Dear Alain, what a beautiful contribution - I thank you and embrace you!!
Still another remark to our theme: I also think, there is a big difference between a musician and a stage-team, also a person that tries to interpret a work in words: The musician has to follow the score; there is no question. For a theater-person and also for an interpreter, that tries to understand with his words and thoughts (as I myself), there is another situation, for they all have to transform the scores into another medium. And in doing so, there own thoughts, experiences, their own biography etc automatically and inevitably plays an important role. In this way interpretation is always something creative, because the interpreter brings in his own questions and that, what for him seems to be selfevident. So the interpreter is always on the edge, he has to dare something. But not everything is legitimated what comes to the mind. For me a sign of quality always is, if the interpreter is willing to deeply deal with motives, that seem strange, that contradict common conventions. For that is the point, where we can learn from a genius of past days. Maybe we cannot accept everything - that is normal. But to treat also that with respect, even when we have to contradict, is the art of interpretation - and in the case, that for me that is impossible, I should not be busy with such a work. For me the crucial point with Stockhausen was the Urantia Book. At first I could not accept that book at all, and that was a major hindrance for my project of interpretation. That was made possible, when in my own thinking there grew a certain understanding, why Stockhausen was so fascinated by this book. I am still no fan of this book at all - much to me seems absurd. But I think I got an idea why for Stockhausen that played an important role, and that for me made a difference. Otherwise I would have been forced to eliminate important traits of Stockhausen's worldview. And that is often my suspicion, when I see "critical" interpretations of classical works on stage: That the stage-teams too early gave up the questioning and the process of investigation and just remained in their own way of thinking. And therefore these productions ultimately are not really interesting, for they do not confront us with something that leaves the common way of thinking.
Excuse me - again many many words and this tendency to teach and preach.... Love from Thomas.
I mentioned Steier's demand for craftsmanship. One cannot doubt the professionalism of the staging when e. g. remembering the parallel flashbacks and imaginations which continued the multi-layer aspect of Act One even into Acts Two and Three. Alain pointed to the Saints who were on the edge of craziness. Steier relied on popular myths: Jack Nicholson and his comrades are „strange” but positive. First, I was afraid to see MICHAEL as a lunatic but the staging and the reference made it clear that he is suffering and trying to free himself and the others. Of course, this is not as grandiose as Stockhausen imagined but I tried to explain why Steier chose this way.
it was not Stockhausen all in all, because the music was often broken by acoustical interferences and as Thomas Ulrich said the expression of the music was often contrary to Stockhausens indications (often aggressive), caused by the regie and therefore it´s not Stockhausen from the very beginning of KINDHEIT, especially the staging. This is clear when you follow the score. It was Steier with Stockhausen in the background. It´s not only a complete misrepresentation of the contense. When you close the eyes you can often hear staging.
Very interesting the conversation of Adorján with Lydia Steier! But I do not think, Adorján, that you are right with your pessimistic conclusion, that in our atheistic mainstream it is impossible to present spiritual themes. There are many other examples. For instance presentations of Wagner's Parsifal, that do not eliminate the religious dimension, and even productions with Stockhausen: I already mentioned the production of MICHAELs REISE from 2008 with Carlus Padrissa, Franc Aleu and Roland Olbeter, a production in a very modern, futuristic outfit, but also trying to be as "werktreu" as possible, with everything, including the HIMMELFAHRT: The public spontaneously understood what happened, the reactions also in the newspapers were enthusiastic, it was a big success, Europe-wide. Or think of the presentation of SAMSTAG in Munich 2012, not everything on stage, but for instance the last scene with the religious text by St. Francis, in the big St. Michael-church, with everything the score demanded, including the movements of the choir that Alain Louafi realized: it had been a public success like a pop-event. Or SONNTAG in Cologne, that did not hide at all the religious theme. The point is: You must take the courage. In Basel there was semi-courage: The courage to present the opera: great! But then the initial courage faded away and with it the grandeur of the work - a pity! Well, we hope for another opportunity. But, as I feel, there is a general problem with interpreting DONNERSTAG: On the one hand it is a life-story of a religious revelator (like Jesus) and so of a single person - that is the conventional layer of this opera: Many operas tell the story of a man. But on the other hand Michael is not primarily a person, but a spiritual energy, that works in all of us (and therefore also in the young Stockhausen), as the forces of Luzifer and Eva. That is not only an old, but also a modern concept of psychology: That there is no solid Ego, but everybody is a battlefield of forces and tendencies; sometime this force is working, then another (the so called "Teilpersönlichkeiten"). That is a very rational concept of Stockhausen, but with immediate religious consequences. That is the main meaning of Michael also in DONNERSTAG - but how to show that on stage? That is a real big difficulty! But I have the suspicion, that the stage team not only missed a solution of this problem, but simply was not aware of the basic problem of the opera. And so we got a simple story of a miserable person. But that is not DONNERSTAG aus LICHT!
Something I wrote on fb. I couln´d say this exactly in english:
Es gibt aus meiner Sicht vier große Probleme: 1. die Werktreue (über die man nicht streiten kann, weil sie nicht vollständig in Basel gegeben ist), 2. die Ästhetik (Ordinärität & Brutalität), 3. die Lächerlichmachung der Religiösität (Blasphemie) und 4. der tiefere Sinn dieser Inszenierung - alles was gesagt wurde darüber erschließt sich mir nicht vollständig in der Inszenierung und geht aus meiner Sicht nicht in die Tiefe (dauerschwangere und bösartige Eva, unedle LUZIFER-Figuren, lächerliche Michael-Jesus-Figur)
I. Wenn man "Endlich vom Glauben abfallen" in einem Artikel über eine Produktion von dem geistlichen Werk DONNERSTAG aus LICHT schreibt, bei der die Inszenierung eindeutig eine Parodie ist, ist das zu vergleichen mit einer Inszenierung einer Passion Bachs beispielsweise, wo alles Biblische in die Lächerlichkeit gezogen wird. Egal, ob Privatreligion oder Religion. Zudem hat Stockhausen seine choreografischen und szenischen Vervisualisierungen immer als seiner Musik zugehörig verstanden. Ändern wir Musiker also jetzt auch zukünftig Noten, Rhythmen und Tempi, weil uns das dann besser gefallen könnte was wir spielen?
Da wundert mich gar nichts mehr. Ein Werk ganz zu lassen ist anscheinend außer Mode. Lieber die Freiheitsberaubung: das ist nämlich viel spannender für das Publikum, nicht wahr?! Eine parasitäre Bedienung großer Werke entspricht nicht gerade einer professionellen Arbeit - unabhängig davon wie es beim Publikum ankommen mag. "Verkrampfte Werktreue": was ist das denn? Es gibt so unendlich viele Freiheiten. Warum nimmt man sie nicht da wo sie möglich sind? Die armen Musiker, die zur Prostitution gezwungen werden, anstatt ihre unglaubliche Leistung zu unterstützen. Es gibt so viele Missachtungen, Fehler, Auslassungen und Änderungen von den Anweisungen der Partituren: und hier wird von einer Nichtbrechung gesprochen?! So lange das Werk zu schützen ist wird dies hoffentlich das erste und letzte Mal sein, dass so eine Vergewaltigung stattfindet. Wenn man das Werk wirklich gut kennt und sich informiert kann man auf jeden Fall viele Freiheiten finden und trotzdem das Werk in seiner ursprünglichen Botschaft und Kraft nicht berauben.
III. Womöglich beginnt die Verstumpfung der Menschheit damit, dass wir Flachheit zu schnell in Kauf nehmen und schnell schlucken, während Wesentliches viel mehr Arbeit abverlangt um es zum Teil des selbst werden zu lassen. Eine Interpretation ist ja eigentlich erst dann eine, wenn man ein Werk ganz lässt.
Thanks to Thomas, for having started and developped this discussion ! And thanks to the other: Suzee, Christian, Adorjan, Ian ! All these points of vue and analyses help me to go on discovering the piece and the world of Karlheinz. It is always a dilemma: I agree that the first step is always to respect the creator and follow the indications of the score as much as possible. But reduicing these Master works to the indications of the creator, or put them in a box, can block their life and their inside and mysterious power. Maybe Lydia took too much freedom...? But like Adorjan, I had a little discussion with her, and through what I heard from her and from the interpreters, we have to admit that she knew very well the piece, and the choices she did, did not start from ignorance or disrecpect. Every one points on the strong religious aspect that exists in the piece; it reminds me an interview, in France: Karlheinz together with Béjart, by the famous journalist Bernard Pivot. You can see this very interesting vidéo, on my FB page(in french). To the question: "What is the presence and the importance of God in your work ?" Béjart and Stockhausen had two beautiful answers. Who can say what is Divine, or not, Devotion or not ? Is it not a Mystery ? In French we say: "Qui veut faire l'ange fait la bête". And Jean Cocteau was saying: " Puisque ces Mystères nous dépassent, feignons d'en être les organisateurs...!" Karlheinz organised a beautiful Mystery for us ! In this vidéo, man can see that besides the point of vue of Karlheinz about music, God, posterity, you have the one of Béjart; this one is also very interesting and closer to the point of vue of a regisser: a more pragmatic one. Bejart was presenting his book: "Un instant dans la vie d'autrui" and he is speaking about the "flesh" of the interpreters, about the danger of mummifying, etc. These two points of vue are complement one another. It is not easy for a regisser to be more than: "Un instant dans la vie d'autrui..." If I look back and try to remember the regies of Ronconi and the one of Bogdanov, even Karlheinz was still alive... they were maybe more exact, but they did not go further than... "Un instant dans la vie d'autrui..."
I like this formule used very often by the soufis during a discussion: "God knows more".
I´d like to make one point very clear: I am a partisan concerning WERKTREUE, and I completely understand the objections of Suzee and Johanna. A director should be humble with respect to the work and not trying to be the star. But in Stockhausen´s case, there is a certain problem. One can be werktreu 1. with respect to his music, 2. with respect to his staging instructions, colours, gestures etc, and 3. with respect to the spirit of his work. I think that it is beyond discussion, that Lydia Steier did not respect the religious spirit of DONNERSTAG but invented a new story which regrettably was mundane. This would be my main complaint. (Thomas thinks that it would have been courageous to present a religious opera faithful to Stockhausen´s vision. I agree with regard to the Zeitgeist but others would argue that it is even more courageous to leave the safety of given solutions and open new doors with the risk of failure!) Regarding the music, I am a dilettante, an amateur, but I felt that it was played faithfully and beautifully. Now there remains the visual aspect which Stockhausen tried to determine as much as possible. And here comes my doubt whether the examples of Thomas are valid. The productions of MICHAELs REISE do not count really because it was a part only, nor SAMSTAG which was mainly a concert performance. Looking at SONNTAG, we saw operatic tableaus held together by some light, water, costumes and machines. This is no direction in the strong sense of the word but illustration. In MITTWOCH, quite the same, added by some gimmicks like extras in the midst of the public. A staging which is werktreu therefore is in danger only to illustrate the stage direction of Stockhausen himself. Then it should read not only "Musik, Libretto, Tanz, Aktionen und Gesten" but also "Regie von Karlheinz Stockhausen". And which stage director will be so humble to disappear? I like the words of Alain: "...reducing these Master works to the indications of the creator, or put them in a box, can block their life and their inside and mysterious power." I am absolutely sure that Stockhausen´s operas will survive every Freudian (mis-)interpretation due to their musical quality.
A fascinating conversation - which of course it must be when we speak of Stockhausen and his work! The more I listen to what people say, the more unsure I am ... or maybe, more precisely, the more complex and varied my thoughts become. My first reaction to this production was that I was deeply moved by it. I didn't agree with those who saw it as a departure from Stockhausen or as a denial of the spirituality of the work. I saw it as a focus on the deeply intimate human spirituality, which Michael sought to understand in humans. He discovered its meaning for humans only at the end, in VISION ... but always his quest was to know what it meant to be human. His quest was one in which Steier emphasised the tragedy, the harsh and brutal world of humans ... the imperfect world which Michael seeks to learn to love as well as to understand. I saw the scenes that emphasised madness as a metaphor for the universal human struggle against harshness and horror, which Michael, like Jesus, took upon himself. I saw the third act as perhaps one that went most of all into a new direction, although one that to me seemed also credible: that the FESTIVAL was a spectacular show, but still one steeped in the human imperfections that Michael encountered on earth, and that we all encounter in our own lives. Michael and Eva seemed to be constantly struggling with the contradictions of the grandeur of the ritual, while still humans suffered and treated each their harshly. It was like a ritual, but a sham ritual, and it wasn't until Michael confronted his (and our) demons, in the DRACHENKAMPF, that he could then begin to sink peacefully into a true knowledge of what it is to be human, and to love this quietly and totally, trotz allem. I saw it all as deeply spiritual - but not in the religious sense, rather in the human sense. The production emphasised the humanity of Michael, and his connection with all of us. He became a flawed, imperfect human being, who had learn how to integrate those imperfections into something good. He had to learn how this imperfect humanity could still move the souls of angels. That meant sharing its imperfections, feeling its brutality, experiencing its trauma. All of this I thought, and still think, and yet now I read the comments of others and especially of Suzee and Johanna who talk about how the music was compriomised through changes to the gestures and so on. That is something I don't think I thought enough about when I was at first so deeply moved by the production. And I agree that those sorts of changes and omissions are very serious, very devastating. Thus I am torn. I love that we were given another angle on this massive work, this works that contains so much, this work that tells us so much of who we are. As I have written elsewhere, to me LICHT is as vast as the universe and as intimate as single human mind. I love to listen to it and experience it from the many, many perespectives it offers us ... but I also understand the view that it is not the job of a producer to make the choice of perspective for us. And yet I am glad to she offered us something that many might not have thought of. And so again, I am torn!
And so, in the spirit of this wonderful opportunity that mdiscuss this great work,
I spontaneously want to contradict dear friend Adorján! We could and should discuss the facts of MICHAELs REISE and SONNTAG later; here I just want to point to one thing: It is not the point to put the work into a box; nobody would want that the singers in Wagner's Ring should be dressed the way they were in the world premiere. That is ridiculous. But the point of "Werktreue" is: The stage-production should be very clear about the central meaning of the piece it wants to realize; then there can happen, what has to happen. For me the best example are the productions by Wieland Wagner: Through radical change the message of his grandfather was transmitted. But what we see over and over again in our theatres and opera-houses: Whatever works are performed, we always see the same: superficial Freudian motives, sex, tanks and machine-guns and all these clichees - that is putting things in a box. I want to be surprised and see something really new, and I am convinced, that will come forward when I go deeper and deeper into the investigation of a classical work - be it Mozart or Stockhausen.
The contributions to this discussion have each been reasoned, detailed and articulate, also passionate and positive about the musical work Donnerstag aus Licht, a work that has touched us all profoundly. The responses could be grouped into two overall types, those who feel Basel's stage production detracts from the created piece, and those who feel it adds to the living work. I'd like my own addition to this thread equally to be honest, and firstly that means prefacing comment with the whole of my relationship with Donnerstag aus Licht. Before the Covent Garden production in 1985 I listened many times to the LP recordings, often with the sleeve notes, or photos ( and in later years the score) building up an imagined picture of the Milan premiere as I listened. In attendance at the Royal Opera House the music spoke to me even more strongly, as Stockhausen's time layers, synchronisation and expressive moments were revealed in the music more clearly, alongside the music I already loved. I have also seen Padrissa's staging of Act 2 twice. I came to Switzerland expecting something different from the stage direction and having full confidence in the musical direction and preparation of performers. Suzanne has clearly explained in her comment how every detail of Stockhausen's work should be carefully preserved, and those detailed directions not fully understood, can in fact be the MOST important! I see the profundity in that statement, especially as it reflects what Stockhausen often said about the special importance of the alien, unexplained, dreamlike parts of his music. My response is that I fully agree, (except that personally I am patient to discover those aspects over a longer time than just one production where some are certainly lost, and that those I am already aware of are not erased from my experience by missing details in another performance). More crucial to me is that a director must strongly beware of making connections (over explaining) between unrelated aspects that remove the magic of Stockhausen's specific use of the irrational. One little example was the remote controlled tank replaced by the same toy robot from the birthday gift featuring From Act One. Lydia Steier found ingenous ways to form a narrative flow between Scenes and between layers, but Stockhausen's drama as well as music uses moments of surprise and surreal, as part of the formal structure on every scale. At least the old woman's intervention was not rationalized in Basel!
Alain wrote enthusiastically, of the human undertaking of Opera production, and I think this is right to celebrate because although Stockhausen ideally saw all his directions as being vital and vulnerable to change, he also knew the pragmatism of needing to work with other Creatives, That Stockhausen's meticulous works of originality find their expressive place in a human world is Stockhausen's triumphant legacy after all, and it is so often said that Opera production is the art form where human collaboration is expressed par-excellence despite all the problems of working together, as anyone at any level of production will understand. This Stage Director added her own perspective for certain, in this case a feminist narrative was to some degree welcome, and the connection between ideas of Insanity and extraordinary Artistic Inspiration are hardly strangers in the arts, and I believe not entirely uncomfortable ones. I think these interpretive extrapolations find potential from Stockhausen's original score, and such development is in many ways complimentary. For the objections Thomas makes about the different meaning of the opera, and the meaning of this production I have some sympathy. Never before have I been persuaded to think of the Gruss as Luziferian. But Svoboda's history as Gruppe Stockhausen's sometime anonymous trombonist makes a fortuitous connection! In the light of this I am perplexed that the Abschied was not performed in angelic costume, But it was Particularly in Michaels Reise, where the Michael character is no longer centre stage that the production missed out. The clever integration of many elements and ideas seemed to lose the relative dazzle of this music. In Basel the original connection between the acts ( a beautiful simple abstract concept of Up and Down via the spinning middle) was overall hidden by a narrative transition explaining and sustaining the progression of our hero in triple form. I think this is an example where the large scale beauty of the piece has not been fully appreciated by Lydia Steier. At this stage it seems the female characteristics and the hero are being dominated by the luciferian cruelty/rationality of the medics, and this change should at least be delayed to the Mockery and Crucifixion scenes later on. The third act 'cultish' associations that annoyed some, are of less concern to my sensibilities, as they seem as good an example of eternal bliss or ecstasy as any other. An open shirted leader is no less of a trope than the statuesque gowned figures from Renaissance art or processions and oratorio of previous Donnerstag productions. Perhaps the stage director gave us too little personal insight in Act III if anything, after the severe detour of Act II! Final scene, Vision was as touching and revealing as intended. Michael's love for Humanity is the final message of Donnerstag, and beautifully staged and performed. The shadow plays accompanying the inserts from previous scenes were under-visualised, which could have made the association between Mortality and Immortality all the more poignant.
As I wrote at the beginning,my appreciation of the work Donnerstag aus Licht is built from all of my contact with the work so the reality of each encounter is not threatened by another. That each production has differences is as true as each listener has differences, and it was a pleasure to meet people starting their encounter with this music as much as those who have worked so successfully to ensure its continuation.
I feel that it could be useful to have a discussion-forum on the music of Stockhausen. There are so many people from all over the world, young and old, learned and eager to get into contact with this musical world: musicologists, composers, musicians, music lovers; people who plan concerts - who write books or have to give lectures and so on. So there should be much stuff, many ideas that we can share. And when we have open questions, there may be people who studied just that and could give a hint or a stimulus.
A problem might be the English language, but i feel that is the only possibility that many people who are interested can participate. And we can exercise tolerance to mistakes!