Hermann Nitsch: Wiener
Igor Stravinski/Hermann Nitsch
Festspielhaus St.Poelten/Austria, June 12th, 1998
At the opening of the
Lower Austrian Donaufestival, the Ballet of the Viennese state
Opera danced Igor Strawinski's Le Sacre du Printemps and the
string quinlet Mythos by the Austrian artist Herman Nitsch. The
choreography was created by Renato Zanella.
The focus of the ritual opus Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring, Scenes of Pagan Russia) by Igor Strawinski is the sacrifice of a young girl for the solar god Yarilo to simulate the rebirth of spring. As charming as the first sun rays, as mystical-violent as the cultic dances, the ritual violence of this rite of spring is also the music due to to its various abrupt changes from fabulous moods to martial, motoric fortissimo beats of kettledrums and strings.
"In it (Le sacre du printemps), the overcoming of the music of the bourgeois nineteenth century is almost perfect. The music is pure rhythm. It appears with the full intensity of a dynamic sound, it comes out as pure music, but a Dionysian element is added. Therefore the specific reference to the dance" (Julius Evola, Cavalcare la Tigre)
In front of an indigo-blue background, twenty-five female and male dancers of the Wiener Staatsopernballett were moving. Long ropes were let down from the ceiling. Fron the stage-floor grew a silver pyramid. Out of its top came a sepia-brown tincture. The outstanding, perfect heavy-work of the ballet was a pairing of violence and mysticism - the violence of music and dance and the mysticism of the stage design - it united Kenneth Anger's Scorpio Rising and Leni Riefenstahl's Das blaue Licht. In a brute sequence the boys beat their indigo-blue jackets on the stage-floor. At the end, the female dancer, incorporating the girl that had to be sacrified, ascended the top of the pyramid to be given to the solar god.
The deep blue of the stage design reminded of the spiritual paintings by the Russian artist and mystic Nicholas Roerich - one of his works is on the cover of the CD anthology Cavalcare la Tigre released by the German label Eis und Licht about the martial philosopher Julius Evola. Roerich, friendly with Strawinski since 1904, was quite a lot involved in this oeuvre. It had been his idea to create a ballet for the ancient Russian rite of spring. For the performances he created also rhe stage designs and the curtain as well as the colourful costumes. In 1911, both collaborated on the word-book of the work which at that time still was called Welikaja schertwa (Great Sacrifice). But of this word-book solely a basical division of the ballet in two acts (day/man and night/woman) survived. At the first performance of this atonal, mystical oeuvre in May 1913, which created a scandal, Roerich was present. Already in April 1910 he had mentionad the work in an interview:
"The ballet to reproduce some scenes of a sacred night of the ancient Slavs. The ballet begins in a summer night and ends with sunrise, with the first sun rays. The choreographic part is bassically a ritual. It will be the first attempt to reproduce the ancient time without an explicit story." (Nicholas Roerich)
This ballet was followed by the string-quintet Kammer-Ton with the work Mythos by Hermann Nitsch, Grandmaster of Red Magic and composer of soundscapes and founder of the blood-stained Orgien Mysterien Theater in the Lower Austrian castle Prinzendorf. The stage design was simple. A large white cloth lay on the floor. Behind the stage three of Nitsch's bloody paintings were hanging. The exclusive use of the colors red and white reminded of Japanese aesthetics - the paintings evoked the image of the red sun-disc in the flag of Nippon. The liturgy of this ritual work appeared with its symbolic gestures, its stylized acts like a No theatre. The two female dancers, one dressed in scarlet, the other one in white, wore costumes with endless long sleeves. The five dancers - Yukio Mishima-bodies - appeared in their white clothes like monks. Japanese-like was also the impression of Nitsch's chamber music. Some parts reminded of the long-winded Japanese Gagaku music. Sometimes the humming, whizzing of the strings was too restless, too Dionysian. The Apollinian strength of this staging - Hermann Nitsch did not participate in it - was quite different from the usual actions of the castle owner who has been working since 1971 in his domicile on a blood-red mash of the Schwabing boheme of the Cosmical Circle around Alfred Schuler and the Green Hill in Richard Wagner's Bayreuth. But at the end of this ritual pantomime the motto changed to Let it bleed - the No theatre suddenly contained some Butoh elements: At a sudden the white clothes of the dancers were blood-stained, they became relics in a miraculous way - like the relics of the Red Messes of the Orgien Mysterien Theater.
"My first musical pieces were pure noise music. It is not that much different today. Bu today it is more organized, as I incorporated more experience and much more aesthetics. But the principle of my music is that instruments create an intensive noise, that the action intensifies the music and vice versa. Out of this my music was created. It is a part of the reality that I am showing with my actions and through my theatre."
Jacqueline Decter, Nicholas Roerich. Leben und Werk eines russischen Meisters, Basel 1989
Julius Evola, Cavalcare la Tigre, Engerda 1997
* the first publication in Descent magazine, vol.5: Death Issue, USA, 1999
CONTACT: Hermann Nietsch, Schloss 1, A-2185 Prinzendorf, Austria
F: +43 2533 89 693