"We have a very open young public in Amsterdam," he says. "If I had to submit to the pressures of traditional opera--inviting famous names and so on--I don't think I would have done what I've done."
In addition to the Monteverdi and several works by Arnold Schoenberg, Audi has staged such familiar works as "La Boheme" and "The Magic Flute." He has commissioned new works and has invited such innovative artists as Peter Stein and Peter Sellars to direct with his company. The Netherlands Opera, for instance, premiered Sellars' production of "Pelleas et Melisande," which was seen here as part of L.A. Opera's 1994-95 season.
Yet Audi, who will mount the Netherlands' first staging of Wagner's complete "Ring" cycle beginning in the 1997-98 season, is concerned about the state of opera directing today.
"The problem is that in the last 10 or 15 years, the opera intelligentsia, the critics, have expected the director to come into a production as a second author," he says.
"I enjoy seeing X's vision of 'Turandot' or whatever. It can open your eyes to new meaning and make a link between that work and today. But sometimes, through excess or the necessity to feel that providing your concept as a director is more important than the work, it goes badly wrong. There I think it brings opera backwards."
His goal is to bring the form forward instead. And that, he says, is accomplished--as with "Ulysses"--by a commitment to innovation with an openness to ideas from the past.
"If you look at every era of opera, every phase has been a continuous rethinking of the form," Audi says. "That's true now more than ever, because the form is completely destroyed and composers are no longer interested in narrative. They're interested in deconstructing the form--perhaps too much.
"Perhaps there'll be a return to narrative in the next century," he continues. "Who knows? But at the moment the form is very open."
* "The Return of Ulysses," L.A. Opera, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Music Center, 135 N. Grand Ave. Tuesday, Thursday and May 13, 16 and 18, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, 1 p.m. $23-$130. (213) 365-3500.