harry fehr

opera director

biography

British-born opera director Harry Fehr is establishing an international reputation for thought-provoking productions explored through clear story-telling.

His recent projects include Tosca for the Nederlandse Reisopera, Roberto Devereux for Badisches Staatstheater, Karlsruhe and Orlando for San Francisco Opera. Fehr’s fully-rehearsed production of Peter Grimes for Theater Basel sadly fell victim to Covid cancellation.

His particular relationship with Scottish Opera developed through productions of Orlando, Il Matrimonio Segreto, La Cenerentola, Craig Armstrong’s The Lady from the Sea (winner of The Herald Angel Award 2012), Die Fliegende Holländer and Ariodante.  Elsewhere he has directed Orlando for Welsh National Opera; Falstaff for the Shanghai Opera House and L’elisir d’amore for the Danish National Opera (Production of the Year in the CPHCulture.dk awards); Così fan tutte for Opera Holland Park; La Finta Giardiniera and I Capuleti e I Montecchi for the Buxton Festival and La Clemenza di Tito at Teatru Manoel, Malta.

Working with young artists Fehr has directed Radamisto for the Dutch National Opera Academy, Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor for the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, La Finta Giardiniera at the Royal College of Music, Le Nozze di Figaro and The Cunning Little Vixen for the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Rinaldo and L’Incoronazione di Poppea for Trinity Laban Conservatoire and Cosi fan Tutte (nominated for a Manchester Theatre Award 2016) and La Bohème for Clonter Opera.

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He also enjoyed sveral seasons with Blackheath Halls Community Opera for whom he directed Eugene Onegin, L’elisir d’amore, Cendrillon, Count Ory and Noye’s Fludde

Harry Fehr studied philosophy at the University of Nottingham and was a member of the Royal Opera, Covent Garden’s Young Artists Programme.

September 2021

An archive showreel of Harry Fehr’s productions is available on request.

Harry Fehr is represented for General Management. For all enquiries please contact Caroline Phillips cphillips@caroline-phillips.co.uk

reviews

Orlando – San Francisco Opera

In his canny and cohesive Orlando, the director Harry Fehr transported Handel’s 1733 work to a World War II British military hospital during the London Blitz. The concept harmonized with the libretto, loosely based on Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso. By depicting the title character (mezzo Sasha Cooke) as an ambivalent soldier maddened by the defection of his lover to Medoro, a fellow wounded warrior (the compelling counter-tenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen) Fehr turned the roundelay romantic plot into a mediation on the confoundments and devastations of war  – and love.

Opera, October 2019

Orlando makes victorious return to War. Memorial Opera House. San Francisco Opera staged Handel’s Orlando for only the second time in its history after a 34 year absence but Harry Fehr’s winning production, … will undoubtedly amplify appreciation and demand for the rarely-performed Baroque gem.

San Francisco Examiner, June 12, 2019

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Handel’s Orlando is riveting at SF Opera. Director Harry Fehr’s World War II hospital setting works well … the rapid-fire ending (including multiple fake deaths and a suicide attempt) was smartly choreographed. So was the rest of the opera: the characters in Fehr’s staging never lacked things to do, even if they were simply making a bed or putting on a jacket. The result was consistently engaging (nary a moment of stand-and-sing dullness) and reflective of the bustling hospital setting. The Act 1 trio “Consolati, o bella” was a masterpiece.

San Francisco Classical Voice, June 11, 2019

Roberto Devereux – Badisches Staatstheater

Donizetti’s serious operas remain relatively rare visitors to Germany’s stages but the British director Harry Fehr made a persuasive case at the Badisches Staatstheater. To positive effect he took a restrained approach, grounding the four main characters’ actions in solid psychology and emphasizing the difference in ages between the younger pair, Robert, Earl of Essex and Sara, Duchess of Nottingham and the substantially older Queen Elizabeth and Duke of Nottingham. The ageing Elizabeth is one of the most complex figures in Donizetti’s works … Fehr has clearly developed the character in detail.

Opera, August 2019

The British director Harry Fehr has very cleverly staged this purely emotion-driven opera so you understand what haunts the characters. In a piece without any logic that is a real achievement.

Badische Tagblatt 25 March 2019 (trans.)

Elisabeth’s decay is particularly impressively implemented by Fehr’s direction… If you love bel canto opera in a classic staging you should not miss this production. The Badisches Staatstheater production demonstrates that you can enthral the audience with an emotionally-charged bel canto-opera without insisting on making it contemporary

OMM 24 March 2019 (trans.)

… director Harry Fehr worked to emphasize the contrast of a royal Elisabetta, torn apart by her inner turmoil, her solitude and the pangs of jealousy, obsessed by her love to the point of forgetting all political consciousness and reality … The dramatic tension is very intelligently maintained. Soloists, chorus and extras are remarkably directed and all inhabit their places with the greatest naturalness. At once simple and without flashy effects this staging impresses with its semantic richness and especially its efficiency … cannot be recommended too highly.

Forum Opera 23 March 2019 (trans.)

 

Tosca – Nederlandse Reisopera

Dutch touring Tosca is an edge-of-your-seat thriller …It all plays out like a nail-biting thriller. Fehr has a firm grip on the singers’ direction and they did him proud.

Opera Today, 26 October 2018

La Bohème – Clonter Opera

This year’s La Bohème is no exception to [Clonter’s] form. In many ways it’s one of the best productions it has done… The stark and bare third and fourth acts work brilliantly: in fact the last was one of the best acted endings to La Bohème I’ve ever seen. Movement and placings are well worked out, and at the same time we see young people facing, all unprepared, the reality of death and its ending of their dreams.

Manchester Theatre Awards, 20 July 2018


L’Elisir d’amore (Elskovsdrikken)
– Den Jyske Opera

Winner of “Production of the Year” in the CPHCulture.dk “Theatre Experiences of the Year” awards

Donizetti’s most popular opera is a delight from start to finish. But it doesn’t usually feel as true-to-life or as unsettling as it does in Harry Fehr’s new production for Den Jyske Opera. Fehr manages to highlight the critiques of materialism and snobbery that lie under the opera’s surface without damping any of its fluency or jokes. That is what makes his visually beautiful production a triumph, one that would gracethe stage of any opera house in the world.

Klassik, 17 November 2017

Den Jyske Opera can surely can count on full houses on its tour

www.gregerdh.dk, 7 October 2017

[In this setting], the story seems contemporary, engaging and accessible

Vejle Amts Folkeblad, 12 October 2017

Sensitive personenregie and sharp observation…There are many incredibly fine and musical details in Fehr’s direction

bbjarsartis.blogspot, 8 October 2017


I Capuleti e I Montecchi –
Buxton Festival

Harry Fehr’s gifts as director are not new to us in this part of the country. He sets the opera in the present day in some Balkanised, divided nation where warlords rule, and provides movement and action whenever the score requires it (and, in its leisurely cavatina introductions such as the one for Romeo’s Crudel Lorenzo, it does), and sometimes as a bonus. There’s a very good fight for Romeo and Tebaldo (Paul Benzing), and these star-cross’d lovers know how to die while singing like angels.

The Arts Desk, 11 July 2016

“… I Capuleti is a model of directorial discipline.”

4* The Times, 12 July 2016

Harry Fehr’s modern-dress I Capuleti e I Montecchi, Bellini’s first big hit, worked especially well”

The Sunday Times, 17 July 2016

Harry Fehr’s production for the Buxton Festival brings the action forward to the modern day, with the Capulet army in berets and bearing machine guns and the set design combines the luxury of a palazzo …It’s an effective updating that makes one reflect on more recent unnecessary conflicts – a timely production. The direction was fluid and managed to make one of the most well-known plots in artistic history genuinely gripping.

4* Bachtrack, 10 July 2016


Ariodante –
Scottish Opera

Harry Fehr’s staging of Handel’s Ariodante for Scottish Opera takes liberties but reaps rewards.

**** The Observer, 21 February 2016

Meticulously directed

 **** The Times, 19 February 2016

Fehr’s production is brave, unafraid of unsubtle imagery and very strong, both visually and conceptually…In the end, though, it’s the questions that Fehr’s staging raises that stay in the memory.

**** The Arts Desk, 19 February 2016

 A modern Ariodante fit for Handel’s score

**** The Telegraph, 17 February 2016

… in this new production by Harry Fehr of Handel’s Ariodante … Scottish Opera have hit the nail on the head.

**** The Scotsman, 17 February 2016 


Orlando – Welsh National Opera

Harry Fehr’s recent Orlando for Welsh National Opera picks up where David Alden and David McVicar left off at ENO, recasting Handel’s sorcery story as one of psychological trauma and war. This is Handel with a modern audience in mind: emotional, direct, confronting.

The Spectator, 28 November 2015

In this moving and convincing production, the tangled love lives of four people remain at the opera’s heart, but there’s a strong emphasis on the psychological trauma and destructive force of war.

 The Times, 29 September 2015


Oberon –
New Sussex Opera

This brave production of Weber’s Oberon is honourably executed, says Rupert Christiansen

… the performance it presents has many virtues, not least in sidestepping the extravagant scenic demands specified by the libretto. Instead, the director Harry Fehr has stripped everything down to basics, using only minimal costuming and stitching the episodes of dialogue together with a connecting narration, delivered by chorus members.

The Telegraph, 20 November 2014

 Naive charm and delight in Harry Fehr’s staging of this hard to bring-off opera.

The beauty of Fehr’s staging was that he took the opera seriously. He did not poke fun at the story, but instead stripped it back to basics… Fehr did not push things, so that he never overstated the idea of the fairies creating the entire story but just left us to work it out for ourselves. Similarly, he did not over-work the striking modern parallels of a soldier going to Bagdhad and coming back with a clearly Muslim wife!

Planet Hughill, 20 November 2014


La Finta Gardiniera
– Buxton Festival

Harry Fehr’s Buxton staging makes a surprisingly strong case for this disregarded piece.

5 stars The Guardian, 9 July 2013

… in this dazzling, bold and inventive production we have a novel modern setting under Harry Fehr’s direction … For a production full of ideas and fun, Fehr has an exceptional seven-strong cast, who give a first-rate ensemble performance.

The Arts Desk, 8 July 2013


The Flying Dutchman
– Scottish Opera.

This enthralling production of The Flying Dutchman goes back to Wagner’s original plans of staging the opera in Scotland… By grounding the action in a small Scottish fishing community, director Harry Fehr highlights the incongruity between the fantastical legend and reality.

4 stars The Telegraph, 5 April 2013

He showed how to bring Handel up-to-date by setting Orlando at the start of the 20th century, now Harry Fehr has turned a similar trick with Wagner, bringing his Dutchman ashore from the North Sea to 1970s Scotland. It is a device that is a complete success in narrative terms. This may be a very domestic version of the story, full of recognisable scenes, but it loses none of the psychological depth …

4 stars The Herald 5 April 2013

By restoring the original location and names, then, Scottish Opera’s new production brings the drama back home. Director Harry Fehr has more sense than to go in for tartanalia, though, or the Romantic mists of Walter Scott’s Scotland … After a sturdy overture, the curtain rises on a 1970s northeast fishing town … It’s a thoughtful and thought-provoking production

4 stars The Guardian, 5 April 2013

It is the triumph of Harry Fehr’s production that it wrings every last drop of emotional engagement from the material

Scottish Daily Express, 14 April 2013


The Lady From The Sea
– Scottish Opera. Winner of a Bank of Scotland Herald Angel Award

And filmic solutions are fundamental to the joint visual input of director Harry Fehr and designer Yannis Thavoris, whose uncluttered treatment of the quick-fire episodical structure is strikingly deepened by evocative watery projections.

Scotsman, 30 August 2012

… and Harry Fehr‘s production, in Yannis Thavoris’s elegant period designs, looks handsome, making neat uses of video projections of a dark, roiling sea.

The Guardian, 30 August 2012

Scottish Opera’s production, however, is first-rate. Harry Fehr’s elegantly designed staging does what it can to clarify and sharpen the hazy drift of the proceedings

The Telegraph, 30 August 2012


Cosi fan Tutte
for Opera Holland Park

A lively, well directed staging by Harry Fehr.

Opera, August 2012

Perceptive details are equally abundant in Harry Fehr‘s bone-china staging of Così fan tutte. … For a comedy, Così is bitterly sad.

The Independent, 18 June 2012

Harry Fehr’s cunning and highly intelligent production

The Times, 12 June 2012

This is a polished and pacey display, buffed to perfection by director Harry Fehr.

The Stage, 11 June 2012

Opera Holland Park’s Mozart-Da Ponte cycle … concludes with a Così fan tutte that’s near-ideal. On second thoughts scrub the “near”, for this hidden gem of a production, tucked away in a London park, is the best thing I’ve seen all year. With sublime singing and playing, sensitive conducting and a stage concept of disarming ingenuity … [the concept] is a brilliant idea, apt yet unsettling, and it succeeds on every level. […] This production of Così fan tutte is a total triumph and a proud peacock-feather in OHP’s cap. Intelligent, clever, beautifully designed by Alex Eales and musically transcendent, it demands to be seen …

ClassicalSource.com, 8 June 2012

What a refreshing novelty! A production of Così fan tutte that actually places the action in its original eighteenth century setting! It almost seems unusual to find one today, but Harry Fehr proves that it is far from necessary to utilise a single mobile phone or video projection to produce a conceptually clever, brilliantly dynamic and ultimately relevant evening for a twenty-first century audience. .. This Così fan tutte may be a laugh a minute, but it is also remarkably bitter sweet, and all the more effective for being so.

**** Music OMH, 1 June 2012

 

news

The one about the soda siphon

Director Harry Fehr stages a double bill for Pegasus Opera Company. The programme comprises Philip Hagemann’s  chamber adaptation and English translation of Debussy L’Enfant Prodigue (The Prodigal Son) alongside Hagemann’s opera from George Bernard Shaw’s comic...

Harry Fehr directs Grimes in Basel

Opera director Harry Fehr will make his Swiss directing début with a production of Peter Grimes at Theater Basel. The show opens on March 27 and there are further performances on April 3, 6, 8, 14, 19, 26, May 3, 9, 21, June 12 & 19. The production is designed by...

Harry Fehr US directing début

Harry Fehr makes his US début directing Handel Orlando at San Francisco Opera with performances on June 9, 15, 18, 21 & 27. Originally a Scottish Opera production, the staging has also had success at Welsh National Opera "This is Handel with a modern audience in...

Harry Fehr German directing début

Harry Fehr directs in Germany for the first time staging Donizetti Roberto Devereux at the Badisches Staatstheater, Karlsruhe. The production with sets by Yannis Thavoris and costumes by Mark Bouman opens on March 23 with further performances on March 29, April 14,...

Fehr productions in The Hague & Karlsruhe

Director Harry Fehr stages Handel Radamisto for the Dutch National Opera Academy from January 17 to 20, 2019 at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague with Judith Kubitz conducting. He will shortly make his German début with Roberto Devereux at the Badisches...