Again thanks, Sven, for your concise crystallisation of the issues. I agree many of these questions about how, and by whom, decisions can ultimately be made are unaswerable. What's good and bad in a production is so multi-layered and, I think, the richer the work, the more complex the question of a good and bad production will be. In works as fertile and full of ancient and new meanings, of universal and intimate truths, as the operas of LICHT, there will be so many things that we look to in deciding what is for us good, or bad. I think this Is where some of the division has come in our various responses to Basel. Because I am so deeply, interested in, and moved by, the human dimensions of Stockhausen's mythology, and because Lydia Steier brought this so poetically, so creatively and so powerfully to the fore, I could not help but be impressed. But for someone who looked more for the other layers of the piece, or for things such as more literal realisations of aspects of the score, then the reaction was different. I think, as I have said before, all of these views and expectations are reasonable and fair - simply because that is the grandeur and wealth of what Stockhausen wrote. There is so much there to be mined.
I don't think think any of these differences would be anywhere near as controversial if performances were not so rare. But perhaps that is changing, and already people are talking with anticipaton and wonder about what might happen at Le Balcon. The more we see of LICHT, the more I think (I hope) we will be able to embrace and celebrate the many different ways in which this huge and universal work of humanity, spirituality and the physics of the cosmos can be understood, interpreted and experienced.
I have to apologize and retract my last contribution to this thread. I was so enthusiastic about my remembrances to theater-events, that I simply forgot what this discussion is about: Not theater-events, but the staging of operas. And that is, as I feel, very different: I visit an opera-house because I love the music, and it is the most important thing, that the music and its spirit is respected. So I think, that the staging of an opera has to deal with more restrictions than just staging a play; there is an extra parameter, the music, and that is not to be changed. Still one more remark to the Basel production: According to my remembrance nobody wrote about the biographical aspect, but for me that is very important: During his lifetime, especially in the years he composed LICHT, Stockhausen was often confronted with the insult: You are a madman, should be in a psychiatric hospital etc. Especially in connection to DONNERSTAG: Stockhausen as a person who thought of himself as Jesus, of the Saviour of the world - as mad people do. And it was of no use that Stockhausen said that Michael is an energy that is active in everybody, and he took himself just as an example in KINDHEIT, because he knew these circumstances best here. He was just not respected. And this insult darkened his life over and over again. Therefore, when we look at a production of just DONNERSTAG that uses this motive, for everybody who knows the life of Stockhausen that is devastating. Sure, a stage director who today is busy with Händel then with Wagner and with Stockhausen, cannot be familiar with all these traits. But in that case he or she needs an advisor who knows better. Obviously that was not at hand... Adorján rose in his last contribution the theme of Stockhausen's libretti; for me that is an important theme and so I opened a new thread for this discussion under "General items".
The autobiographical references, in Act I of Donnerstag were of course misinterpreted by some critics from the outset in Milan, and I remember many, such as Markus Stockhausen clearly defending the universality of the character Michael from such blasé accusations (of him being based entirely on the composer). It is interesting that Thomas has raised this potential confusion again, because it must have crossed many people's minds that the Basle staging might have exploited this 'red herring' to pursue a kind of meta-commentary upon the composer himself, i.e. by extending the themes of madness, and including the use of parody to undermine the composer's intent during Act II and III. It would be particularly sad for those closest to Stockhausen if such offence was either intended, or caused by the staging. I do not think this was necessarily the case however. From the moment I realised that 'Admitted, of course admitted' in Examen dramatically led to Michael's admission to the mental ward of Act II, I knew the theme of madness was being extended in this staging, but I knew that this followed Stockhausen's original scene with The mothers incarceration, after she has declared that she wishes to go into the attic because ' Up there is Heaven'. The connection between insanity as visionary insight, is very clearly already in Stockhausen's libretto. The fascination with the "Beyond" is within Michaels character in Licht while the super rational spirit of Luzifer, ridicules and obstructs him. The consistent cruelty of the medics in this staging does not invite us to laugh at Michael or Stockhausen, but surely it is there to magnify our sympathetic spirit for the visionary musicians who some would call insane.
Interestingly, I never thought of this production as one that conveyed Michael as mad ... but rather as one who was treated as mad. Our sympathies are always with him, especially in Acts One and Two, no doubt helped by the incredibly sensitive and nuanced portrayal by Peter Tantsits. Always the ones who looked the most ridiculous were those around him ... the ludicrous jury who admit him, the humanless and humourless doctors who attempt to contain him. I saw madness in this production more metaphorically, or perhaps as a depiction of how society views those who attempt to confront trauma and, as Bernard says, think wth vision. Michael struggled wth his trauma, struggled wth hurt and loneliness and loss, even sought to escape it, but he was never, I thought, mad. Michael only becomes perhaps unlikable when he escapes into the world's shallow adoration in FESTIVAL ... but there is too much depth to him, he has experienced too much trauma and knows too much compassion to really be won over by any of that. Hence his transformation to the self-reflective, aware Michael of VISION, who has at last understood what it is to be human.
Thank you, Bernard and Ian, for your comments! That did not come to my mind, when I saw what happened on stage, but it is a possible way of thinking about it, as I must admit, and so I again become aware of the subjectivity of judgement...
An interesting newspaper article about people from Kürten coming to Basel to see DONNERSTAG: http://mobil.rundschau-online.de/region/.../m.facebook.com Some found that Stockhausen in Kürten is more authentic, and S. Stephens is quoted that the Basel version is a "parody" so that she stayed away from the party after the first performance.
Reading this thread, I tend to agree with Suzee's sentiments, but of course my opinion has evolved back and forth over time. Did I have any regrets about spending thousands of dollars to see this production? Hell no, it was riveting.
However it was kind of riveting in the way a slow-motion train wreck is riveting. The performances were all brilliant, I think that has been undisputed. Only history will decide if this was a 1-time side trip or a new journey undertaken...looking forward to the Le Balcon production of Donnerstag.
It has taken me more than a week to reflect upon my feelings about this production and i can only conclude that the performance i attended was one of the most life affirming and life enhancing theatrical events i have witnessed. Respectfullly may i suggest that I think too many contributors to this board are getting a little bogged down in the minutiae of the production, liberties with stage instructions, truthfulness to KS wishes etc. Celebrate the fact that we had this production and look forward to more! What news is there about the complete cycle in Amsterdam in 2018? Has anyone heard rumours of other productions in Europe? Congratulations to all concerned with the production and to Basel Opera for providing surtitles in English!
Thank you Ed for your blog and your as always detailed analysis.
I do hope, after all the dust has settled from the many discussions and passions that have been voiced over these performances, that we can all at very least treasure the opportunity the team involved in this production have given us - both to experience and to think about this incredible work. I hope that it opens up many more such opportunities, as other opera houses throughout the world show the initiative and vision that Basel has done, not only in staging Stockhausen's work, but also in spending so much time preparing for it. I know many of the artists involved in this production made many sacrifices so that they could learn the work and perform it, and could give it the time it required. For that I am deeply thankful, even though I do understand the viewpoint of those who did not agree with some of the production decisions that were made. But, as Winifred Wagner (of all people) said of Chereau's 1976 Bayreuth Ring, it is better even to be angry than to be bored!
The more I study Stockhausen's music, the more I see how determined he was to find a ray of light - of LIGHT - in everything. Like you, Ed, I am very glad I came so far. I have enormous respect for everyone involved in this production and, as I have said elsewhere throughout this thread, for the deeply touching humanity that they found in DONNERSTAG aus LICHT and shared with us, with such conviction and artistry, on stage. For me it has been enLIGHTening, even where (or maybe precisely because) shadows were also cast. I did not always see the same shadows that others saw - but then I know that I was looking from a different angle than they were. I am glad I had that opportunity, as well as the opportunity to learn from how things looked from where they stood. It is always amazing how much we see, and how big the picture is, when we share our perspectives!
Glad you liked it Ian, and it was great to see you again as well. These large productions always have a side benefit of acting as a reunion of sorts for the "Stockhausen family" (if I may be so bold as to include ourselves as far removed cousins :) )
BTW, the program book has a very revealing interview with Steier and her production team. Besides clearing up a few points I was initially confused about, it also mentions that they viewed video footage of the previous 1981 production before they started making their own version. Since you are in the neighborhood, it might be an opportunity for you to see this footage as well....just a thought.
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!