Flammen, a wonderfully lyrical UFO rediscovered in Prague

Directed by Calixto Piatto flamencoStrange and amazing opera by Erwin Schulhoff. Established in 1932 in Brno, it has not been played since then in the Czech Republic. The original script by author Karel Joseph Bennis shows a somewhat weary Don Juan in search of redemption. Discovering this forgotten and wonderful work as part of the “Unwanted Music” project is totally fun. Bieito proposes experimental theater, a kind of murderous and bloody cabaret, expressionist ballet where brutal bodies, sex, and death are everywhere.

Schulhof is a central figure in modernity in Europe. The composer frequented the avant-garde and leftist artistic circles. In Dresden, he came into contact with painters Otto Dix and Georg Grosz as well as artists from the Dada movement. He is passionate about American jazz, and is fond of psychoanalytic and erotic themes. He was innovative and daring, and his art was considered “degenerate” by the Nazis. The artist will die in the Walesburg concentration camp.

flamenco It is an opera influenced by surrealism and psychoanalysis. Don Juan is a kind of wandering Jew, condemned to live forever, evolving amid his conquests, and vainly seeking to seduce death in order to free him from life on earth. It consists of two works and ten scenes (each with a title that can be called Verlainian: nightAnd the fire songAnd the Midnight Mass, delusionAnd the carnival night…), the crowded result of flamenco Imbued with post-Romanticism and Strauss-Impressionism. The vocal generosity and sensual and radiant musical language evoke Schrecher or Zemlinsky. There are also grotesque colours, debussy colours, unrestrained modern sounds (squeaking, jarring…), infernal hindsmith style and percussion, fox trotting rhythms, and tango too. Schulhof frequents nightclubs and loves to dance. ” I love modern dances and sometimes I dance the night away with the coaches for the sole pleasure of the rhythm and the sensual intoxication that dominates my subconscious. This is how my work has gained a huge inspiration Captivate in a letter to Alban Berg.

Calixto Bieito doubled down on references to 1920s theater: sloping lighting, forward acting, the chorus of androgynous women—shadows—clad in black with raincoats and long hats, and ballet of nude women with painted breasts and genitals. The director places the work in an abstract and dark space. Large, extended black drapery closes the stage space so that singers, to enter the stage, must tear off the tarp and pass through it. In pieces of plastic, smoke and lights appear from the arms, hands, and bodies. One thinks of Cocteau and Buñuel. Bieito tries to read an original character and pictures, and invents a gallery of somewhat blurred characters, ill-defined silhouettes: a mad young man pulling a dead black cat at the end of a chain, a woman holding a colored lollipop and black balloons holding her. The end of a thread, and another in a violet bathrobe and covered with a golden hooded halo of Madonna squashing a watermelon on her face and on Don Juan’s chest, an old man with a hunched back, a bear hunter in tired and bare-chested, a mortician in a dark suit, a tall blonde in tow. Death a blonde woman in a white suit perched on high heels. They smoke an e-cigarette and send filaments of smoke onto their victims.

Dream-like images – as a bowl, headlights, coming down from hangers – and symbols (dead deer, ram’s head) and all these intriguing but inconspicuous shapes form an overall that appeals to the imagination but is unfortunately a bit ambiguous.

Denys Pivnickij Don Juan explains the mystery, an ordinary guy in jeans and a T-shirt. A sharp smile, and smooth back hair, the seducer continues to wreak havoc. Someone tells him “Before, suck, rip my body, my breasts.” He almost ran out of sympathy. He is looking for the soul more than the body. Tireless and unbridled, the tenor succeeds greatly in a demanding vocal and theatrical performance. Crucified on the hood of a black car, Death (Kommerfold’s sensual tone) offers him a greedy kiss but he doesn’t.

Jerry Rosen conducts the opera house’s excellent orchestra. With passion, he embraces this contrasting and unusually rich musical writing. We savor sensual flute solo, enchanting harp playing, majestic organ playing, talented piano. Each contributes to symphonic ecstasy, and vocal enjoyment.

Photo: Zdenek Sokol

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