Saturday, 3 March 2012

Desert Island Disc

Vasilis Triantafillopoulos and Herbert Schäfer’s set is abstract and owes much to the aesthetic of Wieland Wagner’s Bayreuth productions from the 1950s: a bare white disc covers the stage, with scene changes marked by occasional rotation or steep raking (revealing an underbelly of girders painted an incongruous shade of red). Sometimes a mirror is lowered to give an elevated view of the disc from above, which led to some striking images. A smattering of props gives a vague sense of the plot: ladders for the enchanted forest which holds Odysseus’s men captive on Circe’s island, and rifles for when they assemble a militia. Costumes are nondescript modern for the cast and white straightjackets for the chorus. The one provocative visual is a scene straight out of Abu Ghraib to show Circe’s abuse of power, in which the chorus is blindfolded, bound, and smeared with stage blood. From there they move on to paramilitary uniforms, though the effect was more anonymizing than threatening, and I wondered why [director Torsten] Fischer didn’t make this an onstage costume change, to communicate at least some sense of insurrection.

I went to the Theater an der Wien’s new Telemaco and didn’t think much of the crashingly dull ideas- and narrative-lite production. But musically things were solid. I have no idea what undemonstrative soul seems to have possessed René Jacobs, but the playing (the Akademie für alte Musik were in the pit) maintained improbable grace and restraint under his direction. Vocally David DQ Lee is no Bejun Mehta but there can’t be many Telemaco Einspringer, and he sprang ein exceptionally well for such short notice. Click here to read my full review, many more production images follow the jump.

Alexandrina Pendatchanska (Circe)

Rainer Trost (Ulisse)

Anett Fritsch (Merione) & Bejun Mehta (Telemaco)

Image credit: Armin Bardel

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