Going Out in Berlin: New Faust Opera, Beuys on Film, Forsythe
01-02-06 Revista de Prensa
A giant clock dominates the stage of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden for Pascal Dusapin's new opera, ``Faustus, the Last Night.'' Its hands move in both directions, signaling the suspension of time in an otherworldly void between life and death, heaven and hell.
by Catherine Hickley
The opera opens with Faustus (Georg Nigl) plaguing Mephistopheles (Hanno Mueller-Brachmann) with questions about the universe in his search for knowledge, while a distraught angel (Caroline Stein) sings high-pitched fragmented sentences.
Dusapin, born in 1955, laces his impressive though daunting work with references to European literature and philosophy. His English libretto borrows from Christopher Marlowe's version of the Faust parable rather than Goethe's and quotes liberally from Shakespeare.
The ending moves into Samuel Beckett territory: There is no descent into a Dante-style vision of the inferno. Instead, there is a fading into nothingness, as the music melts away and Togod - - an anagram of Godot -- sings: ``There is nothing. That's the way it is.''
Peter Mussbach's production of Dusapin's fifth opera, commissioned by the Staatsoper and the Opera National de Lyon, drew a storm of applause at its premiere on Jan. 21. With no break, just five singers, the existential questioning, literary references and abstract themes, it's an intense 90 minutes.
Michael Boder conducts the Staatskapelle Berlin in two more performances of ``Faustus, the Last Night'' this season: on Feb. 4 and Feb. 12. For more information, go to http://www.staatsoper - berlin.de. Call (49) (30) 2035-4555 for tickets.
How do you explain pictures to a dead hare? Most of us probably wouldn't think of trying, yet Joseph Beuys did, and you can watch the result at the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum for Contemporary Art.
The museum is marking the 20th anniversary of Beuys's death with a compact exhibition showing archive footage of the artist and his performance works combined with a few of his sculptures and installations from the museum's permanent collection.
In ``Wie man dem toten Hasen die Bilder erklaert'' (``How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare''), Beuys smears his head and face with honey and gold before taking a dead hare around a gallery. You can also watch Beuys, who considered language a part of his art, vehemently defending his work and ideas to skeptical critics in a panel discussion that is now treasured as an art- theory historical document. There's no question about who won the debate.
In ``Everybody Is an Artist,'' a film by Werner Krueger, Beuys, wearing his hallmark waistcoat with bulging pockets, talks about his life, work and philosophy while expertly peeling potatoes and kohlrabi for a family meal.
Felt, Wax, Honey
Beuys sought to broaden the definition of art to encompass all human creation. For newcomers to Beuys's art, the video explanations of his politics and his utopian visions are a big help in interpreting his highly symbolic work, much of it made out of felt, fat, wax, copper and honey. To watch him on film is to catch the infectious energy, inspiration and humor of the man behind the ideas.
The works on show include ``Unschlitt'' (``Tallow''), a collection of large, yellow blocks, ``Filzanzug'' (``Felt Suit'') and ``Das Ende des 20. Jahrhunderts'' (``The End of the 20th Century''), an installation of rocks. There is also a magnificent, glittery red-and-black Andy Warhol portrait of Beuys.
A big retrospective of Beuys's work would have been nice. Unfortunately, no one seems to have used the anniversary of his death as an opportunity to assemble one.
The exhibition runs through April 23. For more information, go to http://www.hamburgerbahnhof.de .
William Forsythe's one-year-old dance company is bringing the first work he created for the ensemble, ``Three Atmospheric Studies,'' to the Haus der Berliner Festspiele for three nights.
Forsythe, a New Yorker who has been working in Germany since 1973, founded his new troupe after subsidy cuts forced the closure of Ballett Frankfurt, where he was the director until 2004. The 18 dancers come mainly from the Ballett Frankfurt and the group shares its time between Frankfurt and Dresden. Funding is provided by a mixture of public and private sponsors.
His productions are modern and abstract -- don't expect tutus and pointes. The Web site describes this show as a ``reworking'' of ``Three Atmospheric Studies'' to incorporate the last part, ``Clouds After Cranach,'' which had its premiere in Frankfurt last year. The music is by David Morrow and Thom Willems.
``Three Atmospheric Studies'' is showing on Feb. 2, Feb. 3 and Feb. 4 in Berlin. Though the last performance is sold out, there are still tickets available for the first two dates. For more information and tickets, go to http://www.berlinerfestspiele.de /.
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