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The intertwining of the two levels of consciousness, his death in Venice, and the drama of Ananda and Prakriti, are projected spatially onto two separate stages and through two musical worlds. The domestic action is set below and forward, with the actors (all stars of the Dutch stage) speaking in a type of sprechgesang over a sharply defined pointillistic texture; the dream opera, which is perceived only by Wagner and not by his entourage, is sung, to a lyrical eastern flavoured orchestral backing of woodwind and bells, enacted on a central raised square. The orchestra is placed in the middle, as if a mediator, just as Vairochana, Wagner's Buddha guide, also bridges the two worlds, moving freely between the stages with a chant-like arioso.

In the foreground: Catherine ten Bruggencate (Cosima) and Johan Leysen (Wagner), and in the background: Matthew Best (Vairochana), Claire Booth (Prakriti) and Gordon Gietz (Ananda). Photo © 2007 Clärchen and Matthias Baus
In the foreground: Catherine ten Bruggencate (Cosima) and Johan Leysen (Wagner), and in the background: Matthew Best (Vairochana), Claire Booth (Prakriti) and Gordon Gietz (Ananda). Photo © 2007 Clärchen and Matthias Baus

Jean-Paul Carriere's skilfully crafted libretto, poetically based on fact, Pierre Audi's intense and atmospheric directorial pacing and Jonathan Harvey's penetrating compositional imagination, avant-garde, complex yet always accessible, fusing the worlds of acoustic and high-tech electronics with meaningful sophistication, all conspired to produce a unique music-theatrical experience, enhanced by Jean Kalman's evocative lighting and Robby Duiveman's sleak, modernist costumes. One of the highpoints was the use of a backcloth video screen for the appearance half way through, of the seductive Goddess Vajrayogini, encircled by red flames.

Basja Chanowski (Vajrayogini) and Gordon Gietz (Ananda). Photo © 2007 Clärchen and Matthias Baus
Basja Chanowski (Vajrayogini) and Gordon Gietz (Ananda). Photo © 2007 Clärchen and Matthias Baus

 

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Copyright © 17 July 2007 Malcolm Miller, London UK

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