top of page

Munich: The aesthetic possibilities of waiting fill the Ja, Mai!

Munich: Cuivilléstheater & Haus der Kunst, 13. & 14.05.2023

Festival Ja, Mai!

Il ritorno / The Year of Magical Thinking: Kristina Hammarström, Charles Daniels, Xenia Puskarz Thomas, Liam Bonthron, Sibylle Canonica, Wiebke Mollenhauer, Damian Rebgetz. musical director: Christopher Moulds. stage director: Christopher Rüping. Bayerisches Staatsorchester, Monteverdi Continuo Ensemble; Hanjo: Sarah Aristidou, Charlotte Hellekant, Konstantin Krimmel. musical director: Lothar Koenigs; stage director: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. Eastman Dance Company, Münchener Kammerochester.

With the second edition of the Ja, Mai festival, the Bavarian State Opera reaffirms its determination to continue exploring the boundaries of the opera genre. There are few theaters in Germany that firmly resolve to break with the repertoire. And even if this Bavarian initiative is short-lived – Munich continues to lead the Regietheater scene without making major concessions to the periphery – it is to be welcomed that it has established itself as an independent chapter in the regular season. The fact that contemporary opera, or any kind of extra-canonical repertoire at all, finds its logical place in "festivals" seems to have become a matter of course in the German scene. There may well be practical reasons for this, but it testifies to the strong reluctance of all the major houses to take the conservative principle of Regietheater to crisis. One wonders how this can be, especially when one considers that, at least in Germany, it is precisely the big houses that have the financial upper hand, and not the festivals or the independent scene, where in fact most of the more interesting engagement with the flip side of the canon takes place (Bourdieu and his capital culturel would have something to say about that). Be that as it may. The success of the two productions presented in this issue of Ja, Mai, Il ritorno / The Year of Magical Thinking and Hanjo, certainly makes one sit up and take notice.

The first thing to mention is the establishment of a concrete and coherent line of creation. Already in the double evening presented last season with scores by the composer Georg Friedrich Haas, there was an interest in the combination of contemporary music and baroque music, which has now been transformed into the ideological support of the festival. Transformed in every sense, because under this umbrella is found not only the dialogue of contemporary music theater with the Baroque, but also the dialogue of contemporary music theater with so many other marginal forms of the genre.

In fact, the two new productions share this ideological support, but are located in completely different coordinates: Il ritorno / The Year of Magical Thinking is an adaptation of Monteverdi's Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria by director Christopher Rüping based on a text by writer Joan Didion, and Hanjo is a contemporary opera in dialogue with the Japanese tradition of No Theater. The most decisive gesture of the organizers responsible for the extraordinary character of Ja, Mai is the introduction of another coherent element: a thematic thread, simple and powerful, that runs through these two very different worlds, allowing the spectator to cross them, clinging to it, almost seamlessly.

This theme is – modern and ancient at the same time – loss and thus the absurd but inevitable waiting for what will not return. In Christopher Rüping's play, Monteverdi's attempt at the most famous waiting in art history, that of Penelope for Odysseus, is in dialogue with the moving testimony to the loss of a loved one in Joan Didion's novel The Year of Magical Thinking (2005). It really is a dialogue; Rüping manages to integrate his dramaturgical elaboration of the book, which he proudly owes to Christoph Marthaler's theater, into the flow of Monteverdi's opera, from which he stages the crucial moments. The result is as exciting as it is challenging, as Rüping is not afraid to amputate Monteverdi's text with sensitivity and dramaturgical intelligence. Contributing to the success of the experiment is the excellent work of the orchestra under the direction of Christopher Moulds, as well as the singers and actors, some of them very young – Xenia Puskarz Thomas, who portrays a dazzling Melanto, deserves special mention.

Hanjo is a mysterious opera by composer Toshio Hosokawa, who aims to approximate the slow pace of Japanese No theater by playing with textures and instrumental atmospheres. The theme, taken from Yukio Mishima's No theater play of the same name, is also waiting, but in a tone more reminiscent of Beckett than Homer. Choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui interprets the piece with his own body language, sharing the action with dancers who become shadows of the singers (both baritone Konstantin Krimmel as Yoshio and soprano Sarah Aristidou as Hanako were excellent). This gesture, of course, contradicts the sober aesthetic of "No", but it is compelling precisely because of the clash of aesthetic languages it provokes, and is in keeping with the pioneering spirit of the Munich festival.

signed: Wein in den Muscheln

Bayreuth, Juni 2023

5 Ansichten0 Kommentare

Aktuelle Beiträge

Alle ansehen


bottom of page