Das Helmi on tour, all the way out east to Lichtenberg, in the shallow parabola of northern Rummelsberg right by S-Nöldnerplatz, where the rails form a curved triangle around the old railway workshops backing onto the roundhouse and railway turntable to the east, now typically Berlin ateliers and halfway to forest of the B.L.O. Ateliers.
Festival time. Wagner festival time. Berlin is not Bayreuth. Vol. 1. Six hours of Tannhäuser spread across at least four stages, meandering through the dishevelled brick and concrete buildings and fastigiate black poplars charging thirty metres into the dark, cloudless evening sky. Peter Frost wrecking it singing dodgy Schlagermusik, Cora Frost doing the same as a Pope to ruin The Young Pope. glanz&krawell (I think) working their way through the long shouty bits with proper opera singing. Das Helmi with their always always glorious, monstrous, chaotic stagings, scaring off people who though it was going to be, y’know, opera, culture and shit, instead of what the fuck is happening here, how did I find myself on stage slapping a stranger’s arse with twelve other people doing the same I should’a left when the Pope started kissing people’s feet kinda thing.
Mad thanks to Dasniya Sommer for getting me in, reminding me of a Berlin I utterly love, deeply pagan and animist, rough as guts and no intention of ever changing.
Last time I was performing in Parsifal, Laurence Dreyfus’ Wagner and the Erotic Impulse had just been published and was my and Dasniya’s reading during the rehearsals and performance. This time around in Bologna, I’d hoped to bring along William Kinderman’s Wagner’s Parsifal, part of Oxford University Press’ series Studies in Musical Genesis, Structure, and Interpretation. I waited, hoping it would arrive before our flight. It didn’t. So it was one of the stack of books I collected on my return (and for my profligacy have now banned myself from St George’s until at least April 2nd). I began reading it while ploughing through Dayal Patterson’s Black Metal, and got seriously stuck into it earlier in the week.
Much work (of which I also have to write) has kept me from blog, and I’m not going to write a massive exegesis on this, nonetheless, it’s a seriously well-written and researched work (aside from saying on p91 that the Flower Maidens are singing “Komm! holder Knabe!” in Act 1; that’d be Act 2, just before we begin to seriously plot our Act 3 pizza), which I would appreciate more if I remembered how to read music, knew my intervals, and all the rest.
Kinderman writes at length on Kundry, partly because Wagner himself did, and partly because as much as the work follows Parsifal, it also follows her. He writes that certain parts of her character and what happen to her can be seen as a crypto-anti-semiticism, or shaping her as either Jewish herself or a stand-in for Jewishness as it was represented in the late-19th century. I’d planned to write something on Kundry during Parsifal; it’s not going to happen, but perhaps to say, I was following a reading trail across various blogs, and came to Black Knights, Green Knights, Knights of Color All A-Round: Race and the Round Table, which is well-worth reading, not the least for a summary of how Mediaeval European and Arthurian knights were far from the white, Aryan nationalism they were pressed into service for by the time of Wagner.
A matinee is a strange performance to finish a season on.
I thought to take some photos of the theatre, Teatro Comunale di Bologna, where we’ve been the last month; particularly the piazza where the theatre is placed on the north-west-ish side. Saturday, following the wet greyness of Friday was oppositely calm, warm, and a vault of blue. The theatre looked spectacular.
There was another photo I wanted. The first time taking the elevator to the Salle Ballo, thinking it was high up and therefore on the top floor, I ended up in the roof space above the grid, with a small window looking out across the city, through the towers to Santuario della Madonna di San Luca, a view scarcely bettered by any other high point in the city, and one only for those fortunate enough to be lost in the theatre.
We warmed up for the last time, Bonnie, Dasniya, Pericles, and I, pinning on wigs, slathering white body paint, tying up ropes, and then, once again, it was finished.
One final evening in that beautiful city, and today fleeing across the directions of the compass: Bonnie southwards, Pericles east, and Dasniya and I splitting the difference between North, her to Zürich and me to Berlin.
There was no applause after Act 1, so we didn’t have our aural cue over the backstage speakers to begin our final preparations. At the end of Act 2, the only sound was the rumble and grind of machinery and single voices of the tech crew. No applause. It was Valentina, the stage manager who said it was because the conductor Roberto Abbado, had asked there be no applause until the end in respect of his uncle, the conductor Claudio Abbado, who died the previous day.
This morning I read his obituary in Deutsche Welle. He is quoted, “Many people learn how to talk, but they don’t learn how to listen. Listening to one another is an important thing in life. And music tells us how to do that.” and “Theaters, libraries, museums and movie theaters are like little aqueducts,” and “Culture overcomes social inequities. Culture frees us from poverty.”
While the third Act played, we sat in our dressing room Tersicorre, the four of us eating pizza and drinking wine. Dasniya read a message from Anna (the Mad Anna) describing the first time she met Claudio. At the end of Act 3, there was applause.
One hundred years ago, Richard Wagner’s opera Parsifal was first performed in Italy at Teatro Comunale di Bologna, and on Tuesday, January 14th, we celebrate this in the prémiere of Roméo Castellucci’s production that was first staged at La Monnaie | De Muntin Brussels in 2011.
14 Gennaio 2014 – 25 Gennaio 2014 Parsifal – Richard Wagner
Dramma sacro in tre atti
Libretto di Richard Wagner
Nel centenario della prima rappresentazione Italiana, a Bologna il primo gennaio 1914
14 gennaio 2014 – 19:00 Turno Prima
16 gennaio 2014 – 19:00 Turno A
18 gennaio 2014 – 15:30 Turno Domenica
21 gennaio 2014 – 19:00 Turno B
23 gennaio 2014 – 19:00 Turno C
25 gennaio 2014 – 15:30 Turno Pomeriggio
Amfortas Detlef Roth
Titurel Arutjun Kotchinian
Gurnemanz Gábor Bretz
Parsifal Andrew Richards
Klingsor Lucio Gallo
Kundry Anna Larsson
Primo Cavaliere del Graal Saverio Bambi
Secondo Cavaliere del Graal Alexey Yakimov
Primo scudiero Paola Francesca Natale
Secondo scudiero Alena Sautier
Terzo scudiero Filippo Pina Castiglioni
Quarto scudiero Paolo Antognetti
Fanciulle fiore – gruppo I
Fanciulle fiore – gruppo II
Diletta Rizzo Marin
Maria Rosaria Lopalco
Voce dall’alto Anna Larsson
Tamara Bacci (solista)
Roberto De Rosa
Martina La Ragione
Francesca Cerati (riserva)
Angela Russo (riserva)
Ferewoyni Berhe Argaw
Direttore Roberto Abbado
Regia, scene, costumi e luci Romeo Castellucci
Regista collaboratore Silvia Costa
Movimenti coreografici Cindy Van Acker
Drammaturgia Piersandra Di Matteo
Ballerina solista Tamara Bacci (Gref)
Assistente alle luci Daniele Naldi
Video 3D Apparati Effimeri
Maestro del Coro Andrea Faidutti
Maestro del Coro Voci Bianche Alhambra Superchi
Orchestra, Coro e Tecnici del Teatro Comunale di Bologna
Coro di Voci Bianche del Teatro Comunale di Bologna
Last night was the second of two full dress rehearsals. While waiting for the curtain call, we celebrated with third Act pizza in the dressing room. This rehearsal period, a mere two weeks actually in the theatre has passed almost too quickly to become philosophical about the whole working process; I have had the occasional thought though, and perhaps these will achieve bloghood in the coming days. In the meantime, skin and the rest is enjoying two days off from the wigs, white bodypaint, ropes, long days of warming up and preparing for the twenty-five-ish minutes we are actually on-stage. Andrew is here, Anna is here, a couple of others round out the original cast; we have a new Klingsor who is a delight, Valentina and Gianni as stage managers who are also a joy to work with, a great, friendly crew who live on some of the best coffee I have tasted, which at 70¢ a cup is also the cheapest, a new conductor who makes it his own, and altogether it’s not merely a remount and going through the steps. Some photos I was thinking of saving ’til we open, but I’ve seen other photos elsewhere, so, here is something of the last few days.
the most vibrant and delux start of 2014*** to all of you!
In January we will be part of Romeo Castellucci’s Parsifal again. Opening is on January 14th, 2014 in Bologna.
The next Yoga & Shibari workshop takes place in Berlin on Tuesday February 25th.
Individual workshops: Yoga and/or Shibari or Shibari Sessions
1. Parsifal at Teatro Comunale di Bologna
Musical Direction: Roberto Abbado
Director: Romeo Castellucci
Dates: Premier: January 14th, 19 pm. More dates: January 16/18/ 21/23/25, 2014
Where: Teatro Comunale di Bologna
More information: here
Blogged: Frances Blog
2. Yoga & Shibari Berlin, February Tuesday 25th, 2014
Hours: 7-11 pm
At Teatris/Alte Kantine or in our ‘Mini- Dojo’. Both locations are at:
U8 Pankstr/U9 Osloerstr
Please call when you are in the court yard, in case you don’t find it, or the door is locked: + 49 174 393 70 49.
Please register beforehand, then we send you the details
General Description: English + Deutsch
Yoga can be done separately from the Shibari part. Hours: 7-8.45 pm. Info here
3. Individual workshops: Yoga and/or Shibari or Shibari Sessions
“When do we do a full dress rehearsal again?” “Friday.” “Friday? … What day is it today, then?” “Saturday.” “Saturday? Really?” “Yes!” “Saturday … wow, it feels like Thursday … I think …”
Saturday turned out to be an unexpected long day in the theatre, with a full dress rehearsal of all three acts, despite us only having been on the stage once. In retrospect, it was a little like a dry run for launching a rocket, so everyone backstage (and onstage) could work out what they didn’t know needed to be done a couple of hours prior. We arrived very early and climbed the stairs to the attic studio for our warming up. My half-year of regular yoga and cycling training along with six weeks of boot camp for Parsifal seems to have spontaneously borne fruit, and I now have one or two muscles. Very handy, because for me it’s easier to hang both with and on muscles.
It’s all very familiar. New dancers and contortionists, but also a couple of the original cast; new singers and stage crew also, but also Anna Larsen and Andrew Richards again in the roles of Kundry and Parsifal. And speaking of whom, currently the sidewalls of Act 2, instead of being solid are semi-transparent scrim, so we could see all of what they get up to while de-roping sidestage. I was watching the DVD of the opera a couple of days ago, and Andrew is awfully scary in his anguish after almost following his desire with Kundry, and then Anna, when we were onstage again at the end of the rehearsal and she’s going crazy, it’s absolutely goose bump thrilling; she’s completely hardcore and metal, and this was only a rehearsal.
Us then, getting the wigs pulled back on (quite like scalp bondage), getting almost naked and covered in white body-paint (like skin bondage), and then on with the ropes. In Brussels, we were directly behind the stage, so we could hear where they were up to in the first Act and know where we needed to be. Now we’re upstairs and can’t hear them at all, so by the time our call came we were at least five minutes late. Not that it ultimately mattered; I think the most important part of the run was everyone working out their collective timing, rather than merely getting through everything onstage. In the end we didn’t hang anyway, as we hadn’t rehearsed with the mechanists and techies, so it went pear-shaped.
Which was the task of yesterday morning, Sunday at 11am onstage. We made a very approximate warmup and were there with the stage managers (who are amazing in that calm, efficient and dependable way) and Klingsor to get all the cues sorted out. It’s turned out the video I had filmed of the final dress rehearsal in Brussels (from which things nonetheless were changed) has been essential in getting this back together. Unlike dance, where restaging a piece in the last at least fifteen years has been a process of watching video, in Opera it seems dependant on the written notes in the score, which are open to far more interpretation than a video, especially when passed from person to person, and often miss a substantial number of important details.
Tuesday we’ll try and put all that together, and then sort out the going up and down once airborne, and for me the climbing on the back wall. Today, Monday is a day off and one of those stupid religious holidays where everything is shut, completely negating the point of having a Monday off. After rehearsal yesterday, we (Dasniya, Jorgos, Bonnie, and I) went for gelati, and after a quick stop at home (a mere 7 minutes dawdle from the theatre), Dasniya and I tried to get somewhat lost in the city. It’s not so easy as there is the former city wall as a circumference for any wanderings, but within … now I’ve finished breakfast, I shall be a tourist.
Our first day in the theatre today, Teatro Communale di Bologna, which is pretty much at the end of the street we are living on, all of us in the same apartment building. Bologna is covered in communist, anti-fascist (and occasionally, fascist), anti-capitalist graffiti, scrawled over the gently decaying terracotta, ochre, burnt umber façades, and so too is it with the theatre. Inside, I am memorising the path of least resistance for my head; it is not a theatre for tall people.
Today we made some administration stuff, pulled on our old wigs, and got on stage for some setting up of equipment and a first rehearsal with the new Klingsor. Also found our rehearsal room, once again far up the top of the theatre, our dressing room just below, wandered many corridors and stairs finding where everything is, discovered at least three elevators, one of which seems to finish on the roof.