Kirill Serebrennikov
Ira Polyarnaya

Adventure, imagination, magic

20 September 2021

Kirill Serebrennikov directs Der Freischütz

Kirill Serebrennikov is not an entirely uncontroversial director. His criticism of the Russian annexation of Crimea and his outspoken support of the Russian LGBTQI+ community are generally understood to be the true reason behind his arrest for embezzling government funds for his theatre. He was put on trial and placed under house arrest for two years, unable to leave his native Russia. With the trust and support of European theatres and opera houses, he nevertheless kept directing new productions from his home. Last season, aided by assistants and cameras, he created a much-lauded new Parsifal for the Vienna State Opera.

“An adventurous project like this is only possible in the best circumstances and when all partners trust each other,” Serebrennikov says about his upcoming DNO production. “My Freischütz isn’t as much about hunters and bullets as it is about how music can enchant you. The forest, which plays such a central role in this opera, is more than just a bunch of trees or nature. For me, it’s also a sound – the forest and the orchestra are one. A forest of instruments and a forest of sound.”

‘My Freischütz is about how music can enchant you’

“I want people to hear how this forest breathes: how the different sections of the orchestra interchange, how the timbres blend into each other. To me, the magic of this opera is the magic of the music. I want to show the audience how this magic comes about. And who resembles the devil more in this than the conductor? He is the one who brings the sounds together, controls them, has them in his power. The singers try to find their way in this forest, finding their own voice in the massive sound of the orchestra. The orchestra has a leading role – it isn’t hidden from sight in the orchestra pit but is charismatically prominent.”

Asked about his earlier experiences in the Netherlands and Amsterdam, Serebrennikov laughs mischievously, his answer similar to the adventures of many other young people in the city: “I’ve been to Amsterdam many times. It’s always an adventure. Once I bought a pack of magic mushrooms, sat under a windmill and took a bite. But nothing happened. So I decided to eat the whole pack. I think I must have been under that windmill for three days... The mill kept turning but it felt like I was flying around it.” Adventure, imagination and magic – it’s a combination that also has a central role in his Der Freischütz.


Kirill Serebrennikov

Kirill Serebrennikov is a versatile artist, directing theater, opera, film and television as well as designing his own costumes and sets. He has worked in opera houses all over Europe, including Zürich, Hamburg, Vienna, Stuttgart and Berlin. His films were featured in the selection of the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.