© Frieke Janssens
Born in 1960, Guy Cassiers is a Belgian-Flemish director. After beginning his career as artistic director at the Oud Huis Stekelbees youth theatre in Gand, his first production as stage director, Angels in America by Tony Kushner (1995) for the RO Theater won several prizes and, on the strength of this success, he became the theatre’s artistic director, a post he occupied from 1998 until 2006. With De Sleutel (1998), Wespenfabriek (2000), La Grande Suite (2001) and Lava Lounge (2002) he developed a theatrical language marked by the use of video, projected text and live music. À la recherché du temps perdu, a cycle of four plays devoted to Proust performed between 2002 and 2004, can be seen as the culminating point of this approach combining technology and poetry, images and music, the camera and the actor’s craft.
In 2006, Guy Cassiers took over the direction of Het Toneelhuis in Anvers and invited a new generation of artists, directors, video makers and choreographers to join him: Benjamin Verdonck, Wayn Traub, Olympique Dramatique, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Lotte van den Berg. At Het Toneelhuis, he directed a tetralogy of literary adaptations based on The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe, The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks, Bezonken Rood by Jeroen Brouwers (also performed at the Avignon Festival), J. Bernlef’s Hersenschimmen and Alexander Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin.
Between 2006 and 2008, he also created the Triptyque du Pouvoir, a trilogy analysing the complex relationships between art, politics and power comprising Mefisto for ever, based on Klaus Mann’s 2006 novel Mephisto; Wolfskers portraying the decrepitude of three tyrants: Hitler, Stalin and Hirohito; and Atropa, la Vengeance de la paix inspired by the Trojan wars.
Recent projects reflect Guy Cassiers’ thinking on European history: Sang & Roses, le chant de Jeanne et Gilles (2011) deals with the power of the Church, and Coeur ténébreux (2011) based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is set in the colonial past. In 2014-15, Guy Cassiers directed the actors and creators of Het Toneelhuis in a production of Maurice Maeterlinck’s De Blinden. Theatrical projects for 2015-16 include Caligula by Albert Camus and De Welwillenden based on Jonathan Littel’s novel Les Bienveillantes.
Besides images, music also plays a preponderant role in Guy Cassiers’ work, prompting him to direct several operas: The Woman Who Walked into Doors by Kris Defoort at De Singel in Anvers (2001); House of the Sleeping Beauties by the same composer at the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels and Adam in Ballingschap by Rob Zuidam at the Stadsschouwburg in Amsterdam (2009). From 2010 to 2013, Guy Cassiers directed Der Ring des Nibelungen by Richard Wagner, a co-production with La Scala Milan, the Berlin Staatsoper and the Toneelhuis in Anvers and conducted by Daniel Barenboim. During the 2015-16 Season, Guy Cassiers has directed Xerse by Francesco Cavalli at Lille Opera. In keeping with his literary influences, he will make his Paris Opera debut during the 2016-17 Season with Luca Francesconi’s Trompe-la-Mort, a new opera inspired by Honoré de Balzac’s La Comédie Humaine.
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