At Covent Garden, Director Christof Loy Storms Off Set After Dispute With John Eliot Gardiner

Classic Arts News   At Covent Garden, Director Christof Loy Storms Off Set After Dispute With John Eliot Gardiner
Before even finishing the first week of rehearsals, director Christof Loy walked off the set of his latest production at London's Royal Opera House and disappeared.

The ROH posted a brief announcement on its website Monday (September 4) saying that Loy had withdrawn from the company's upcoming production of Mozart's La finta giardiniera "over a difference of opinion concerning the musical edition to be performed."

This is not the first time Loy has caused a stir at the Royal Opera House: it was his staging of Ariadne auf Naxos from which Deborah Voigt was "released" in 2004, making headlines all over the world, because she was deemed too fat for the little black dress considered integral to the production concept.

Loy's assistant, Annika Haller, is now to direct the production based on Loy's 1998 staging of the work for the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in D‹sseldorf, according to the statement.

Reporter Charlotte Higgins had a somewhat more complete account of the dispute in the September 6 Guardian, based on an interview with John Eliot Gardiner, who is conducting the production.

La finta giardiniera, written when Mozart was 18, is a long and unwieldy opera which is almost always performed with cuts when fully staged. Gardiner had presumed that he, in consultation with the cast and director, would determine exactly what would be omitted — "It is the music director's job," he told the Guardian — but he says that Loy expected the cuts to be exactly the same ones made when he staged the opera in D‹sseldorf.

"Christof Loy was not willing to discuss any of the cuts," Gardiner recounted to Higgins. "I was certainly prepared to discuss them, but at the end of the first day of rehearsals he walked out, disappeared, went AWOL, and no one could find him.

"On the first day of music rehearsals I suggested to him that we should look at the cuts, saying that I had new ideas and I didn't want to solidify them until I had worked with the singers. Then we had two rehearsals, which he sat in on. At the end, I said to the singers, 'These are provisional cuts, if you have any comments let me know.' At which point Loy leaped up and said, 'Are you cutting me out completely?' I said, 'Can we discuss it afterwards?' He walked out; I assumed he'd wait outside and we'd have a beer and talk about it. But he had dropped off the ends of the earth ... it's not very edifying."

Neither Loy nor his agent were available to give their version of the story; Higgins does acknowledge that this is Gardiner's account of events, and she observes that the conductor himself "has had a reputation for a sometimes abrasive manner."

In any event, the show will go on. The Royal Opera's new production of La finta giardiniera, featuring singers Kurt Streit, Genia K‹hmeier, Robert Murray, Camilla Tilling, Sophie Koch and Patrizia Biccir, opens on September 21, with six more performances through October 7. More information is available at

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