Thursday, April 30, 2009

Lohengrin: Speech Disability, Design & Hypertension

The Cockroach Catcher and his wife were fortunate enough to have seen the controversial production by Robert Wilson at The Met in 1998.

Wagner Opera Website

“Out of the silence rises the shimmer of violins, ethereal yet alive with wonder, tracing a melody of sublime beauty. A soft bar of light ascends across a huge, empty stage, soon crossed by a hard, vertical light box that descends as the music grows richer and more complex, swelling to a rapturous climax before fading back into the stillness from which it arose.

“Characters with masklike faces dressed in sculptural sheaths stand in hieratic poses or glide slowly across the stage, sometimes seeming to float. An immense, blood-red mass – a stage curtain unfurled slowly but inexorably – pursues the cool shades of blue, white and gray in a stately wedding procession.

These are some of the images in Wagner’s opera Lohengrin, as staged by visionary director and artist Robert Wilson. Wilson’s Lohengrin returns to the Metropolitan Opera.” Marion Rosenberg writing for
Panache Privee.

It had the worst booing in Met’s history.

“At its opening night in 1998, Wilson’s Lohengrin earned one of the ugliest receptions in Met history. Playwright and critic Albert Innaurato wrote of ‘banshee shrieks of apparently homicidal intent aimed at the director,’ though lusty cheers greeted the production when the Met revived it the following season. Reached by phone in Baden-Baden, Germany, where he was rehearsing Verdi’s Aida, the soft-spoken Wilson sighed when asked to recall the Lohengrin premiere.

‘I think that, for the most part, we’re quite provincial in the United States. You’ve got some of the world’s greatest directors working right here in Europe, and their work is not known in the United States. By and large, the productions at the Met are still in the 19th century.’ Wilson’s method of taking the production’s visual book as his starting point was perceived as ‘very radical’ in New York, though he pointed out that his basic conceit – a frame that gradually shrinks to enclose Lohengrin and Elsa’s bridal chamber, then expands for the opera’s final, public scene – echoed Wagner’s original pen-and-ink sketches for Lohengrin.”

From the
Design Museum Website:
“Born in Waco, Texas in 1941, Robert Wilson struggled as a child to overcome a speech disability which he finally conquered in his late teens with the help of the dancer, Byrd Hoffman. After studying business administration at the University of Texas in Austin, he switched to architecture and in 1963 he enrolled on a course at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute. During his time there, Wilson attended lectures by Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, widow of the Bauhaus designer, László, and studied painting with George McNeill at the American Center in Paris as well as working with learning disabled children back in New York.

Some well known architects and designers seem to have speech or other disabilities. I have often wondered if classifying these disabilities as handicaps is itself a hindrance to their development. Richard Rogers, the famous architect, was dismissed as stupid and sent to a school for backward children.

"Having graduated from Pratt, Wilson moved to Phoenix, Arizona to assist the visionary architect, Paolo Soleri. Increasingly he was drawn to the theatre, particularly to the experimental dance scene, which was flourishing in New York.”

The New York Times on the film Absolute Wilson: Austere, Enigmatic Innovator. And Charming Fellow, Really.

Listening to the Prelude to Act 1 of Lohengrin twice will give between 18 to 20 minutes of music for slow breathing that is good for lowering blood pressure and relaxation. Now you know.

Lohengrin opened in
London a few days ago and I plan to be there on the 8th of May.

Wilson’s own website.

Wagner website.

Synopsis: Lohengrin

Other arts posts:

Grand Rounds: Ausmed

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