“This revival of David Alden's 2008 production still looks stunning.”
David Nice, The Arts Desk, February 2010
“For sheer Gothic drama, David Alden's take on Donizetti's darkest opera is unbeatable.”
Clare Colvin, Daily Express, February 2010
Mayr Medea in Corinto
Theater St Gallen / cond. David Stern
“Alden dealt compellingly with this far from straightforward version of Euripides’s story.
Gripping new staging by David Alden.”
John Allison, Opera Magazine, April 2010
“St Gallen Theatre, together with publisher Ricordi, have reconstructed Mayr’s original 1813 version of ‘Medea’ for performance. This ‘excavation’ was well worth it, as our opera critic discovered on Saturday evening at St Gallen Theatre: American Director David Alden took the bloody tragedy of two couples and an uprooted family seriously, and yet was also open to the lyrical and cheerful side of the piece. Chief Conductor David Stern made beautiful, historically authentic music. The end of the piece was greeted with passionate bravo’s and applause worthy of a state opera for the soloists, orchestra and director.”
Bettina Kugler, St. Galler Tagblatt, October 2009
“In June, directorial veteran Hans Neuenfels will bring Mayr’s version of the Medea legend to the stage of the National Theatre in Munich. But the piece is already being performed in St Gallen, where Peter Heilker has been Director of Opera for two years. This ex-Dramaturg of the Bayerische Staatsoper has brought an old friend over to direct: David Alden, who was Sir Peter Jonas’ favourite director.
David Alden told the story clearly and precisely. He exposed the irony of Napoleonic pomp and contrasted it with the destroyed prefabricated buildings of Medea’s Caucasian home. Alden made the fate of the migrants so much more real to the audience, and they rewarded him with greatly appreciative applause.”
Abendzeitung, October 2009
"Above all, Alden brings irony to the stage which gives this somewhat upbeat Italian melodious music its own new meaning".
Jesko Schulze-Reimpell, Donaukurier, October 2009
"The opening-night audience on Saturday evening was thrilled with this work, colorfully staged by David Alden and didn't want to let the singers and direction team leave the stage (at the end of the applause)".
Christa Dietrich, Vorarlberger Nachrichten, October 2009
Janáček The Cunning Little Vixen
Grange Park Opera / cond. Andre de Riddler
“David Alden’s mesmerising new production makes you wonder why Vixen is not performed more often. He transforms it into the Forester’s dream – the Forester being the character who, like Janácek in real life, is inspired by the Vixen into remembering his youth and what it was like to be in love. Alden and his designer Gideon Davey have found a hilariously realistic way of representing Janácek’s animal farm – the cock and hens are a riot – but Ben Wright’s choreography reminds us nevertheless that the music has nothing to do with reality and everything to do with fantasy.
Together with ENO’s recent Peter Grimes, this Vixen demonstrates a noticeable maturing of Alden’s work: he is learning to trust his composers. The quality of acting he draws is as graphic as ever, but he now understands how much of the story takes place in the orchestra.
Vixen must rank alongside last year’s Rusalka as among Grange Park’s finest achievements.”
Andrew Clark, Financial Times, five stars, June 2009
Britten Peter Grimes
English National Opera / cond. Edward Gardner
“Now comes an interpretation from the American director, David Alden, that is intensely theatrical, deeply musical and, at the same time, completely at odds with the work’s performance tradition.
As we might expect from Alden, who has a history of provocative work at ENO, his Grimes is not a literal portrait of Suffolk community life: Paul Steinberg’s sets offer no fishing paraphernalia and the sea is implied rather than seen. Nor is it a timeless vision of man, mob and universe: Brigitte Reiffenstuel’s costumes are very 1940s, and the pub scene features a typically English fancy dress competition. No, the Grimes we see here is a nightmare – and, like all nightmares, the participants are instantly recognisable while behaving in a way that is frightening and threatening.
…no one can fault the technical finesse with which he translates his idea to the stage or the expressionistic verve with which it comes to life. His protagonist is the chorus, choreographed alternately as a shoal of fish, feverishly swirling and huddling, and as an impenetrable wall against which the principals are defined.”
Andrew Clark, Financial Times, five stars, May 2009
“Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears returned to England from the US in 1942 with plans for Peter Grimes, to be based on George Crabbe's poem The Borough, already fermenting. They knew it would not be an easy homecoming, and it's the hypocritical world of provincial Britain during the second world war that is so disturbingly evoked in David Alden's outstanding new production of Grimes for English National Opera.
Alden's view is pitiless, unsparing, and presented with immaculate stagecraft….a very special ENO show indeed.”
Andrew Clements, Guardian, five stars, May 2009
“Alden and Steinberg view Grimes through the poetry of Montagu Slater’s libretto. Their vision is dark and distorted and played out in brutal shadows and unforgiving white light. The Borough comprises a gallery of distinct individuals but Alden sees them all through expressionist eyes: Rebecca de Pont Davies’ publican “Auntie” is something out of Britten’s “queer” milieu – a pin-striped male impersonator with a silver-topped cane. Her simpering and suitably androgynous “nieces” (Gillian Ramm and Mairead Buicke) look ripe for “grooming”. Ned Keene (Leigh Melrose) is what they used to call a “fancy man” – a randy pimp and purveyor of laudanum to the demented Miss Marple-like Mrs. Sedley - the marvellous Felicity Palmer one step away from Bedlam. Even Gerald Finley’s Captain Balstrode has one arm – bitten off by a shark, perhaps, or one of the locals.
But the really scary thing about Alden’s production is the way in which these assorted grotesques morph into a single entity – a brutal, unstoppable, force moved about the stage like a shoal of carnivorous fish. The climactic manhunt is the alcohol-fuelled by-product of a party in which Alden lays on a hellish vision of degenerating middle-England. The Union Jacks come out, and so does the hatred of a united national front.”
Edward Seckerson, Independent, five stars, May 2009
“David Alden’s new production creates a creepy world in which Grimes and Ellen are the only sane ones surrounded by freaks People once paid to watch freaks in circuses. But in David Alden’s compellingly creepy new Peter Grimes for English National Opera, the freaks spill out from every corner of Benjamin Britten’s masterpiece.
But the real strength of Alden’s production is that it shows Grimes gradually being destroyed by the pressure of being the only man with proper human feelings in this gallery of freaks. He starts behaving exactly as his persecutors accuse him of doing. Nothing demonstrates that more effectively than Alden’s chilling staging of the apprentice’s death — as the indirect result of the villagers’ manhunt.”
Richard Morrison, Times, May 2009
"This was one of many breathtaking moments in English National Opera's exceptional new Peter Grimes, conducted by the company's music director, Edward Gardner, in David Alden's staging which opened at the Coliseum last week....Alden's passionate, and musical, understanding of the work is beyond question....Unmissable"
Fiona Maddocks, Observer, May 2009
“David Alden’s technically immaculate, interpretatively audacious new staging of Britten’s Peter Grimes for English National Opera is a triumphant vindication of the ensemble-theatre values that garnered ENO’s parent company, Sadler’s Wells Opera, the world premiere of this astonishing masterpiece in 1945....it’s good, too, to see a director back at the London Coliseum whose belief in opera as an art form has a galvanising effect on soloists and chorus on stage, underpinned by superlative conducting and playing from ENO’s youthful music director, Edward Gardner, and his orchestra in the pit.
Alden...demonstrates his range with an austere, harrowing, sometimes breathtakingly beautiful yet equally subversive account of this British classic, quite unlike any I have seen before.
This Grimes, without doubt, is the must-see operatic event of the entire 2008/9 London season.”
Hugh Canning, Sunday Times, May 2009
“And few stagings have portrayed the opera's anguish or anger more searingly than David Alden's nerve-tearing new production for English National Opera.”
David Gillard, Daily Mail, May 2009
Cavalli La Calisto
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden / cond. Ivor Bolton
“David Alden’s production is of a piece, intelligent and sparky.”
Fiona Maddocks, Evening Standard, September 2008
"Alden cleverly manages to be both saucy and serious. He has a ball with the sex-comedy shenanigans, as randy gods have their wicked way with trusting mortals. But particularly at the heartbreaking conclusion — as the duped and dumped nymph Calisto is given a glimpse of heaven, only to be turned into a bear — he brings out the legend’s pathos. Indeed, he boldly restores the serious bits of Ovid, notably Calisto’s pregnancy, that Cavalli cut."
Richard Morrison, Times, September 2008
“One day, the talented David Alden might actually originate a Royal Opera production. In the meantime, we share with Munich what Alden describes as a "riotous sex-comedy production of a riotous sex comedy.”
Edward Seckerson, Independent, September 2008
“…the Alden style suits Calisto. The sexual coarseness is sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, but it's surely what Cavalli and Faustini intended. Alden's staging is not filth, however. He respects the cosmic-philosophical dimension of the piece in the climactically beautiful metamorphosis of Calisto from bear to hall-of-fame princess, against a skyscape of Steinberg's spectacular backdrop of radiating concentric moons (the moon Callisto is one of Jupiter's satellites). A breathtaking finale.”
Hugh Canning, Sunday Times, September 2008
Santa Fe Opera / cond. Harry Bicket
"The Santa Fe Opera's first-ever production of George Frideric Handel's Radamisto is a promising present you have to work hard to get at. Saturday's opening night took quite a bit of conceptual unwrapping, but it was well worth it. In fact, Radamisto may just be the sleeper hit of the season....This genre of opera is long on situation ethics and dignity and low on humor, but Alden's direction got quite a few snickers from the audience, as well as stunned silences. At moments, his work painted undeniably dignified and believable human interactions."
Santa Fe New Mexican, July 2008
Rossini Il Turco in Italia
Berliner Staatsoper / cond. Constantinos Carydis
“….Rossini’s opera Il Turco in Italia, staged by David Alden demonstrated liberal conviction and used the vulnerability of the Paulick Saal to produce an entertaining dialog”.
Jan Brachmann, Frankfurter Allgemeine, June 2008
“Rossini’s Turco in Italia is pure summer theater. David Alden’s production and its comedic interpretation provided a stress-free lovely evening."
Gerald Felber, Märkische Allgemeine, June 2008
“David Alden’s production of Turco in Italia is fast paced, fresh and witty…..colorful, bizarre characters, gags, and a shot of glamour and the exotic: this American’s trademark."
Kirsten Liese, Gießener Allgemeine, June 2008
Donizetti Lucia di Lammermoor
English National Opera / cond. Paul Daniel
“David Alden's harrowing Lucia di Lammermoor (ENO), complete with glass harmonica and a Carrie-style mad scene, were outstanding.”
Anna Picard, Independent, December 2008
"ENO's most compelling production for a very long time."
Anna Picard, Independent on Sunday, February 2008
"an enthralling production…
David Alden's absorbing production, which updates the gruesome story to the era of the Brontë novels. The Ashton family fortunes have failed, leaving them in a dilapidated manse where Calvinist religion and sexual repression go hand in hand.
...a highly intelligent and sensitive interpretation."
Rupert Christensen, Daily Telegraph, February 2008
"This Lucia is not so much a wronged woman as a vulnerable girl. She's tossed, trussed and sacrificed like a pawn in a macho stand-off between two men - brother and lover - obsessed with avenging ancient wrongs inflicted on ancestors whose portraits they constantly revere. That's the crux of David Alden's absorbing, Expressionist production… Alden treats the chorus brilliantly. A macabre bunch in top hats, they leer voyeuristically through windows then rifle through family documents and finally form a silently applauding audience as bloodstained Lucia goes into full unhinged mode…"
Richard Morrisson, Times, five stars, February 2008
"…the spotlight falls on the director and conductor - David Alden and Paul Daniel, working together here for the first time - and the result is enthralling…Many aspects of Walter Scott's story - the hardship of the Ashton family, the low position of women in society, the psychological pressure brought to bear on poor Lucia - deliver a punch to the solar plexus as rarely before."
Richard Fairman, Financial Times, February 2008
"All credit, then, to director David Alden…for sweeping the stereotypes and accretions aside from this dark, revisionist new production of the work for ENO…"
Barry Millington, Evening Standard, February 2008
"David Alden's characteristically intense staging….Very Alden. And very compelling.
…a chilling Alden coup…"
Edward Seckerson, Independent, February 2008
Rossini La Donna del Lago
Garsington Opera / cond. David Parry
"It's a huge coup for Garsington Opera to tempt a director of David Alden's international standing to work there, and the result is one of the finest productions the summer season in the Oxfordshire countryside has ever presented… Alden's enthusiasm for the piece and his skill in bringing it to life make the best possible case for [ La Donna del Lago's] return to the repertory… this beautifully detailed staging delineates the emotional truths of the drama perfectly"
Andrew Clements, Guardian, June 2007
Washington National Opera / cond. Jiri Belohlavek
"The production, which was first performed at the English National Opera last fall and then brought to Houston before coming here, is already famous. And rightly so: I cannot imagine a more affecting and appropriate "Jenufa." The updating to the present day seems utterly natural, without any directorial affectation, and such time-tested theatrical gestures as the throwing of a chair or the smashing of a window here take on the painful immediacy of body blows. This is great music drama. Whether you end up "liking" it or not, you will never forget it."
Tim Page, Washington Post, May 2007
English National Opera / cond. Mikhail Agrest
"There are some nights at the opera when director and designer, cast and conductor, composer and masterpiece coalesce into something so powerful, so affecting, so right as to transcend memories of the most vivid previous productions. Such is the thrilling case with David Alden's new staging of Janacek's first great opera, Jenufa , a welcome new jewel in English National Opera's somewhat tarnished crown."
Anthony Holden, Observer , October 2006
"Alden's staging is still highly effective, and it's not just due to the robustness of Janacek's gripping score. Alden establishes the opera's complicated web of relationships…with impressive efficiency."
Warwick Thompson, October 2006
"David Alden has created a production which breathes warmth and humanity into Janacek's bleak tale…Touches of humour broadened the emotional palette. All was beautifully judged on stage."
Fiona Maddocks, Evening Standard, October 2006
"Alden…directs his cast, generating a truthfulness of gesture and a tension of relationship."
Andrew Clark, Financial Times, October 2006
"David Alden's profound new staging of Janácek's first great opera."
Richard Morrison, Times, October 2006
English National Opera / cond. Christopher Moulds
"That Alden takes this work so very seriously was evident from the fact that, for the fourth time, he returned to revive this seminal ENO show. I believe that Ariodante is Handel's greatest opera, and this is the only production I have seen which treats its dramaturgy and characters as worthy of a theatre director's attention. And what expressive acting performances Alden has enticed from succeeding casts!"
Hugh Canning, Opera, August 2006
"David Alden's production is a work of genius, full of clever references to the style of staging found in Handel's times."
Dominic McHugh, MusicOMH, June 2006
"As for Alden's production, it continues to dazzle (a stage-within-a-stage to differentiate operatic convention from raw reality) and startle (the cast spitting half-masticated apples on the heroine). But dull it never is."
Richard Morrison, Times , June 2006
"David Alden's wonderfully inventive, intelligent production manages to turn this formulaic tragedy of errors into a moving tribute to the redemptive staying power of love. Now revived for the third time, Alden's suave production ranks alongside Jonathan Miller's Covent Garden Cosi fan tutte as one of my most rewarding nights at the opera during my four years in this job."
Anthony Holden, Observer, June 2006
"David Alden's Ariodante was hailed for its searing intensity."
Richard Fairman, Financial Times, June 2006
"David Alden's lively yet elegant staging"
Rupert Christiansen, Daily Telegraph, June 2006
San Francisco Opera / cond. Roy Goodman
“Even more surprising was the staging itself. Designed by Paul Steinberg and directed by David Alden, the production, co-owned by San Francisco Opera and Bavarian State Opera, gave Handel’s drama of love, betrayal and political intrigue a film noir setting straight out of the 1940s. This accomplished two things: it replaced the usual castle-and-brocades look of the opera to a stark, dangerous and familiar landscape. It also gave the audience a way in to the complex plot, making the characters seem like people we’d seen before rather than figures from a distant past. (…) The effect is aptly unsettling. Noone could deny that Alden’s staging made a forceful impact.”
Georgia Rowe, Contra Costa Times , September 2005
Cavalli La Calisto
Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich / cond. Ivor Bolton
“How does one go about awakening a 355-year-old sleeping masterpiece? One engages a director such as David Alden, who revitalises, sweeping cobwebs away with assurance. Alden has inspired his characters to superb interaction, infusing the story of Diana’s guiltless follower Calisto with great feeling for the character’s tragedy. In serious episodes, his portrayal of sexual desire is subtle, sensuous.”
Jeffrey Leipsic, Opera News , August 2005
Monteverdi L’incoronazione di Poppea
Opéra National de Paris / cond. Ivor Bolton
(co-production with Bayerische Staatsoper & Welsh National Opera)
“Alden’s production is fantastically musical, where every gesture is in sympathy with Monteverdi’s dramatic rhythm. He has transformed his opera singers into great actors, capable of playing comedy or tragedy; burlesque or violence; both physical and sensual. Alden has created Shakespearian characters, not hesitating to emphasise Monteverdi’s mixing of genres that made his work so daring. But Alden is also sensitive to the balance between the grotesque and the serious; between self-indulgence and realism.”
Christian Merlin, Le Figaro , January 2005
“It is with relief that I turn to Alden’s Poppea , which at least is clearly the work of a director with both ideas and the ability to convey them to singer-actors. Alden is one of the few producers to have read the text carefully enough to realize that Ottone’s would-be beloved is not the sweet and innocent creature usually portrayed. She is an accomplice before the fact in the attempt on Poppea’s life, redeemed only by her willingness to take responsibility for the crime. Alden’s direction of the scenes between Antonacci’s Poppea and David Daniel’s Nerone had an electrifying erotic charge.”
Hugh Canning, Opera , May 2005
“David Alden’s staging is amusing, alive, insolent; both modern and baroque in spirit.”
Miha ï de Brancovan, Revue des deux mondes , March 2005
“The situations are treated allegorically, as was Monteverdi’s original intention, but with a smoothly perfect modern reading: abstract set, evening dress, rich lighting and absolute precision in the acting.”
Scènes Magazine, March 2005
“David Alden’s staging is a surprising patchwork of influences and references. The piece escapes from Antiquity to become a post-modern adventure that has lost its bearings in a foreign world, under the influence of passion. Irony and individualism have taken over, each in its own way.”
Bertrand Dermoncourt, L’Express, February 2005
“American director David Alden’s production of L’incoronazione di Poppea at the Opéra Garnier could hardly be accused of being either traditional or innocent. The vision of depraved antiquity that he conjured up with his frequent collaborators Paul Steinberg (sets) and Buki Shiff (costumes) drew vociferous cheers from audience and critics.”
Rebecca Brite, Opera Japonica, February 2005
“A bold and imaginative staging married to a coherent artistic project. The American Director has employed authentic Baroquerie, using modern means for symbolic purposes. He also knows how to emphasise the key moments by evacuating the stage of kitsch accessories and minimalist sets, allowing the singing alone to shine.”
Pierre Gervasoni, Le Monde, January 2005
Wagner Ring Cycle
Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich
"Matti Salminen is an outspoken admirer of David Alden’s Munich Ring , which he has described as the most intellectually stimulating since Chéreau.”
John Allison, Opera, March 2005
Berg Lulu / Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich
cond. Michael Boder
“Visually and aurally, the audience is spellbound from the beginning to the end of the piece, which is a very rare experience in opera.”
Opernnetz, May 2004
“Alden recreates the characters and their entanglements with sensitive precision; he digs into Wedekind’s protagonists and sees how Berg gave them flesh with his music. He finds meaningful expressions for desire, devotion, independence, exploitation and tyranny in a contemporary setting, and never mocks Berg’s sorrow and violence. The audience experiences the opera itself, and not a self-important director’s commentary. Most unusual.“
Klaus Adam, Schwäbische Zeitung & Salzburger Nachrichten, April 2004
“This is the first time that Alden has staged a modern opera in Munich, and his Lulu has proved a great success. Alden achieves not only a precise psychoanalysis, but exciting music theatre as well: drama with elements of the pop video, social satire and horror films. This Lulu is a hyper- realistic nightmare. There is a certain over-exagerrated comic book humour, but the laughter quickly freezes on your lips as the mood turns.”
Jürgen Kanold, Südwest Presse, April 2004
“Alden finds the right balance between caricature, irony, slapstick and a dash of romantic melancholy.”
Thomas Heinold, Nürnberger Zeitung, April 2004
Houston Grand Opera / cond. Dennis Russell Davies
(co-production with English National Opera & Washington Opera)
“David Alden’s stage direction was cogent and well-focussed, attentive to subtleties of movement and posture as signals of social class or self-image.”
Mike Greenberg, Express News, January 2004
“Director David Alden leads the HGO ensemble through this weird Czech affair with a careful hand, maintaining a delicate balance of mortal horror and lyric splendour.”
Chris Brunt, The Daily Cougar, January 2004
Graz Opera, cond. Philippe Jordan
“David Alden deserved the many shouts of ‘bravo’: he had staged Parsifal as an exciting story, rather than the usual edifying sleep inducer.”
Ulrich Weinzierl, Die Welt, October 2003
Wagner Tristan and Isolde
English National Opera / cond. Dietfried Bernet
“David Alden’s revival of his 1996 staging remains without doubt a fine achievement. Overall, it is an enlightening take on this operatic Olympus, refreshingly unmorbid.”
John Allison, Times, May 2003
“The eye becomes oblivious to the scenery because Alden’s careful treatment of movement and character relationships tends to take over as the principal focus. There is a smoothness to the action, a seamless, sensuous sinousness. The stage is used to give space and air to the drama in a way that enhances the opera’s more pensive passages and allows personality to evolve with time.”
Geoffrey Norris, Daily Telegraph, May 2003
Schreker Der Schatzgräber
Frankfurt Opera / cond. Jonas Alber
“No one is quite as good as the New York star director David Alden at finding new expressions for old myths. In an unfussy manner reminiscent of Jeff Koons, Alden dusted off the Baroque operas of Handel and Monteverdi in Munich, and now, using the same reservoir of images from Hollywood and Disneyland, he has brought Schrecker’s fairytale world of psychological fine detail and sentimental eroticism to life. Alden disarms the accusations that this modern music is pure kitsch from the outset, counter-attacking the taunt by using ironic over-exaggeration. This fantasy overload does not in any way detract from the story – it actually suits it rather well. Alden listens closely to the music and accepts the rocking calm of the peaceful moments, just as much as the choreographic impulses of the music in the crowd scenes.”
Jörg Königsdorf, Der Tagesspiegel, December 2002
“David Alden, a director currently in great demand all over the world, and with a tendancy towards gleeful gravedigging in the more traditional repertoire, freely mixes the realistic and the artificial, and exposes the cracks between the two as bright images unashamedly mid-stage. What can seem quirky in the hands of others seems here perfectly appropriate, where collage is the principle for large expanses of the music too. Fairytales and their own brand of logic (or lack of logic) seem to suit our own barely linear or logically understandable age, and they run in David Alden’s blood.“
Susanne Benda, Stuttgarter Nachrichten, December 2002
“Director David Alden has employed the reference-rich music as a self-service shop; changing Paul Steinberg’s colourful staging from American diner to a Las Vegas neon strip and again to a gigantic, maniac carnival, and reflecting the many underlying pathological and erotic layers of the fairytale with sensitivity and forcefulness.”
Claus Ambrosius, Mainzer Rhein-Zeitung, December 2002
“Is Schreker’s opera a fairytale; a plush story about kings, treasures and love? Or a deep-seated web of relationships and psychological character constellations? According to director David Alden, it is not a question of either/or. His current Frankfurt production has this very ambivalence at its core. Sunday’s premiere was a notable event. Alden allows the different layers of the original material to crash into each other; he plays with them, seizes them and forces them to confront one another. For the New York-born director, the piece is on the one hand an opera that functions on the purely fairy-tale level; telling of love and longing; treasures and kings and queens. He deliberately sets this against the knowing, cynical music as an ironic tension. A directorial trick that works perfectly in Alden’s hands, as he does not rely on the story alone. For Alden, Der Schatzgräber also contains signs of Sigmund Freud in the psychological reasoning behind the action. Fairy tale on the one hand and the underlying psychological compications on the other. Accordingly, in his reading, Alden sets up opposite poles to the scenes of plot development: moments of reflection in front of the curtain, out of carnival costume. Concentrated observation of the inner motives, free of action.”
Christian Rapp, Giessener Anzeiger, December 2002
Bayerische Staatsoper / cond. Zubin Mehta
(1994, DVD ISBN 3-86578-205-1)
“David Alden’s production of Tannhäuser is a strongly abstracted psychoanalysis with beguiling and perturbing images.”
B Kempen, Das Opernglas, October 2005
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