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Mariame Clément

When were you first enchanted by (musical) theatre in your life? And by what means?

I have been enchanted by musical theatre for as long as I can remember. The first time my parents took me to the opera, I was four or five years old. It was a double bill: L'Enfant et les sortilèges and Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex. I have no memory of it, but apparently, contrary to expectations, I was completely mesmerised by Oedipus Rex, much more so than by L'Enfant! After that, the magic never really stopped. I always really enjoyed being told a story through words and music, until I realised that I wanted to tell the stories myself.

Why do people sing and why don't they speak?

Because they speak in real life, but they don't sing! That's what makes opera so magical: you can never fall into the trap of realism. Because of the singing, opera has something abstract, stylised and artificial by nature - and yet for exactly the same reason it is so original, so concrete, so immediate. For me as a director, it's as if I had an additional set of instruments at my disposal: not only the words that the singers sing, but also the music they sing is like another level of reality that is always there, very close. This is a wonderful parable for human relationships: The words can say one thing and the music something else. Nothing ever has only one clear meaning. Interpreting an opera is like a subtext on a silver platter.

What role can/should music theatre play in today's society?

Music theatre should show that many different people from very different social and geographical backgrounds can work together. It should remind us that people can create beauty and not just destruction. But it should also entertain people and make them happy, which is a very noble task. To emphasise that art is about reality, but not about realism. To discover that queerness has always existed, because opera is queer through and through. Making the most sophisticated, complex, strange, supposedly elitist, supposedly artificial form of culture accessible to all, because opera is much more accessible than most people think - and people are often more open than they are led to believe. Make it clear that culture is about constant reinterpretation, re-evaluation and redefinition. Proving that pleasure and critical thinking can go hand in hand, just like beauty and intelligence. Taking old plays, most of which were conceived by men in predominantly misogynistic contexts, and showing that they can be relevant if you just read them differently. Getting people to sit together in the same room for several hours, in real life.


Born in

Paris (France)


Studied literature and art history at the École normale supérieure, training and assistant director at the Staatsoper Berlin, the Opéra National de Montpellier and the Opéra du Rhin Strasbourg, worked as a lecturer at Harvard University

Five to ten important engagements

The Fairy Queen and Castor et Pollux at the Theater an der Wien

Hänsel und Gretel and Cendrillon at the Opéra national de Paris

Don Quichotte at the Bregenzer Festspiele

Don Pasquale, Il Turco in Italia and Don Giovanni in Glyndebourne

L'Étoile at the Royal Opera House, London

Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in patria at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées

Carmen at the Santa Fe Opera

Achille in Sciro at the Teatro Real Madrid

Anna Bolena and Maria Stuarda at the Grand Théâtre de Genève

Formative collaboration with the following artists

It's the sum of all the people I've worked with, famous and not so famous, who have made me who I am. Julia Hansen, with whom I've done almost all my productions, but also other set and costume designers I've worked with; video artists, lighting designers, choreographers, conductors, singers, actors, dancers, pianists, instrumentalists... And before that, the people I've assisted. I couldn't name just a few, and I can't name them all. They all contributed to my education, and they still do - if I ever feel like I've stopped learning, I'll look for another job.

Debut at the Volksoper Wien

Director Die lustige Witwe (Season 2023/24)

Significant Prizes & Honours

Austrian Music Theatre Award 2020, Best Production for Don Quixote

Oper! Awards 2019, Best rediscovery for Barkouf

3rd prize at the European Opera Directing Award, sponsored by Opera Europa and Camerata Nuova in Wiesbaden, 2003



* Use of the photograph (© Elisa Haberer) only for the purpose of current reporting on the Volksoper Wien