Thaddeus Strassberger (born 1976) is an American opera director and scenic designer. In 2005 he was awarded the European Opera Directing Prize by Opera Europa for his work on Opera Ireland's production of Rossini's La Cenerentola.
Born to parents of Cherokee and German descent, Strassberger grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1994. He went on to earn a bachelor's degree from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City. He won a Fulbright Fellowship which enabled him to study at La Scala in Milan in 2000/2001 where he graduated from the Accademia Teatro alla Scala with a diploma in scenic design realisation. During the first several years of his career he worked as an assistant director for opera productions at the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, La Fenice in Venice, the Teatro Lirico di Cagliari, the Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe, the Houston Grand Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, and Santa Fe Opera among others.
Career as opera director
In 2005 Strassberger directed a new production of Giuseppe Verdi's Rigoletto for Opera Colorado and restaged the Badisches Staatstheater's production of Michael Nyman's Man and Boy: Dada at the National Theatre in Prague. In 2007 he directed the rarely mounted Rossini opera La gazzetta at the Rossini in Wildbad festival, a production which was recorded by Naxos Records for release on DVD starring Michael Spyres. That same year he was the director and scenic designer for the Lyric Opera of Kansas City's production of Aida, Theater Augsburg's production of Christoph Willibald Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice, and Hessisches Staatstheater Wiesbaden's mounting of La Cenerentola.
In 2008 Strassberger was the director for Wolf Trap Opera's production of Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos and was the director and scenic designer for Opéra de Montréal's production of Giacomo Puccini's La fanciulla del West, and Arizona Opera's production of La traviata. He also served as the director for Arizona Opera's mounting of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's The Magic Flute, an opera he had previously directed at both Utah Opera and Madison Opera in 2006.
During the 2009/2010 season, Strassberger directed Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at the Norwegian National Opera, Giacomo Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots at the Bard SummerScape festival, and Hector Berlioz's Les nuits d'été at Opera Azuriales. He also worked as both director and scenic designer for Puccini's Turandot at Theater Augsburg and Ambroise Thomas's Hamlet at the Washington National Opera conducted by Plácido Domingo.
In 2010/2011, he returned to the Norwegian National Opera to direct and design The Rape of Lucretia and made his Austrian debut with the Tyrolean State Theatre with a new production of La fanciulla del West, while in 2012 he directed Nabucco for the Washington National Opera, a production which has subsequently been seen in Philadelphia, Minnesota, Montreal, Miami and in 2017 with the Los Angeles Opera, starring Liudmyla Monastyrska, Plácido Domingo, and Morris Robinson, conducted by James Conlon.
His work with Bard SummerScape in the New York Hudson Valley featured six revivals or North American premieres:
- 2009: Les Huguenots
- 2010: Der ferne Klang
- 2012: Le roi malgré lui
- 2013: The Oresteia
- 2015: The Wreckers
- 2018: The Demon
In 2014, he directed Satyagraha, the first opera by Philip Glass to be produced in Russia, at the Ekaterinburg State Academic Opera. The production was nominated for five Golden Mask awards, including Best Production and Best Director. It won the 2016 Critics' Prize for Best Director and additionally the production won the prize for Best Chorus. Also in Ekaterinburg, his production of Weinberg's The Passenger was the first to be performed in the original Russian edition. It has been nominated for four Golden Mask awards, including Best Production and Best Director. His Royal Opera House Covent Garden production of I due Foscari starring Plácido Domingo, Maria Agresta, and Francesco Meli and conductor by Antonio Pappano is available on DVD. It was a co-production with Los Angeles Opera, Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía, Valencia, and Theater an der Wien.
His approach to the repertoire
Strauss and Hofmannsthal, Verdi and Solera — even going back to da Ponte and Mozart — you feel as if everyone is in this constant state of gloom and doom: the theaters are shutting down next year, the quality isn't what it was, we don't have the voices we used to have. When Verdi presented the score of Nabucco to Bartolomeo Merelli, they said, 'There's no budget.' Verdi said, 'I've got Strepponi and the whole cast,' and they said, 'You'll have to use sets from the warehouse,' and Verdi said, 'That's all right. Let's get it onstage.' That's no different from an American company saying you have to rub two sticks together to get the production on because our NEA budget got cut this year.
In the June 2012 issue of the British magazine Opera which examined recent repertoire trends which reveal a move towards the rare and unusual, Strassberger makes the following observation regarding the staging of some of them:
I love these works and they give me the freedom to turn up as a director and put them on stage without having to un-engineer what people thought they were going to be. The audience can focus on what they are experiencing rather than making comparisons with the past.
Work with opera singer training programs
Strassberger has also served on several programs for opera singers in training. In 2006 he joined the faculty of the International Vocal Arts Institute (IIVA) in Tel Aviv where he directed the school's opera productions for two years. He has also directed operas at the IIVA in Chiari, Lombardy, Italy, and for the Opera Theatre of Lucca. In 2019, he works with Banff Centre's Opera in the 21st Century developing new work with Paola Prestini and Royce Vavrek.
- "Mending Meyerbeer". Opera News. August 2009. Retrieved August 6, 2009.
- "With Plácido Domingo and L.A. Opera, Nabucco still has the power to provoke". Los Angeles Times. 2017-10-15. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2017-11-15.
- "JFK". www.operanews.com. Retrieved 2016-06-25.
- "The Dark, Prophetic Vision of Giacomo Meyerbeer". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2018-11-01.
- "Der ferne Klang (Clinton-era staging)". Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise. Retrieved 2018-11-01.
- Smith, Steve. "Le Roi Malgré Lui at Fisher Center for the Performing Arts". Retrieved 2018-11-01.
- Waleson, Heidi (2013-07-30). "Russian in Nature, Greek at Its Roots". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2018-12-20.
- Fonseca-Wollheim, Corinna Da (2015-07-27). "Review: The Wreckers, a Tale of Piracy, Love and Betrayal". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-06-25.
- "Demon by Anton Rubinstein". fishercenter.bard.edu. Retrieved 2018-12-20.
- "Winners 2016". eng.goldenmask.ru. Retrieved 2016-06-25.
- "ЗОЛОТАЯ МАСКА – ФЕСТИВАЛЬ И ПРЕМИЯ". Golden Mask. Retrieved 2017-11-15.
- "I due Foscari — Productions — Royal Opera House". www.roh.org.uk. Retrieved 2018-11-01.
- Yehudi Shapiro, "Rarity Value", Opera (London), June 2012. Vol. 63, No. 6
- "Opera in the 21st Century: Instrumentalists". Retrieved 2018-11-01.
- Official website
- Extensive interview with Strassberger on Opera Lively
- Jeremy Eichler, "'Distant Sound' resonates anew: Schreker opera from 1912 in US premiere", Boston Globe, August 2, 2010, (Der Ferne Klang review)
- The Rape of Lucretia review (in Norwegian)