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Fiona Shaw

  • Director, Artistic/Stage

Reviews

Fiona Shaw Press Reviews

The Marriage of Figaro, English National Opera, October 2011

Humane, intelligent and buzzing with energy, Fiona Shaw’s new production of Mozart’s comedy – perhaps his greatest and certainly his most lovable opera – has much to recommend it.
Rupert Christiansen / The Telegraph / 6 October 2011
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Fiona Shaw's direction brings out the pace and pathos of Mozart and Da Ponte's masterly collaboration.
Colin Anderson / The Opera Critic / 10 October 2011
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a production full of thought and care
Fiona Maddocks / The Observer / 9 October 2011

As the orchestra belatedly tunes up, a blind Don Basilio taps his way to the harpsichord at the side of the stage. His clothes are recognisably 18th century, as is his instrument.
But the labyrinthine set beyond (by Peter McKintosh) is of no particular time or period, a flimsy abstraction of floated walls and doors, rooms within rooms, corridors within corridors, a kind of residential maze. Director Fiona Shaw then delivers her first chuckle of the evening, as Basilio traps an errant wasp inside his harpsichord and the "buzzy" strings of Paul Daniels's ENO orchestra begin the overture.
The pacing is properly brisk, with a crisply incisive period manner portending a frenetic 24 hours in the Almaviva household – and as the stage revolve springs into action, another dimension is added to the visuals as we traverse the rooms "below stairs", where staff are busily making ready for the day's events.
So Shaw has quickly and confidently nailed the age-old problem of lending a contemporary edge and relevance to the 18th century context.
Edward Seckerson / Independent / 10 October 2011

Snorting and stamping, scratching his back with the bleached and polished horns of a bull, Count Almaviva is the Minotaur in Fiona Shaw's ENO production of The Marriage of Figaro.
Played out in a fast-revolving maze of staircases and corridors – its white-walled spaces now a laundry room, now a bakery, now the meat store, now a moonlit parterre – Mozart's opera becomes less a comedy of birthrights than a satire on masculinity. Bound by his word to renounce droit de seigneur, the Count faces emasculation at the hands of his servants and his wife. Bound by contract to marry Marcellina, and facing cuckoldry, Figaro is emasculated already.
Fey wit, heavy symbolism, earthy vulgarity and the creeping sourness of long-nurtured grievances collide to odd effect in Shaw's first Mozart staging. With a team of eight actors, she deftly choreographs the below-stairs industry of a vast estate, its brisk traffic echoed in the shadowy projections over designer Peter McKintosh's corrugated plastic labyrinth. The costumes are period, the trappings of indentured labour and aristocratic leisure spiked with later artefacts: a Super 8 camera for Cherubino, an early vacuum cleaner for Susanna. Oranges are arranged and removed, to remind us that we're in Spain, while the bulls' skulls and boar's carcass underline the notion of the Count as hunter and collector.
Anna Picard / Independent on Sunday / 9 October 2011

Yet again actress Fiona Shaw brings sure theatricality to directing opera.
Alexander Campbell / Classical Source / 10 October 2011
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As one would expect Shaw casts a revealing and often merciless light on Mozart and Da Ponte’s richly complex characters. She often slants a scene in ways that forces the viewer to re-think their view of what is at play and she achieves this without betraying or distorting the work as a whole.
...
I did enjoy Shaw’s production because it was both revealing and faithful to the piece and for the fully rounded portrayals she elicited from a talented cast.
Sebastian Petit / Opera Britannia / 6 October 2011

Fiona Shaw's new production of The Marriage of Figaro for the ENO focuses on the theme of entrapment. Her first victim? A noisy bee. Don Basilio finds himself so harassed by its buzzing, he confines it to the body of a harpsichord. Magically, a few seconds later, the low hum reappears - on strings and bassoons.
It's classic Shaw: a clever, symbolic, funny and possibly superfluous bit of theatrical punnery. She doesn't overdo the anomie. The political and class dimensions are but lightly touched upon.
...
It was a masterstroke. The intermittent, squally run-arounds - the dashing through servants quarters, kitchens, sculleries, past butchers blocks and clothes chests - was a lovely counterpart to the whirlwind orchestral accompaniment. If Shaw rather overloaded the place with dead bulls' skulls (hinting not so subtly at the possibility that this was a Casanova's graveyard), and lots of prosaic but no doubt meaningful projections, her ensemble work and eye for telling details more than made up for it. 
Igor Toronyi-Lalic / The Arts Desk / 6 October 2011


Elegy for Young Lovers
Young Vic, 2010

All praise, however, to Fiona Shaw, whose staging combined exemplary clarity and richness of atmosphere.
Rupert Christiansen / The Telegraph / 26 April 2010

In Fiona Shaw's rumbustious English National Opera production - full of earthy characterisations and unearthy effects - it emerges as a minor masterpiece.
Richard Morrison / The Times / 26 April 2011

ENO's impressive new production ...
Shaw's production ... is direct and unfussy
Andrew Clements / The Guardian / 25 April 2010

Essentially it takes one to know one, says Auden, and in Fiona Shaw's terrifically full-on staging his egocentricity is centrestage.
Edward Seckerson / The Independent / 25 April 2010

Nor did actor-director Fiona Shaw ever lack something original to say.  She and her designer, Tom Pye, convince us that the action is all around us ... The beauty of Shaw's approach is its intimacy, musicality and truthfulness
Andrew Clark / Financial Times / 25 April 2010

Fiona Shaw's striking new staging of Hans Werner Henze's 'Elegy for Young Lovers' marks the third partnership between the English National Opera and the Young Vic.  It is Ms Shaw's second attempt at directing opera, following her superbly executed take on Vaughan Williams's 'Riders to the Sea' in 2008; that production was one of the best seen on the Coliseum's stage in recent memory, and her latest effort proves no less an achievement.  It is brilliantly realized dramatically, visually, and musically providing a welcome opportunity to experience a too seldom performed work of "modern opera".
John E De Wald / Opera Brittania / 26 April 2010

ENO has got Fiona Shaw to direct, and one of the results is that the performers behave like human beings rather than opera singers.
Michael Tanner / The Spectator / 28 April 2010

Striking production by Fiona Shaw
Paul Driver / The Times / 2 May 2010

Fiona Shaw's astute and gripping new production of Elegy for Young Lovers, which has breathed new life into a work vitually neglected since its 1961 premiere.
Fional Maddocks / The Observer / 2 May 2010

Fiona Shaw's not to be missed production
...
Ms Shaw has the singers act so well you could almost think they were performing a straight play
George Loomis / New York Times / 4 May 2010

Fiona Shaw's direction in the intimate space of the Young Vic impresses
...
Shaw's setting is essentiall when and where it should be: the Austrian Alps in the early twentieth century.  She directs the cast well, doubtless drawing upon her own theatrical experience,and even manages to get teh singers' spoken dialogue to sound as if ti is delivered by actors: no mean achievement, as veterans of The Magic Flute or Fidelio will tell you.
Mark Berry / Seen and Heard

Back as director ... is Fiona Shaw - once again demonstrating a flair for getting to the heart of a 'difficult' operatic work and presenting it with a sure theatrical touch whilst understanding that 'opera time' has a pace all of its own.
Alexander Campbell / Classical Source / 24 April 2010

Fiona Shaw, here directing only her second opera (and her first full-length one), but doing so with imagination and confidence, focuses on the theatre of the piece, drawing finely dawn performances from the seven singers and four actors.
Colin Anderson / The Opera Critic / 24 April 2010

Actors sometimes become great directors and Fiona Shaw makes a strong bid
Simon Thomas / What's on Stage / 26 April 2010

Shaw directs with an eye to detail and a humorous touch that lightens the Gothic tale
Clare Colvin / Sunday Express / 2 May 2010

It's well worth seeing in Fiona Shaw's crisp and detailed production with the entire cast acting their collective socks off.
George Hall / The Stage / 26 April 2010

The combination of Henze's chamber opera, Fiona Shaw's staging and the venue itself make for a riveting theatrical event
Agnes Kory / MusicalCriticism.com / 26 April 2010