When I am working with singers, my aim is to draw exciting performances from them that convince the audience. But no singer can give of their best if the conductor and director have conflicting viewpoints, so a positive relationship with the conductor is vital, and can be seen as providing the base of the rehearsal process.
When we are starting to rehearse together, I always say to the singers, ‘Tell me what is most important to you about the character and I’ll make it a central part of the production.’ This helps to establish the sense of partnership that is vital for the creative process.
Additionally, it seems clear to me that singers cannot convince if they are directed in a way that goes against text or music – unless there is a very good reason for doing so. So a thorough knowledge of the libretto and score on my part goes a long way to convincing artists of what I have in mind.
Having said that, sometimes a singer tells me that they are struggling with some aspect of the staging. I simply ask them to concentrate on whatever part of it resonates for them and then to try it entirely their way. Mostly this results in a breakthrough where they understand more clearly how my production can work for them – and in a way more importantly, I’ve understood more about what makes them feel right while in the rehearsal /creation process. This leads to one of the most important aspects of rehearsals, which is for me to find out what makes for the most productive experience for each artist.
Some performers love masses of detail within a very specific framework; others find this limiting and prefer less structure to the directing. When each singer has different needs, it gets complicated! But so far, my love and understanding of the piece on which we are working and deep respect for their art, has usually won the day.