Robert Wilson presents Weber's Der Freischütz at Baden-Baden on stage and online

Opera preview

28 May 2009

Der Freischütz Rehearsals and feverish preparations are proceeding in a glare of publicity - often accompanying Robert Wilson's excursions in reforming our concepts of how opera should be presented on the stage - for the premiere of Weber's Der Freischütz at the Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden on 31 May.

The second performance, taking place on 1 June, will be transmitted live by ARTE; and, in an experiment of great significance and innovation, www.arte.tv will transmit the live performance on the internet not only in its full length, but by installing several static cameras behind the stage, and having two expert reporters describing the scene both before, during and after the performance. The reporters will also interview singers, stagehands, members of the audience, and Director of Music Thomas Hengelbrock. Robert Wilson promises to show the genesis of a production from beginning to end.

It is the first time that such a simultaneous transmission is being attempted, but ARTE has enormous resources and represents one of the most powerful innovative inputs in the presentation and shaping art, theatre, film and literature.

Whether this globally viewable presentation of Robert Wilson's somewhat unusual concepts of operatic direction - moving between minimalism, conceptualism and his multilayered experience in creating a gesamtkunstwerk of his own for his productions - will increase the still somewhat limited acceptance by music lovers (as distinct from the courting of the intendants of the greatest opera houses, who seem to be fighting for his productions) remains to be seen.

For the benefit of readers of these reports, not so familiar with Robert Wilson's main tenets, here are a few extracts from his latest message to the press in Baden-Baden:

'I hate naturalism because what is naturalistically produced on the stage is artificial. But the most difficult task is simply standing on the stage. When this is done well, movement generates itself. Standing is movement! When you close your eyes, you hear better. Or inversely, if one switches off the sound on the TV set, one can follow movement better. And this is what I endeavour to convey to singers.

'Music does not need illustration, but a sort of anti-world. And so does tension arise between stage and music. I don't explain singers what they ought to think or feel, but I give them clear and formal instructions'.

Der FreischützReaders, not yet familiar with the products of these views and who have not experienced the Aida he produced for Covent Garden a couple of years ago, and which still makes its rounds in the world's major houses, could watch on YouTube several scenes from this production, shown in January at the Teatro Reale of Rome.

The composer Carl Maria von Weber was not available to comment on Wilson's interpretation of his most popular work, a romantic forerunner of Wagner's youthful masterpieces; but no doubt he would have been fascinated to hear that on the costume made for Agathe, designed by Viktor & Rolf, two of the classiest designers in Paris for stage and celebrities, 1,300,000 glass slivers, supplied by Swarovski, were laboriously applied - a fact emphatically underlined in all press releases and managerial statements.

by Francis Shelton

Weber's Der Freischütz will be transmitted live by ARTE on 1 June and also on www.arte.tv and 7 days saved. The cast is as follows: Juliane Banse (Agathe), Julia Kleiter (Ännchen), Steve Davislim (Max). Conductor: Thomas Hengelbrock; Mahler Chamber Orchestra; Philharmonia Chor, Vienna.

For further information visit http://www.festspielhaus.de/en/celebrate/.

Photo Credits: Lesley Leslie-Spinks

lineElina GarancaRelated articles:

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News: Festspielhaus Baden-Baden announces 2009-10 season
CD Review: The Opera Gala. Live from Baden-Baden (DG)
Classical Feature: The Festspielhaus, Baden-Baden


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