Adam Ash

Your daily entertainment scout. Whatever is happening out there, you'll find the best writing about it in here.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Gesamtkunstwerk: opera plus video

'In a daring experiment, the Paris National Opera has invited the American video artist Bill Viola to accompany Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde" with his own visual commentary. On a 30-foot-wide screen above and behind the somberly lighted space peopled by the singers, images that recall some of Mr. Viola's well-known video pieces variously offer literal, metaphorical and even spiritual complements to one of mythology's most famous and tragic love stories. With only the preludes played to a closed curtain, Mr. Viola's multi-toned video poem runs for some 3 hours 40 minutes, a full-length spectacle in its own right.
With the images in place, the director Peter Sellars said, "Bill gives me permission to ground the singers in an emotional depth because I don't have to have them run around the stage and be 'interesting.' " The result is a minimalist staging, with only a square platform as décor and all the intensity reserved for the voices. Still, with the combination of video, orchestra, singing, acting and text, Mr. Sellars likes to think the team has come up with something resembling a modern Gesamtkunstwerk, the concept of total art that was Wagner's lifelong musical and theatrical objective. "Of course," he added, "Wagner's music alone gives you more than you can possibly take in." From NY Times. Interesting idea: how about staging Hamlet with video? The ghost could be a video image. When Hamlet contemplates suicide, the video could show him knifing himself. When he tells Ophelia to go a nunnery, we see her in a nun's habit. Or Long Day's Journey into Night: one could have a video of various drug addicts injecting themselves while Mom is doing it upstairs.


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