The article focuses on opera as a theatrical genre, brought to life only through specific stagings. This concept implies that the traditional concept of an artistic work needs to be questioned. If the live performance on stage is regarded as a work in its own right, the «original operatic work» might be conceived as a «souvenir», as suggested by Carolyn Abbate, whereas David Levin makes a distinction between the «opera text» and the «performance text», the latter signifying a particular staging.

The point of departure for this discussion is the production of Handel’s Giulio Cesare, staged in 2005 by the Norwegian (Berlin based) director Stefan Herheim at the Oslo national opera. The staging was a highly inventive, unconventional interpretation, recreating the visual and vocal splendour of baroque opera performances. The critics were, however, divided between appraisal and rejection, and some of these comments are highlighted as pertinent to the overall argument.

Keywords: Baroque opera, staging, performance, work concept, Stefan Herheim