The Bear

(Opera - Copenhagen)

The Bear

William Walton

In April/May 2022 I directed two productions in Copenhagen with singers from the Academy of the Royal Danish Opera, one of which was Walton’s The Bear. This was a version using only a piano and was performed on the same evening as a shortened version of Handel’s Ariodante.

The Bear is a curious piece; First performed in 1967 and based on a short story written by Chekhov in 1888, it is very dated in its attitudes to love and relationships. As with Ariodante, I couldn’t bring myself to do it ‘as is’, so we played around with the end of it.

It’s a three hander and I wanted to create a world in which we felt we could see how the female protagonist’s life had been reduced to its bare bones. As a result of an abusive relationship she lives in an incomplete world (a house with no walls, just lines on the floor) and knits constantly. Her dead husband plays the piano in the living room (not in the original!) and her mental health is kept this side of sanity by her all-knowing servant, Luka. When another man walks into her life, the extent of her suppressed trauma gradually becomes clear. I wanted to be able to see all the characters all of the time - this gave us an opportunity to never lose the tension of this strange house with its dead flowers and inordinate amounts of wool.

The Bear

Director - Joseph W. Alford
Musical Director/Nicholas - Nicholas Kok

Popova - Frida Lund-Larsen
Smirnov - Simon Stycke
Luka - Martin Vilbrand