Saturday, June 28, 2014

FIDELIO of Ludwig van Beethoven libretto by Joseph Sonnleithner after a French original Léonore ou L'amour conjugal by Nicolas Bouilly, Director Dan Turden, Musical direction Anna Christensson, Set Design Nina Fransson, Costumes Asa Norman, Evelina Hedin, Make up Isa Maxe, Music Arrangement Anna Christensson, Translation Folke Abenius, Adaptation and new dialogues Dan Turdén, Producer Teresia Petterson, assistant Director Aurelia Le Huch, Set Design assistant Viola Florin, Lighting design William Wenner and Lisa Benneth, Film wrapping Erik Riverbank, Props, production assistant Matthias Terwander Stingtzling, builder Peller Wittsäter, Design Engineer Assistants Malin Sandell and Jacob Cederström, Performance Photography, program layout and web Maximilian Mellfors, technology Richard Norén, Musician Anna Christensson, Ylva Lars Daughter, Daniel Migdal, Kim Hellgren, Natalia Godmann, Leonore - Natalie Hernborg, Florestan - Daniel Ralph son, Rocco - Anders Nystrom, Marzelline - Elsa Ridderstedt, Pizarro - Linus Flogell, Jacquino - Jens Palmqvist, Fernando - Anton Ljungqvist June 28th Performance no. 133 2014

I'm all for instant gratification. I hate to wait, always arrives too early, and in many cases I abstain rather than sit and yearn. Now, if someone offered me a month in New York, all expenses paid, but in two years from now, I probably would have tried to compromise by suggesting two weeks but instantly! If someone says: 
"You wanna go to Ikea on Friday" I respond: 
"What's wrong with right now?" 
I'm a bit like a dog. You can not ask a dog if it wants food - soon. At the mentions of food he starts salivating right NOW. If you ask him if he wants to go out he does not understand the concept of in a few hours. He already needs to pee. 
It is not an admirable trait, but I try to work on it. I've found that the best way to overcome this internal stress is to try to fill the time between now and then. In order not to leave home early and them be sitting somewhere and breed and counting down every quarter of the hour, I have begun to sort my bookshelves, or vacuum, or clean out the fridge. That sort of thing that does not take a great deal of time. Watering plants is also good, but do not start any transplanting. 
If the event you are looking forward to is several days, or weeks, away, you can take the opportunity to really study, read up on the coveted subject. If it’s a trip to Helsinki you await, you can check the City’s history and consequently become a bit more educated in all things, Gustav Wasa (One of the first Swedish kings) and some of allt those czars, and looking forward to a show, you can pretend that your are preparing a thesis on the subject. 
As I did when I was invited to the Kamraternas(The Friends, or Comrades, a Swedish group, based in Stockholm, specialized in Opera) premiere of Beethoven's Fidelio at the Årsta theater(A Theatre in Årsta, a suburb to Stockholm): 
I spent a week with Beethoven. A week on and off, I might add, but a week more or less focused on Beethoven, anyway. Musically, it was all about Beethoven besides the eclectic pop that was played in those few interspersed include workout at Friskis & Svettis(A Swedish xxx. It may sound ambitious, but for someone like me, who are not at all classically literate, it requires a whole lot of repeated listening to really hear. I alphabetized my guidebooks during the Moonlight Sonata, cleaned the message board to Ode To Joy and to Für Elise, I cleaned the bathroom. During the Turkish march was I just laid there, comatose,  on my bean bag. It is, after all, not even two minutes long. 
Youtube is awesome. You just type the name of what you are interested in, and presto, it has fifty-seventeen versions of Menuet in G, or twenty-nineteen documentaries on Beethoven. And I do not think I could operate without Wikipedia. 
Fidelio, Beethoven's only opera, premiered in 1814, the same year that Denmark gave up Norway to Sweden, and the same year that Norway became independent, its Constitution written on the 17 of January, and the Danish prince Christian Frederik becomes King of Norway, Napoleon resigns as emperor, Louise XVIII becomes King of France, and the British and Americans are at war. Gustav Febergé, the one with all those eggs, you know, was born, and John Tobias Sergel, sculptor(Swedish sculptor), known from the Plattan(A Square in the centre of Stockholm), died. The Brothers Grimm publish their first story collection, and Jane Austen's Mansfield Park was published anonymously. This was also the year that the metronome was invented, and the year in which Beethoven's Eighth, and his Piano Sonata No. 27 was composed. 
It is Beethoven's only opera, and when he wrote it he was already deaf. Of the documentaries I've seen on Youtube, I have concluded that he was a rather bossy and choleric person, so I do not think this theater was for him, really. Music, that was his thing. People, not so much. 
When I sometimes got really tired of hearing aids, child custody, Classicism and Romanticism, I red a bit about the Impressionists, you know; Monet, Manet, Degas and those other guys. I had early made ​​the decision not to buy any books about Beethoven. No new books, anyway. Not from a real bookstore. If I tripped over something literary and Beethoven oriented on The Myrorna or the Stadsmissionen(Both second hand stores), it was okay, but I wasn't to strain myself. Not by biking to Ropsten(A Suburb to Stockholm), anyway. 
My library has now expanded to include three more books on the Impressionists. They seem to be have been more popular than the history of music in general and Beethoven in particular. Or is it that people love classical music so much that you do not donate books on the subject. They sit on them, and take them out and brows in them on special occasions. 

I found over ten versions of various recordings of Fidelio on Youtube. Some were just the music from the shows, but most were complete filmed performaces. I managed to watch two. 
Never ever, I stopped what I was doing and exclaimed: Oh, this bit I recognize! And never, the second time I saw the opera, I set myself up in my bean bag and exclaimed: This part i recognize, it really gets better the second time around! 
I guess I'm still guided by my need for instant gratification: a musical work must give me something, almost immediately, I can not listen to more a few times before giving up. I'm not sophisticated enough. 

And I learned that just because things are world famous in Kalmar(a city in the south of Sweden), they needn’t create a sensation in the rest of the world. I'm talking about 1982. High school. Cassette tapes. Tea and toast and Keso(cottage cheese)  and the Old Farbriks Raspberry Jam. And on the stereo: Louise Tucker. Synthesizer music was new, and here came a dame who sang opera to electronics. She was big, with all my friends in Kalmar. For no one, ever, since then, I have met, have known her. Neither in my age group or any other. 
So when I arrive at Sonata no. 8 Pathetique - 2nd Movement - Adagio Cantabile, Deja vu, suddenly stands there and whispers in my ear: 
”Do you recognize this song?" 
"Yes," I whisper, sort of enchanted. 
"Where from?" 
"I do not know ..." 
It took me almost a day to remember from where I knew it. And of course it happened in the shower. 
"Midnight blue, so lonely whiteout you ..." My voice echoes between the tiled walls, in a kind of castrato-sounding falsetto soprano. It's not pretty. Suddenly I hear myself, grabs a towel and waddle out in to the living room and look up that mysterious Beethoven song on my iMac. It took me 32 years to get it together. Louise Tucker Midnight Blue is Beethoven's Sonata Pathetique. Who knew? 

Then finally the day came. The day with the big D. Or a capital P. P for Premiere. It's very rare that I'm invited to a premiere, and I always have the ambition to dress up a little extra, because I really appreciate when others do it. Everything becomes like a little elevated, expectant, more devoutly and important when people have nice clothes on. But it's a little hard to dress up when you have a shaved head, how ever you do you still look like a runaway football coach. I would like to arrive in a nice suit, without backpack or any other bag, with a nicely ironed shirt, vest and tie, and with a matching handkerchief casually tucked in the breast pocket of my jacket, but somehow it always ends with me standing there in the old standard: something discreet, and hopefully clean. With a backpack crammed with all the stuff I really need to have in case the apocalypse occurs during my visits to the theater. 

I lock the bike at a flag pole at Årsta Torg and goes into the theater. Of course I am early. I thought it would take longer to dress, but it turns out that even if you are wasting considerable time to dither between two different pants you are dressed in a quarter of an hour. And even then you have changed the t-shirt twice and finally decided upon a gray sweater. 

People at the theatre are not overly dressed. I see a trend with red, short leather jackets and bulky sneakers, for women, and for the men sandals with or without socks seems to be fashionable. 

The ticket is the program, and I crawl into a corner and start studying until it is time to go in. 
It's about Fidelio, who, dressed up as a man, takes a job as prison guard at a prison where she suspects her husband is incarcerated, then the warden's daughter falls in love with her ​​and dumps her fiancé. 
The stage is a big boring office, desks to the right, where a woman in a kind of uniform and a bleached hairstyle which needs retouching is sitting and inefficiently lets time pass, and a small orchestra to the left. They also have uniforms, and very funny, obvious wigs. I think of Fania Fenelons Playing for Time, which is about an orchestra of Jewish women in Auschwitz who played for prisoners on their way to the gas chambers, and I thinking that later they will take of those silly wigs and reveal their shaved heads, but then I see a man among them, and realize that I’m probably way off. In addition, a woman behind me says something about DDR. 

Aha, I thought. Okay, that seems to fit. I admire directors who grabs a play and really shakes it, and it gives it a new meaning, manages to say something new. Many directors are trying to do it, but only succeeds in forcing the same old play into newer clothes. It's the same story, though it now seems to be taking place in an aquarium or during the feudal Middle Ages. The emperor's new clothes, so to speak. Chekhov's three sisters are walking around on a rubbish heap and act as if they do not have garbage up to their knees. 
Here they have chosen to put the play in East Germany, 1989. Suddenly it feels relevant. The interpretation holds. 

One of my favorite movies is Naked Gun 33 1/3 from 1994. Or, it used to be, anyway. I have not seen it in over ten years, so it's very possible that I do not feel like I used to. I've kind of become smarter, I think. And not as easily amused, but perhaps a little smarter. My assiduous listening to podcast has anyway demonstrably taught med that The Donner Party Crossing was an 1846 attempt in finding a shortcut over the Rockies that ended in cannibalism, and not as I thought thirty years ago: a sort of party at home of theDonners. 
A very funny scene unfolds during the Oscars, when the nominees are read. It sounds, loosely translated, like this: 
"The nominees for Best Supporting Actress are: Mary Lou Retton, "Fatal Affair”, one woman's ordeal to overcome the death of her cat, set against the background of the Hindenburg disaster. Morgan Fairchild, "Final Proposal”, one courageous pioneer woman's triumphant victory over bulimia, set against the background of the Donner Party Crossing. Sorry, but this is official police business. Shannen Doherty, "Basic Analysis”, one woman's triumph over a yeast infection, set against the background of the tragic Buffalo Bill season."
If you did the same with the evening's set of Fidelio, it would look like this: 
"Natalie Henborg, for Fidelio, a woman's courageous struggle through transvestism to save her husband from jail during the fall of the Berlin Wall." 
Or wait, that was birollsnominerangarna, right: 
"Elsa Ridderstedt, for Fidelio, a woman’s confused battle for the love of a drag king who works as a male guard to save her husband from a political prison during the fall of the Berlin Wall." 

Of the two versions I saw on Youtube, I experienced it as very dramatically promising, but a very stagnant play. People just standing  and singing. 
But this is something else. This is almost bordering on farce. All singers have been crowned with frightful wigs of the 80’s. And it's a hell lot of running in and out of doors during the set-up. It takes a little while before you manage to get used to the awful hairstyles, but dramatically, we are involved from the outset. I feel so much better about this than the ones I saw on Youtube. I even think it sounds better, somehow. People are not just standing straight up and down and sing. They have become people with clear and exciting relationships. People make their entrance and exit, and it feels as if the tragedy is far, far away. 

Opera Singer impresses me more than not. By that I mean that it's more often I sit there and think: 
"Wow, this is really impressive!" Than I sit there and think: 
"Wow, this is really not the least bit impressive." 
Where in many musical singers case there is 50 percent chance that an artist stands up and deliberately offers something we've all seen before, be it gestures - hands in the air, or more common; both arms with fingers spread on their way to make a circle from opposite hip and meet directly overhead in the final long sustained note, or an interpretation of a song totally ripped note by note of Liza, Barbra, Idina or Kristin, it is very unusual for an opera singer to behave as is fearfully expected. They lie down, they rush around, they fight, they act, and all the time they’re singing to an audience so demanding that they probably would rather see a singer fall off the stage than sing off-key. Opera, which one feels should bee much more elevated, often gives a more authentic feel. I do not know why this is so. 

Jens Palmqvist, as the over affectionate and lovelorn fiancé Jaquino is so geeky and cute in his wig that I had to really look to make sure it was a man, and that they had not taken the Breeches Roles to a whole new level, and that this was a woman dressed as a man. 
Linus Flogell, as the penis fixed Pizarro, the man who has given sexual abuse with gay undertones a new face, is both comic and frightening, a bit like many politicians of a particular Swedish party, and their supporters. 

During the break, I check my cell phone, and a man and a woman almost comes rushing up to me and ask how things are going in the game. I guess they're talking about thesporting event in Brazil that never seems to end. European Football Championship, or whatever it may be. I am almost sure it’s football, because I have read posts on Face Book, praising all those muscular legs. 
I sneak into the men's room, where there is a poster from the show, and trying to take a selfie with the poster. It gets a bit comical when you haul out a camera at the urinal and trying to shoot yourself. You become, as Jennie Fields in John Irving's Garp and His World: a sexual suspect. 

After the intermission they try to tighten the noose, but it is a bit difficult. We want so much to have fun. Daniel Ralphsson, whom I liked very much as the comic Pingling or Pang-Pang in the Royal Opera's Turandot this spring, has been given the thankless role as the starving political prisoner Florestan, and must try to make us suddenly feel pity. We do not really want to. We had so much fun. But suddenly we are there. We have gone from no holes barred farce into gripping drama. Almost. It's a little unbalanced, but it has more to do with us, the audience. We are not quite ready. We are lagging behind. The transition feels a little abrupt. I think if you just let the political prisoner breathe an ounce of comedy, given him a bit of humor, there would probably have been no problem. A bit of Roberto Benigni in Life is Wonderful, or a bit of one of those confused professor who in some movies are released after years in captivity. Something to like, not just something to pity. 
The stage design, with a lovely little frightened green plant in one corner, costumes, make up, wigs and directing impresses, but it is the actual reading, the interpretation which makes me raise an eyebrow. Cocky. And it works. 
The wall is falling, and we are all free. Almost all. 
If I say the end is very surprising, then, of course the end won’t be a surprise, so I say nothing, I have nothing to say. 

Gratefully, 

Joakim Clifton Bergman 

Tickets for free, thanks Theresa and the Kamraterna. 

So far, the performing arts in 2014 has cost me 6240: - 

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#Fidelio, #LudwigVanBeethoven, #Opera, #Stockholm, #Sweden, #Theatre, #Theater, #BerlinWall, #NakedGun33, #LouiseTucker, #MidnightBlue, 

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