Born in Johannesburg, Alessandro Talevi studied music and history of art at the University of the Witwatersrand and piano accompaniment at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Turning to directing, he was winner of a prestigious European Opera Directing Prize for his concept of Rusalka in 2007. Supported by William and Judith Bollinger, Talevi was made Artistic Director of Independent Opera at Sadler’s Wells, for which he directed The Sofa/The Departure, Orlando, La scala di seta and Pelléas et Mélisande, his production of which was shortlisted for a Royal Philharmonic Society Award. He was recently made an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music.
Talevi’s recent work includes Amadigi di Gaula (Central City Opera), The Turn of the Screw (Opera North and Central City Opera), The Barber of Baghdad (Buxton Festival), La Cenerentola (Malmö Opera), Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno and Partenope (Opéra les Azuriales), L’assedio di Calais, The Marriage/La cambiale di matrimonio, L’occasione fa il ladro/La Colombe (all for the Guildhall School of Music and Drama) and La Fedeltà Premiata (Royal Academy of Music), Djamileh/Le Docteur Miracle (for the Royal College of Music), Katya Kabanova (Landestheater Coburg) and La Traviata (Cape Town Opera).
Productions in the 2012-13 season include Don Giovanni (Opera North), Der Barbier von Bagdad (Landestheater Coburg), The Turn of the Screw (Israeli Opera) and Anna Bolena and Roberto Devereux (both for Welsh National Opera).
Alessandro Talevi is represented by Intermusica.
September 2012 / 231 words. Not to be altered without permission. Please destroy all previous biographical material.
Cornelius Der Barbier von Bagdad / Landestheater CoburgBritten The Turn of the Screw / Central City Opera, Colorado
cond. Anna-Sophie Brüning
“For the young director Alessandro Talevi this is his second exploration of this rarely performed opera. While he has chosen a purely magical approach to the Buxton Festival production in Derbyshire, in Coburg he adds a framework for action to take place that makes the story even more believable.”
Thomas Molke, Online Musik Magazin, April 2013
cond. Steuart Bedford
“The director Alessandro Talevi was wisely unobtrusive, allowing the quiet tension to build through the music, and through David Martin Jacques’s moody lighting, in which shadowy ghosts slowly became flesh and blood”.
Marc Shulgold, Opera
, November 2012
Mozart Don Giovanni / Newcastle Theatre Royal
Opera North / cond. Steuart Bedford
“Alessandro Talevi’s production [...] is a worthy vehicle for the music. [...] It’s a feelgood production. Soundgood, too, thanks to the orchestra and that great singing. Thoroughly enjoyable”.
David Whetstone, The Journal, November 2012
Mozart Don Giovanni / The Lowry
Opera North / cond. Steuart Bedford
“[Alessandro Talevi’s] interpretation of Mozart's tale of the womanising Giovanni for Opera North is both sinister and surreal - magnifying the lust, greed and power that drives the story. [...]
Giovanni’s power over women is timeless, and Talevi has woven in some extra magic, allowing him to turn the peasants into pigs and open doors with the wave of his cane”.
Carmel Thomason, What’s On Stage, November 2012
Mozart Don Giovanni / Leeds Grand Theatre
Opera North / cond. Steuart Bedford
“Alessandro Talevi is an ambitious young director [... He] strikes gold – parading the vengeful ghosts of Don Giovanni’s conquests as the Commendatore’s minions is a brilliant coup de théâtre”
Rupert Christiansen, Daily Telegraph, October 2012
“Director Alessandro Talevi’s imagination, wit and audacity meant that Don Giovanni, which has just launched Opera North’s new season, was a huge success. The production was enthralling throughout, never dragging or disappointing, even in the second act. It works much better than others I have seen, because the emphasis is placed firmly on the comic rather than the pathetic. The balance is just right.”
Richard Wilcocks, Bach Track, October 2012
“Most directors make an impression by thinking big: Alessandro Talevi creates quite an impact through thinking small. Much of the significant action of his Opera North production is contained within a rectangular window, whose red flock curtains part to reveal a mini-Don brutalising his victims in a fashion at once violent, erratic and misogynistic.
The capricious nature of the action can be difficult to follow, but Talevi's zany staging is like being walloped into submission with a big stick. As Mr Punch would say: that's the way to do it”.
Alfred Hickling, Guardian, October 2012
“Not all productions of Mozart’s opera remember that both the composer and his librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte, thought of their piece as a comedy, and it is a virtue of Opera North’s new staging by Alessandro Talevi, supplied with varied and imaginative designs by Madeleine Boyd, that humour is never far away.
But Don Giovanni is a comedy interrupted by acts of violence and scenes of mourning and anguish, and it is in the constant negotiation between these elements that Talevi shows his skills in encompassing the piece’s complex dramatic trajectory”.
George Hall, The Stage, October 2012
“Placing the whole opera within one dark-hued set devoid of stage furniture, Talevi has crafted for Opera North a dramatically taut performance. It is one which places responsibility on the soloists to create in the audience’s imagination the many different locations in which the story takes place. Puppet shows are also introduced to fast forward the plot as Giovanni goes in search of new conquests together with his servant, Leporello.
Dressing him as an upper-class dandy, Talevi has replaced the dark and sinister aspects of the Don who he presents as a suave human on the lookout for women”.
David Denton, Yorkshire Evening Post, October 2012
“Alessandro Talevi’s production is unusual in being unfailingly enjoyable, full of ideas, but refreshingly unpretentious. The opera is described as a “dramma giocoso” and Talevi homes in on “giocoso” – this Don Giovanni is fun! The invention is directed not towards some metaphysical concept, but towards making a notoriously intransigent narrative work. [T]he use of Mr. Punch/Commedia dell’ Arte puppet shows is totally effective – the puppets take us through the stickiest part of the narrative as well as being very funny, and Don Giovanni as puppet-master makes a deal of sense”.
Ron Simpson, What’s On Stage, October 2012
Mozart Don Giovanni
Opera North / cond. Tobias Ringborg
“Talevi has resisted the temptation to create something shocking and outrageous that would have been alien to Mozart and Da Ponte's sublimely crafted opera. The young Johannesburg-born director has instead combined innovation with tradition in a fast-paced production that is likely to appeal to younger opera goers whilst not offending seasoned subscribers”.
Geoffrey Mogridge, Opera Britannia, September 2012
Britten Turn of the Screw
Central City Opera / cond. Steuart Bedford
“British stage director Alessandro Talevi’s tightly conceived approach to Britten’s haunting masterwork compellingly conveyed its ever-increasing tension without going over the top. Teamed again with set and costume designer Madeleine Boyd — his partner for last summer’s Amadigi di Gaula, his Central City debut - Talevi made skilled use of shadowy projections and stage partitions that divided and shrouded facets of the action”.
Kyle MacMillan, Opera News, October 2012
“The most notable set piece in director Alessandro Talevi's version is nothingness, blackness, and it can be genuinely scary at times... It was a good night.”
Ray Mark Rinaldi, Denver Post, July 2012
“This summer’s production of The Turn of the Screw … took me deeper into the piece’s darker-than-dark heart more than any previous encounter… The eerie frankness of Alessandro Talevi’s production made the experience uncomfortable in all of the right ways.”
David Patrick Stearns, Arts Journal, July 2012
Janacek Katja Kabanova
Landestheater Coburg / cond. Roland Kluttig
“The young London-based Director Alessandro Talevi is considered a big talent on the International opera scene – and for good reasons, as shown by his productions of Janacek’s operas in Coburg. With great sensitivity, he brings the musical drama and the action onstage together into structural harmony. His staging concept is conclusive, and the characters he creates are coherent down to the smallest details. His production portrays the suffocating narrow-mindedness of the bigoted petty bourgeoisie as a microcosm which allows the protagonist only one means of escape – suicide.”
Jochen Berger, Coburger Tageblatt, January 2012
"Leos Janacek’s ‘Katja Kabanova’ has now experienced its unforgettable Coburg premiere. The audience went wild with enthusiasm for the production… The overall effect is created on the basis of a closely meshed and absolutely coherent overall construction of music, set, direction – and of course, the phenomenal acting of the protagonists. The young Director Alessandro Talevi established his psychologically revealing production, keenly faithful to the original piece, in front of the sombre, orange and black horizon by which set and costume designer Annemarie Woods cleverly alluded to artist Edvard Munch’s work."
Christine Potyra, Neue Presse, January 2012
"Alessandro Talevi won the second prize for Directing in the 2006 Camerata Nuova competition in Wiesbaden, and this production confirms the wisdom of the judge’s decision. He enabled the sombre and oppressive atmosphere of this all-too-human drama to take shape in a most moving manner in Annemarie Woods’ atmospheric stage set."
Richard Hörnicke, Wiesbadener Tagblatt, January 2012
Director Alessandro Talevi laid the psychological connections between characters bare, as if this were a play by Ibsen or Strindberg, painted by Edvard Munch. (…) The production was a brilliant success.”
Opernwelt, March 2012
The production is by the young team of South-African Director Alessandro Talevi and British Designer Annemarie Woods. (…) (Talevi’s characterisation of Katja) departs from the usual histrionics, which does the piece a great favour. (…) He creates space for characterisations which hit upon societal sore points in very few brushstrokes, without having to resort to over-acting.
Opernglas, March 2012
Bizet Dr Miracle and Djamileh / Royal College Music International Opera School
cond. Michael Rosewell
“It’s a musical gem, bordering on genius in its best-known number, the Omelette quartet, staged brilliantly here by Talevi as Ready Steady Cook — The Musical.
Talevi is a rare opera director today, one who allows his performers’ personal attributes to flavour his characterisations, rather than straitjacketing them into a predetermined concept.
A professional company should get Talevi and Boyd to remake it with some of these singers in the very near future.”
Hugh Canning, Sunday Times, December 2011
“Transforming the set into the mayor’s house for the action of Le Docteur Miracle, and nudging the costumes into the Eighties, Talevi delivered taut and inventive comedy.”
John Allison, Daily Telegraph, December 2011
“Talevi’s Docteur was an explosion of colour and energy.”
Francesca Vella, Bach Track, December 2011
La Traviata / Artscape Opera House / Cape Philharmonic Orchestra
Cape Town Opera Chorus / dir. Alessandro Talevi / cond. Albert Horne
“Alessandro Talevi has set his production in the Charleston era – and it works like a dream. Those apparently halcyon days of leisure and pleasure perfectly capture the world of La Traviata’s fallen heroine.
Talevi has succeeded in re-inventing the charm and tragedy of the work, not just by the setting but also by the small things his imagination has created. And on a larger scale several scenes have been refreshingly reinterpreted, such as the gypsy and matador songs at Flora’s party. Even the tragic finale shows Alfredo responding differently to those around him.”
“Taveli can be proud of the standard of this staging – and it has a virtually all-South African cast and production team. If new to opera, this is an excellent opportunity to be introduced to this realm of the arts. If you have seen this opera before, see Taveli’s reinterpretation: you will fall in love with it all over again.”
Carl Fourie, Tonight, October 2011
“The director Alessandro Talevi, born in Johannesburg, places the events in the decadent 1920s, a most appropriate setting. Violetta holds a party on the roof with extravagantly dressed guests. Yet through the set and lighting, a gloom and layer of sadness hides behind Violetta's exuberance.”
Wayne Muller, Die Burger, October 2011