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The Citizen LA Magazine - Los Angeles. Review by Birgitte Moos, October 01, 2006
´Parsifal` at Los Angeles Opera. Directed and designed by Robert Wilson
Robert Wilson is an American theatre director and scenographer, known for being experimental in the cutting edge theatre scene, using a theatrical language where theatre becomes a performance, while still being rooted in classical theatre and opera.
He is the founder of The Watermill Center in Long Island NY. A cross-disciplinary art school, where artists come from all over the world, to become inspired in the spirit of this leading avant-garde theatre voice.
He has staged numerous productions over the last three decades throughout the world, including works such as ”Salome”, ”Madame Butterfly”, ”Parsifal”, ”Deaf Man Glance”, ”The Life and Times of Joseph Stalin”, ”The Civil wars” and ”Einstein on the Beach”. Wilson has worked with outstanding artists such as Philip Glass, the German director Heiner Muller, the legendary David Byrne, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, William Burroughs, Jessie Norman, Susan Sontag, and Tom Waits.
His theatrical interpretations consist of almost empty stages and stunningly beautiful lighting designs. Nonlinearity defined through combining different art forms into total artworks, where movement, music, visual art, and design are fused together into a new formula for stage works. Rather than words, movements and visual effects become more descriptive and central in shaping the meaning.
Wilson directs actors into mechanistic movement patterns that usually do not represent their engagement in emotional content. It seems as if the mere fact of the actors having to move from point to point as if counting numbers internally while exercising the movements as practical transportation in order to create or deconstruct the story. This could be viewed as a comment, that deconstruction could be applied as an analytical method of seeing literature, architecture and that language and trends are unstable.
The works of Robert Wilson stand out at this time, with the tendency for confusion. He masters the walk of the double-edged sword, assembling the blade so that it cuts clear through centuries of scenic art forms. His imaginary visual compositions lend reason toward consciousness about philosophical and defragmented cultural expressions. He connects them in soulful footprints which slide through time and space as clearly as any intuitive and abstract intuition about life and communication. Communication collaborating through music, song, light, and body language.
Wilson’s directing is atypical in the sense that nothing typical appears. He connects so-called traditional dramatic expressions in new images, that move slow-motoric through almost clinical yet painted spaces, converting instructions in a written play into a bodily language and executed one direction at a time.
Wilson is popular in Europe. This is possibly a reaction to his nonverbal visual communication. Speakers of different languages understand the content as the audience extracts the same information. A content of universal questions and ethical interactions and with the outstanding ability, he transfers settings and emotional content into abstract, suggestive landscapes and motions.
Wagner’s opera ”Parsifal”, performed at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion was transformed into a zen-Buddhistic meditational stage version. ”Parsifal” is a four and a half hour joyous meditation on physical focus with the presence of dreamlike, stunning, scenic settings, created through set and lighting design and geometric black and white costumes.
Wilson’s rendering of Wagner’s religious opera ”Parsifal” was a contemporary and yet timeless and sensuously illustrated work. Theatre traditions such as Japanese Noh theatre intertwined with Bertolt Brecht’s human tableau vivant: People posing silently. The figures moved incredibly silent now and then jerking a posed hand mechanically back and forth to comment on something. Or, as nervous tics coming out of powerlessness against seemingly insoluble dramas and with the awareness of how hard it is to communicate verbally.
Intrinsically a slow operatic work that projects religious systems into stylized patterns, where body collages slide across the stage. Illuminated occurred crisis, where seemingly minimalist movements capture gestures almost before they happen, resulting in uncontrolled subconscious mania. Downtempo by, either as a result of emotional deep freeze or existentialistic cultural confusion. Automatic reactions and forms repeated, hypnotically looped in complex cycles, like a mantra looking for universal harmony.
© Birgitte Moos Chalcraft - 2020