Heaven-sent happiness and enchained ephemera

"Eugene Onegin" at the Kornmarkt, "Wunderwandelwelt" at the Workshop Theatre

Bregenz, 8.8.19. Ten days before the Bregenz Festival reaches the end of its 74th season, members of the press were given a foretaste of this Monday's premiere of the opera Eugene Onegin as well as the music theatre installation Wunderwandelwelt which can be seen on the last week-end of the festival. The "lyrical scenes in three acts" by Peter Tchaikovsky will be staged by Jan Eßinger at the Kornmarkt-Theater as the fifth annual production of the Bregenz Opera Studio, while at the Workshop Theatre François Sarhan will conjure up a cosmos of music, narration, pictures and films. 

Meanwhile, Rigoletto continues to draw capacity audiences to the lake stage at Bregenz. After tonight's performance, if it goes ahead as planned, about 120,000 people will have seen the opera by Giuseppe Verdi and directed by Philipp Stölzl by this stage in the festival. That corresponds to 100 per cent capacity, and the eight performances remaining from tomorrow night onwards are sold out too. So far this season there have been two cancellations due to rain.

A look ahead to 2020: Rigoletto returns for 27 performances
Tickets to next year's Bregenz Festival (except for premieres, Lounge and Premium Tickets) go on sale on the evening of 18 August, the final day of this year's season. At the 2020 festival, which opens on 22 July and runs until 23 August, Rigoletto returns for a further 27 performances on the lake stage. The Festspielhaus production will be Arrigo Boito's opera Nero.

Eugene Onegin – the fifth Bregenz Opera Studio production
Five years after the Opera Studio was established, its young singers will tackle the challeng-ing roles of Eugene Onegin by Tchaikovsky, premiered in Moscow in 1879. The opera will play at the Kornmarkt-Theater, directed by Jan Eßinger and with Valentin Uryupin conduct-ing the Vorarlberg Symphony Orchestra. The sets and costumes have been designed by Nikolaus Webern.

The public masterclass at the beginning of July was conducted for the first time by Dmitry Vdovin, artistic director of the Bolshoi Theatre Young Artists Programme, which he founded in 2009. Tchaikovsky composed the opera for performance by voice students at Moscow Conservatoire to save his work from the "ghastly, banal routine" of the established opera business. 

"We're trying to juxtapose Tchaikovsky's occasionally overblown, frequently overindulgent music with figures that are as natural as possible. The stage acting is thus very precise and detailed, sometimes almost reductive. In rehearsals I have found this deliberate contrast really compelling," explains Eßinger, who once worked as assistant director on the lake stage at Bregenz and studied music theatre directing in Hamburg. The Opera Studio is organised in cooperation with the singing competition NEUE STIMMEN, founded by the Bertelsmann Stiftung. 

"Habit is heaven-sent"
The first two acts show a marshy natural landscape, a kind of steppe with expanses of moor and moss, and with tall grasses and ferns. "The location doesn't necessarily have to be in Russia. It is set somewhere miles from anywhere, deep in the rural hinterland." Eßinger wants to put the spotlight on the figures' emotional states and their relationships with oth-ers. The line from Act One – "Habit is heaven-sent, a substitute for happiness" – is of central significance, the director says. 

The opera premieres at the Kornmarkt-Theater on 12 August. This is followed by three more performances on 13, 15 and 17 August, for which tickets are still available. 

Music theatre installation Wunderwandelwelt at the close of the festival
On the last weekend of the Bregenz Festival there will be a world premiere at the Workshop Theatre: Wunderwandelwelt, a music theatre installation. The French composer, painter, poet and all round artist François Sarhan will stage the work on two successive evenings and will take part in the performance himself. The set and props are largely his work, too.

"Adorno was right!" is plastered, in English, across a collage wall nearly the height of a room and apparently made of scraps of paper that have been glued together. The show's original title is Éphémère Enchainé, i.e. enchained ephemera. This is an abbreviated description of what awaits the visitor, namely an improvised, fleeting world that consists of scraps of pa-per, photos, newspaper cuttings,  music and sounds that emerge from different places. 

Anarchic, kaleidoscopic, poetic
The audience is free to move around the theatre space or to sit on the beige-brown chairs, which are also made of folded cardboard. The scenery is reminiscent of the trendy bars in Berlin's Prenzlauer Berg district in the post-reunification years – anarchic, kaleidoscopic, poetic.

"What is creativity?" This question will be repeatedly asked by different figures on stage, to be played by members of the music ensemble Something Out There. Among the props that come and go are everyday objects painted and cut out of paper, for instance a coffee pot with cup, a typewriter, and even a chainsaw. 

"I can never say at the start of my work what will come next. If I gave these things a name, they would instantly disappear," says Sarhan. The very ephemerality of his ideas, of music and the performing arts is what he sets out to catch in Wunderwandelwelt, containing it in a theatre space so that audience members can experience it themselves directly. 

Donaueschinger Musiktage and La Muse en Circuit are the partners
The music will be performed by two ensembles, Something Out There and Ensemble Phace, its members positioned at different places in the theatre space. The co-production partner is La Muse en Circuit, a centre for electro-acoustic music near Paris, while the cooperation partner is Donaueschinger Musiktage. Bregenz audiences know Sarhan from Home Work, which he gave the world premiere of at the Workshop Theatre in 2011.

The two performances on 16 and 17 August are sold out. 

The 2019 Bregenz Festival runs from 17 July to 18 August. For tickets and information, visit www.bregenzerfestspiele.com or call 0043 5574 4076. The 2020 season will run from 22 July to 23 August – tickets go on sale on 18 August 2019 (except for premieres, Lounge and Pre-mium Tickets).

(ar)

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